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Men stand aside pointing to the door. Four women follow their directions, and briefly catch a glimpse of the tall young groom in his dark suit.
The door leads to a small lobby where three women wearing the full traditional black Iranian chador (an ankle-length cape that covers a woman's hair and body) smile a warm welcome. Beside the little table where they are sitting is a steel coat rail hung with black coats.
A young woman removes her cloak. Her long, white, sleeveless dress dazzles our eyes after three days of seeing women shrouded only in black. A long tail of white feathers around her slender neck gives a flavour of flamboyance, in complete contrast to the usual image of the Iranian woman.
I am one of the four unexpected guests at the Iranian bride's wedding reception being held at the Grand Azadi hotel in Tehran. We are ushered through the double doors into the hall where a dazzling chandelier lights up the cheerful wedding party.
It is an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. Strong, tall women, elegantly dressed, are seated at decorated round tables spread across the expansive hall.
One woman has an emerald-green, off-the shoulder long dress trimmed with a gold fringe. Another wears a blue-sequinned, above-the-knee party dress with thin shoulder straps.
The bride, wearing a white silk dress, walks around the room chatting easily to her female family and friends as she awaits the arrival of her young groom.
"Women dress as they wish when they are together," says Leila Husseini Yazdi, a translator. "It's only when we go where there are men that we cover up," she said.
Women in their black veils (hijab) have come to symbolise the 1979 Islamic revolution. But so often an interpretation of the political and social rights of women has failed to move beyond the superficiality of the black cloak.
After just seven days inside Iran, I can provide only a glimpse into what lies beyond - a glimpse which tells me that Iran is in the throes of change.
Contrary to the perception that Iranian women are marginalised, their role stands at the centre of this nation in transition as it grapples with the goal of modernising while still maintaining Islamic religious beliefs.
In 1936 the then shah of Persia's modernisation programme outlawed the chador, making it illegal for Iranians to wear any headgear in public apart from European hats. A small number of elite and intellectual women benefitted but very many lower-income urban and rural women saw the unveiling as far from liberating.
They had been socialised to see the chador as the only legitimate way of dressing and they felt obliged to stay at home and give up their public activities.
By the mid-1950s the veil remained illegal but gradually women wearing scarves and chadors appeared side by side with those without headgear. At the height of the revolution in 1979, demonstrating women chose to be veiled as a temporary action that symbolised their rejection of the state.
In 1980 Ayatollah Khomeini deemed the veil compulsory, ironically making it possible for women to participate socially in large numbers. "This is where most people are at," says Faezah Hashemi, daughter of the former Iranian president and one of the most popular women in Iran.
"This is an Islamic country and we live by the Islamic codes. It is possible that the laws could change but we have to consider the feelings of the majority."
Hashemi speaks through an interpreter. Only when the discussion turns to sport does she break momentarily into English. "I swim and do all sports," she says.
Hashemi has been at the forefront of organising an Islamic Sports Institute for women. Since 1993, this sports organisation has drawn thousands of young Iranian women into active sport, including horse-riding, skiing and athletics.
Fully clothed in traditional black cloaks with their riding hats over their scarves, they fly over vaulting poles on sleek Persian horses.
Hashemi is the most popular member of parliament, after the speaker. At the last election she emerged victorious with nearly 1 million votes, a strong message to the conservatives that her support for women's rights had found favour.
Last year, she launched an independent national daily newspaper for women, called ZAN, which means "women", building the circulation to 500 000 a day. After a constant tussle with conservative elements in the political establishment, ZAN was closed down.
"They objected to the publication of a two-line new year message from the former empress," she said in Farsi, her mother tongue. "But it was really about the political fight going on."
Hashemi is careful to inform me that she will be taping our conversation to ensure that she has a record of what she says to me. There is no hint of nervousness - her face is strong, weatherbeaten, and she has the lithe muscular frame of a sportswoman unlikely to flinch.
But there is a tension informing the political conflict that pushes, then pulls back, change from opposite directions. Her father's largesse, prominent shareholders, a substantial personal budget, ZAN's high circulation, and her electoral success had not been enough to prevent her from falling victim to orthodox forces.
Under Iran's constitution, the real power rests with Ayatollah Khamenei, the spiritual leader, who took over the role of Ayatollah Khomeini. Chosen by a council of religious leaders, the spiritual leader and his allies control the army, the police, the judiciary and the Revolutionary Guard.
But two years ago, voters elected President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate clergyman, intellectual, and former minister of culture. "Most of the voters were youths between 18 and 22 years of age, and women," says Hashemi.
Hashemi is waiting for the outcome of court proceedings to hear whether her paper will be able to reopen. "I am very hopeful," she said.
Middle Eastern political analysts are sceptical. "The moderate forces in Iran will diminish in the future," said Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research. "There are too many forces that are stronger than the voice of moderation.
"The people put Khatami into power but he is fighting to survive. He is up against a small circle of the top clergy, business and the intelligence services controlling Iran."
But Hashemi views her country's reform differently. "My sense is that a lot of space has been created," she says. "Every year we see greater numbers of women participating in sports, the economy and politics."
The growing numbers of women at universities are a strong indicator of the continuing change. Before the revolution, 10 percent of students were women. Today women represent 52 percent of the university population.
Ali Ghannadan is a master's student in linguistics. He is 28 years old. "In the past five years, women are running the country," he said woefully. "They are studying harder and are prepared to work for lower pay."
He continued: "From one point this is good, but from another it is not, because the men should control the family."
Hashemi laughs when I repeat Ghannadan's views to her. "We do not want to replace patriarchy with matriarchy," she said. "Our ideal is for both men and women to be selected on merit."
She also disagrees with him over the rise of women. "The increase in the number of women at universities is not reflected within different institutions," she said. She is not happy that only two of the 32 cabinet ministers and 14 of the 217 members of parliament are women.
Surprisingly, to an outsider, nine women were proposed as candidates at the last presidential elections two years ago. All their nominations were turned down as part of the tug-of-war over whether Islam permits a woman to be president.
A leading cleric, Ayatollah Jannaati, caused a stir at the World Congress on the Role and Status of Women from Imam Khomeini's Point of View, held in Tehran this month. He started off by expounding on a hadith (a ruling which forms part of the body of Islamic law) stating that women are unsuitable for the presidency.
According to the hadith, women are emotional beings and cannot hold positions which require serious decisions. But then he conceded that there are 12 versions of this hadith and that he considered them all to be false. "A woman can be president," he said to spontaneous cheering and clapping from the delegates.
Meanwhile, back at the wedding reception, some women pull floral veils over their heads when the handsome groom joins his bride.
Others remain uncovered. They beat their hands on the table as the couple twirl with their relatives in a short dance. Then the groom leaves to join the men outside.
It is only when the women leave the hall that they drape themselves once again in black. "I feel protected," says Leila Yazdi, my young translator. "Even if they change the law, I will still wear the chador. It comes from my ancestors."
Then her beautiful olive-coloured face breaks into a mischievous smile. "If you knew Iranian men, you would also wear the chador," she said.