Context: Matrimony is a special liminal, or transitional, period in a person’s life. In some cultures it marks the transition from a woman being owned by her father to owned by her husband. In some it marks the beginning of a monetary relationship between two families, like a mutual advancement in social class. Regardless, for cultures that have a tradition about the liminal event of marriage, most often the tradition is in regards to future prosperity, success, or fertility. Here, informant GG explains the Armenian wedding traditions, shedding light on similarities between them and the western traditions.
Main Text: Transcript:
GG: Armenian weddings are known to be really over the top. Parents, relatives, family- they really spare no expense in going all out with like the food, the entertainment… One tradition is that the bride and groom, they get together… and then people will gather around and they’ll throw stacks of money into the air. It’s just like a constant stream of people… usually it’s the males of the families, and they’ll come up and they throw like a hundred bucks worth of ones in the air and it’s like flowing down. They create a circle where they throw it from all these different angles, and it’s supposed to signify wealth and abundance at the start of the marriage, and it gets intense sometimes. There’ll be like piles of cash on the floor or like little kids running around trying to grab some. Some people need… big ‘ol brooms by the end to sweep all the money up.
HR: That’s amazing, that sounds hilarious! [Laughs] So lots of western traditions have wedding gifts. Is that like in lieu of a wedding gift, people just instead walk up and throw wads of cash at the bride and groom?
GG: They still do give gifts, but they’re not as big as in the west.
I continued to speak with GG about this tradition and found that he’d been apart of many money dances at Armenian weddings, not as the thrower or the groom but as a kid, running in and trying to snag money for himself!
Thoughts: I think that the nature of liminal periods includes some kind of uncertainty about the future. When one makes the transition from one stage in life to another, they often turn to traditions regarding luck or guidance. The transition from single to married carries plenty of uncertainty, so the Armenian Money Dance tradition is a way of wishing the newly-weds monetary luck in the coming years.