In Armenian weddings the role of the best man or Godfather, known in Armenia as the “kavor,” is sacred and vital. The Godfather is chosen by the groom-to-be in close consultation with immediate as well as close extended family members. The decision must be a wise one as a family considers the Godfather to be a close relative, once he has been initiated into the clan. Then it is up to the Godfather to take the helm of the wedding plans and act as the general director, having say in how the wedding events will progress during the day, where the ceremony will take place, how many people should be expected to come, and even what the menu will be for the reception meal.
The wedding Godfather is separate from the christening Godfather. In Armenian customs the two are distinct, and the same man should not serve in both roles for the same person. Godfathers are under constant pressures during the planning as well as the unfolding of events during the wedding. The Godfather is responsible for figuring out whether all plans have been scheduled appropriately and all goods and services necessary to help facilitate the wedding process have been acquired or reserved. During the wedding day the Godfather must ensure that all appointments are kept according to a strict timeline prepared weeks in advance, and that all guests are notified of the celebration event of the moment.
In Armenia it is customary to follow various rituals that have been performed for countless number of years in the nation’s history. Many of the customs call for the payment of a monetary sum to resolve a supposed unforeseen circumstance. The Godfather must ensure that these customs are not only followed but are properly carried out. He is also the one that must pay out the required sums, and ensure that both parties—those providing the customary services and those that want the services performed and done with as soon as possible—are obliged.
For instance, custom requires that the groom and the party representing him, led by his Godfather, venture to the bride’s living compound in order to whisk her away to the church and marry her before the eyes of God. But in order for that ceremony to take place, the bride needs to leave her own home, which is problematic, as the Godfather will need to resolve some matters beforehand. Firstly, the Godfather must ensure that his groom enters the home without difficulty from external or internal forces. Once in the home, the Godfather must ensure that his own wife—or the woman pretending to be his wife—helps prepare the bride for marriage by helping the women of her family to dress her. Usually there is always a clever person who manages to steal one of the bride’s shoes, and the thief must be paid a ransom for returning it, paid by the Godfather via his wife. One the bride is properly fitted the groom begins to make their exit from the home, but not before stopping at a table prepared especially for toasting to await the warm wishes from his Godfather, to be heard by all in attendance. But when the bride and groom make their way to leave her home, they are most definitely met by a road block in the form of a brother or other close male family member, who stands in the doorway holding a knife in the door jamb. The Godfather must persuade the gentleman to let the bride and groom pass, and with the offer of a generous monetary sum the knife is removed.
The Godfather also is the guarantor of the marriage bond between the bride and groom in the church, under the direction of the priest and deacon. The Godfather aides to consecrate the marriage by participating in the ceremony, thereby forging the couple’s unity by the power of the holy cross. After marriage the Godfather as well as his wife stand beside the groom and bride, respectively, to receive good wishes from their guests. Then when the newlyweds exit the church, he and his wife participate with them in the release of doves symbolizing their newly forged union. Naturally, the Godfather is obliged to reward the dove keeper for his pains.
It is a great honor to serve as the Godfather, one that is rarely if not ever turned down. The Godfather is treated with utmost respect by family members as well as friends of the bride and groom. He is solely responsible for the success of the marriage ceremony and celebrative events, and represents the couple before their community as well as before God. He retains his title after the wedding’s completion until his death, as well as posthumously.
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