Unholy matrimony [Archives:2003/656/Opinion]

August 4 2003

“You know, just to get my four unmarried sons engaged, I need a million Riyals!”, said Ali to his friends at the qat session.
Mahmoud, the owner of the house they were chewing qat in said, ” I understand exactly how you feel, Ali. It is unbelievable how the process of wedlock in our country became so complicated and taxing on most of the people of the country. The difficulties imposed by all the customs and burdens imposed upon those who wish to get married are creating dangerous grounds for social degeneration and decay.”
Farid another qat chewer cut in, “It is the few who are rich that are forcing these customs and burdens on the majority of the people of the country, most of whom are struggling to eke out the ability to meet sustenance costs let alone getting their kids married. Can you imagine that I saw the invitations for one of the rich weddings that was held last week? The invitation was shaped in the form of a book or a box and when you open it, you had peacock feathers stuck across the middle of the opening page, and gold ink print on the text of the invitation. Each invitation must have cost ten thousand Riyals. I don't understand why this needless extravagance. They must have used an eighteen wheel tractor trailer just to get them delivered because each invitation was a third of a meter long and 10 cm in thickness. These are the kind of precedence that work to raise the cost of marriage in the country”.
Another regular in the daily qat session, Mahmoud said, “I dread the day when my son tells me he wants to get married. I hope to find one of those group marriages that are being arranged, so I can get him included. They help a lot in reducing some of the costs.”
Ali was still on the engagement part: “Nowadays just to get engaged you have dish out funds that are more than the actual dowry that used to be given just twenty years ago, and I mean in real terms. Just think you have to give the prospective bride a jewelry set made up of a gold engagement ring, a gold bracelet and necklace and earring set, some dresses and toiletries. On the other hand to formalize the engagement, you have to approach the groom's family with a qat session where you have to buy qat for all the relatives of the bride that are expected to attend. You better be sure to have enough qat for all the attendees, otherwise they will throw you out of the house! Such extravagance was unheard of when I got married twenty years ago”
Farid again cut in, throwing of a stem of qat to Ali: “Don't forget that you have to also give her mother a dress or two and some candy, to keep her mouth busy she does not start demanding other extras. I must say this goes against the religious dictates regarding marriage and surely raises an unnecessary burden on an essential social function”.
Ali continued: “Then comes the wedding ceremony, which not long ago used to be held in the prospective groom's and bride's house, with each side minimizing all the rites to a manageable cost: no large halls, invitations extended to close relatives and friends, no exhaustive banquets”. This is after you have already dished out the funds for the dowry, which could come to five times the cost of the engagement.”
Farid then said: “There is actually a government law that no one has formally rescinded which regulates the marriage process, which used to make the matrimonial process manageable and an equitable process for all concerned, without the ugly display of extravagance and waste. You will be surprised nowadays by all the complaints one hears about the way weddings are conducted these days. Moreover, the wedding ceremonies, as they are nowadays have taken out all the merriment and fun which should be enjoyed on such occasions. Most people just go to wedding celebrations for half an hour to an hour and rush off to attend another wedding or two, depending on how many friends have weddings on that day. In the past, weddings were long awaited festivities that people attended for two or three days, with everyone chipping in to lighten the burden on the marriage couple's families. Everyone was laughing and singing and dancing during the entire celebration.”
Ali then said: “I think we should get the law reapplied and tell those rich show-offs to take their weddings overseas if they want to be extravagant. They can take their coiffures, cake bakers and all the other added nonsense that have penetrated the marriage ceremony with them and let the rest of the people go back to the simple and equitable way that one of the most important social functions used to be conducted in.”
Farid said: “You may not believe it, but some of the rich are actually already doing just that, chartering planes to take their guests overseas just to attend weddings in London or Cairo, where the extravagance is even more excessive”.
“Maybe, it won't be long before you have brides kidnapped by prospective grooms and taken to an uncharted island, where the couple can get away from all the tiresome rituals they have to be put through before they can even see each other eye to eye”. You really can't blame them, because matrimony has taken an unholy turn, as it becomes inundated with so many unnecessary and exhausting requirements”.