By far not every couple can get their own place to live in as a wedding present. Usually, houses are expensive and people have to apply for a mortgage to pay for a new home for the family. But Mongolians have a much simpler option – their traditional yurts are much, much cheaper, so the newlyweds can get their own house from day one of their life together. It makes marriage a lot comfier and happier when you don’t have to live with parents or get large loans to pay for a house. Still, who pays for the bride and groom’s yurt, how much, and where do they place it?
According to Mongolian tradition, the newlyweds receive the most important wedding gift from their parents. The groom’s parents present the new family with a yurt (Mongolian traditional round house, a tent made from wooden frame and canvas or animal skins) and the bride’s parents give them the furniture, kitchen utensils, and all of the household items for the house. So, Mongolian couple can move together and start their life as husband and wife on the day of the wedding. Actually, the wedding itself is held at the bride and groom’s new yurt.
Of course, a yurt is a very simple house and cheap compared to a log house or a brick house, so the couple’s families can afford such a wedding gift. Still, it’s a house and it requires some work and money to create it. But a yurt is rather small and it doesn’t have rooms, so the newlyweds’ parents can’t let their children live with them simply because there is no room for them in this small space. Basically, it’s a single room with a fireplace in the center.
Also, it’s a tradition to let the newly created family build their own homestead, have their own cattle (many Mongolians are cattle breeders), and be the owners of their life. After the bride makes the traditional tea for the wedding guests on her own, she is considered a wife already, not a maiden. And for the groom, the same applies to his first time to cut the lamb for the wedding guests – after that, he is the husband and owner of his homestead. These simple wedding rituals mean a lot to Mongolians, they’re considered sacred.
By the way, another curious tradition forbids the bride to go to the public for 3 days after the wedding. The wedding guests leave the yurt after the meal and celebration, leaving the couple alone. The canopy of the yurt is closed, and the husband and wife spend this time together. The wife isn’t allowed to go outside during this time. When the 3 days are over, her father-in-law comes and pulls the canopy up, and the couple may come out and start doing the chores.
When the yurt is built by the groom’s parents, they place it on their land, not far from their own yurt but at some distance so that the couple has privacy. The first month the newlyweds live there and then, they move to another place and start living fully separately. Mongolians are nomads, they often migrate dozens and hundreds of kilometers in search of good pastures for their cattle. Of course, there are big cities where life is very similar to the familiar Western style – people own apartments or houses, go to work every morning, visit friends, go shopping, etc. These are two completely different lifestyles.
How much does a yurt cost in Mongolia? The price differs because some yurts are built from locally available materials. For example, animal skins are traditionally used as a canvas, so Mongolian cattle breeders have plenty of these for free. But some elements are bought or made to order by artisans. Like these beautiful decorated doors or a fireplace, etc. If the family is wealthy, they can buy a ready-made yurt for $1,000-5,000. The price depends on the number of layers, thickness of felt, quality of wood, and many more factors. Still, you’ll probably agree that it’s a lot cheaper than to buy a house in America or Europe.