Marriage. Marriages traditionally were based on love or interest on the part of both man and woman as long as exogamy beyond the clan was observed and both members were deemed Adyghe. Flirting took place around the well or stream, and romantic trysts were arranged by maternal uncles. Circassians married late, usually in their early thirties. The ceremony consisted of a nocturnal abduction, with the young man being assisted by his friends and the family of the bride offering token resistance and pursuit. (The man paid a bride-price beforehand.) The woman came to live with her in-laws, who then held a celebration that often consisted of several days of feasting and horse races. The young men would observe the odd custom of vying with one another to be the first to throw himself on the bed of the newlyweds before the couple themselves could use it. At one time the young women wore elaborately knotted, tight leather corsets to ensure a thin figure. After the wedding night this corset had to be publicly presented intact as a sign that the groom had exhibited self-control. In some tribes divorces were common, amounting almost to a pattern of sequential marriages. The man continued to support his "divorced" wife and children. Both men and women could obtain divorces. In a valid (legally recognized) divorce the bride-price was not repaid, but it did have to be repaid by the family of the woman if she incurred shame.
Domestic Unit. Outside of urban centers the extended family is the most common unit, consisting of an elder man and his wife, their sons and their wives, with perhaps yet more elderly parents relegated to the status of merely honorary heads of the household. There are no statistics on its size, but it must tend to be large, for the Circassians in the Caucasus have grown substantially in population during this century (100,000 in the twenty years between 1950 and 1970) despite heavy persecution under Stalin. Because of extreme longevity in certain areas of the Caucasus, the extended family may include as many as four or five generations. The extended family itself forms part of a clan with matrimonial and other social links to certain other clans. The clans are characterized by "surnames." Since the sons of a man's brother were considered his own sons, the nuclear family could be enlarged at the death of a brother by a man taking on the surviving widow and her children, though the widow was technically not a co-wife.
Inheritance. The males alone inherited land and other significant wealth.
Socialization. Children were taught to be respectful, particularly of the elderly, and they often enjoyed loving relationships with the elders in a village, often helping the elderly with their needs, waiting upon them at banquets, and such. Boys were taught to be proud both of their clan and of their social presence, to show courage and stamina, and to acquire skill in arms and horsemanship. Girls were taught to be discreet, to observe household etiquette and patterns, to be graceful, and to be knowledgeable regarding remedies and cures. Girls were taught to be thoughtful and generous hostesses so that they could observe the all-important functions of welcoming and housing guests. Girls of marriageable age were given their own reception room in which they could entertain young men. A code of strict etiquette governed such entertainment, and at the first offensive or suggestive remark from the young man, the girl would summon one of her kinsmen to eject him. Both sexes were taught to dance, a paramount form of socializing. Refinement and skill in speech were valued for both sexes. Respect was displayed toward someone, especially the elderly, not only by standing in their presence but also by standing at the mere mention of their name.