Ask Mehmet: What is a wedding dollar?

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri
  • 39th Air Base Wing Host Nation Advisor
"Mehmet, I have seen pieces of paper that very closely resemble the U.S. $1 bill on base. Some of them have been passed off as real money at some vendors on base recently. I've heard they are called 'wedding dollars.' What are they and how are used?"

Those pieces of paper you have seen look exactly like the real U.S. $1 bill. They are fake banknotes, and it can be difficult to distinguish them from real ones. Since they are used mainly in Turkish weddings, they are called 'wedding dollars.'

It might look odd to you, but if you go to a Turkish wedding party you will see the guests throwing paper money onto the heads of dancing guests. That is an old tradition for which the real purpose has been lost.

Formerly, and I mean many years ago, the musicians used to play in wedding ceremonies free of charge. The only income they had was the tips given by the guests. Tipping the musicians is done not by giving money directly to the musicians, but by throwing money onto the heads of the dancing guests. A child tasked by the musicians collects the money from the dancing stage. Now, although the musicians are paid well enough for their service, the old tradition still continues.

Many times the musicians collect more money than their actual fee from the banknotes thrown onto the heads of the celebrating people. The smallest Turkish banknote is a 5 Turkish lira, but a U.S. $1 bill is about 2 Turkish lira. Thus, throwing a $1 bill costs less. For that reason the $1 bill is popular for wedding ceremonies.
Some people try to take advantage of that tradition by printing fake $1 bills and selling them for a much cheaper price, which is where the fake money you have been seeing on base comes from.

Please remember that using counterfeit money is a crime and can get you into trouble. I'm not advising that everyone stop using $1 bills so there's no chance of accidentally using a fake one. However, it's not a bad idea to take a moment to ensure the $1 bills you're using are the real deal.