The koon-ut-kal-if-fee was a mating ritual conducted by the Vulcan people and has been part of their culture since before the time of Surak. (TOS novel: Vulcan's Soul) Translated from the Vulcan language, the phrase meant "marriage or challenge".
Most Vulcan couples were betrothed and were linked telepathically as children during a ceremony called the koon-ut-la. (TOS novel: Mind Meld) An unbonded Vulcan could make a ritual marriage proposal, the koon-ut-so'lik, to the person of his or her choice. (VOY episode: "Blood Fever")
Some couples chose to formalize their union with a bonding ceremony that took place years before they are in pon farr. For others, the bonding, which itself constituted a legal marriage, took place during the koon-ut-kal-if-fee. The telepathic link drew them to one another when they entered pon farr. The couple met at one of several locations, often at a temple complex, on Vulcan where the ritual ceremony was to be performed. (TOS novel: Spock's World) A male in pon farr greeted his wife with the words "Parted from me and never parted, never and always touching and touched. We meet at the appointed place." The woman replied: "Parted from me and never parted, never and always touching and touched. I await you." (TOS novel: Spock's World)
In most cases, if the female accepted the proposal made by the male's parents, and there were no other challengers, the marriage ceremony proceeded without the need for combat. However, if two Vulcans desired the same mate during the pon farr, or if the female mate rejected the male's proposal (which was made during childhood by the parents), this lead to combat. In this case the kal-if-fee was a fight of passion in which Vulcans fought over another's mate. These fights could lead to the death of one of the parties, and outsiders were not permitted to interfere during the ritual. As part of the ritual, the female could choose a defender to fight for her which could include herself, another male or even an alien. She would become the property of the victor. The kal-if-fee was the only way a female had to end the marriage. (TOS episode: "Amok Time", VOY episode: "Blood Fever")
In most instances, there was no challenge and there was a normal ceremony officiated by a Vulcan priest or priestess. (TOS novel: Mind Meld, ENT episode: "Home") Participants, attendants, and guests at the ceremony wore ceremonial robes denoting their status. A priestess from Mount Seleya, for instance, wore a white and red ceremonial robe, while an ambassador wore a state robe. The groom also wore a ceremonial robe. The bride wore a dress robe, often silver in color, and might have worn an elaborate hairstyle with a decorative comb or veil. By custom, the male and female were accompanied by their closest friends at the ceremony.
At the commencement of the ceremony, the male struck a gong. The officiant, priestesses, the bride and her attendants entered, accompanied by the ringing of bells. The officiant intoned: "What you are about to witness comes down from the time of the beginning without change. This is the Vulcan heart. This is the Vulcan soul. This is our way. Kah-if-farr!" (ENT episode: "Home", TOS episode: "Amok Time", TOS novel: Vulcan's Heart)
When they bonded, the bride and groom kneeled to face each other, in front of the officiant, and touched their middle and index fingers. (ENT episode: "Home") The officiant guided their fingers to the contact points on each others' faces and assisted them in the mind meld that would solidify or verify their marriage bond. The couple told each other: "I would bond with thee, ever, and always touching and touched." (TOS novel: Spock's World) The couple took turns drinking from a ritual cup. The officiant declared that they were bonded. (TOS novel: Vulcan's Heart)
At the conclusion of the ceremony, if there had not been a challenge issued, a couple in pon farr were led to a private room, often located at a temple, where they consummated their marriage. In some cases, a couple were so deep in plak tow that they had to mate prior to the ritual ceremony. (TOS novel: Vulcan's Heart) An attempt to sever the bond between a married couple was the greatest possible crime on Vulcan. (TOS novel: The Vulcan Academy Murders) A marriage that had produced a child was called a kumat-kal-if-fee. (TOS novel: Yesterday's Son)