How Arranged Marriage Works in Saudi Arabia
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Many marriages in Saudi Arabia continue to be arranged marriages. However that is not to say that the bride or groom do not get a choice in the matter. They do. But if a bride and groom are brought together through family it is rare for either to reject the match. An arranged marriage in Saudi Arabia is usually made through the bride or groom’s circle. Matches are generally arranged through women in the family and being a conservative society, matches will be made through families already known to the women. First cousin and second cousin marriages continue in Saudi Arabia. In other cases marriages will be arranged through families who have married in to the women’s circle of contacts.
The women will be the ones to build up the prospective groom to the young woman. Mother, Sisters and Aunts or a Grandmother will extol the virtues of the young woman to the prospective groom. The young woman will think over what the other women have said and usually pray the istikara prayer for guidance.
The young man, if he likes what he hears, he will express his desire of marriage to his family. His family will arrange to meet with that of the young woman. The male relatives (father, grandfather, brothers and groom) will meet with the young woman’s father and brothers. The female relatives (mother, grandmother, sisters) will meet with the young woman. If the father is comfortable and satisfied, he will allow the young man to meet his daughter (chaperoned).
The young couple are given a short period of time they are allowed to talk. Usually both the young man and woman have questions prepared they wish to ask. By the end of the meeting the couple generally decide whether they wish to marry. Most couples do agree to marry and are now engaged.
This part of the Saudi courtship is kept very private and closely held. Therefore if after meeting either the young man or young woman do not wish to marry there is less of a loss of face.
A couple may be engaged for a period of several weeks or for a period of several years. That depends on the families. During the engagement period some couples may receive further opportunities to get to know one another; others may not. How much contact or if any contact prior to the marriage is dependent on the families and how open they are. Most young Saudi couples today do keep in touch via phone calls, text messages and email. The more contact between a young couple prior to marriage the less feeling of marrying a stranger.
by American Bedu
American Bedu shares her experiences and perspectives as an American in Saudi, one who has made the transition between having typical expat experiences and traditional experiences of any Saudi, on a daily basis, thanks to her marriage to a Saudi man and "a beautiful and large extended Saudi family". American Bedua was a former American diplomat who was in the US Foreign Service for 20 years. She has been writing her blog since 2006.
As wedding season is in full swing, here is a rundown of special customs and traditions for women in the Middle East that vary from country to country.
The henna party is the Arab version of the West’s bachelorette party. “Henna usually takes place one to two weeks before the wedding night,” Nada Darwish, owner of Ciy Bride Boutique in Saudi Arabia, told Al Arabiya News.
Even though Palestinian women traditionally dress with hand-embroidered gowns known as a thawb, “brides nowadays tend to have different themes for their henna nights,” Darwish said. “It could be Bollywood, Arabian nights or any other ethnic ambiance.”
Female friends and relatives of the bride join her in the celebration, which includes food, drinks, dancing, and a woman in charge of drawing henna - a temporary skin decoration - on the bride and guests.
Iraq’s Qiran union
The Qiran union is commonly known as the lawful or religious wedding. Like most Muslim countries, Iraq requires the bride and groom to get married through a religious representative known as the Maazoun.
“The religious event is as important as the wedding night,” Darwish said, adding that the bride would wear a colorful dress.
During the ceremony, the groom joins hands with his future father-in-law to make the marriage official in the presence of two witnesses.
After the Qiran, the new couple gives out candy in special cups to family and friends to inform them of their union.
The Lebanese zaffe
The zaffe is a cultural dance that takes place at weddings in the Arab world and specifically in Lebanon.
In recent years, the zaffe has become a modern wedding tradition in Beirut, with a troop of dancers performing in anticipation of the couple’s entry.
In many weddings, the bride is carried on the shoulders of the zaffe team and brought into the party.
Saudi women-only wedding
Weddings in Saudi Arabia are celebrated in two separate halls, one for males and the other for females.
“Saudi women don’t wear the traditional abaya [cloak] during a wedding night, but extravagant and distinctive dresses as they aren’t in company of men,” Darwish said.
“Weddings in Saudi are very luxurious and expensive, and each bride wants to make her night unique.” During the wedding night, the bride and groom would only be seen together during the zaffe.
Moroccan weddings are among the most traditional in the region. During the ceremony, which can last from three days to a week depending on the financial situation of the couple and the region, the bride wears her best kaftans in the form of a coat or overdress, usually reaching to the ankles and with long sleeves.
“Brides [in Morocco] usually choose their dresses according to traditions, but also depending on the location of the wedding and the weather,” a Dubai-based sales executive said.
“Religion also plays an important part in the choice of the dress,” she said, adding that Muslim brides prefer to “cover the arms and shoulders.”
The bride can change her kaftans up to seven times, but usually finishes with a white one. Brides in Morocco also wear a lot of jewelry and make-up.
The honeymoon in Egypt differs from one part of the country to another. In the countryside, the newlyweds rarely travel for their honeymoon.
Instead, they stay home for the first seven days of their marriage, before receiving friends and family who bring gifts, food and other supplies.
In urban parts of Egypt, married couples commonly spend the first night of their wedding in the hotel where they celebrated their union, before travelling to resort areas such as the Red Sea or abroad.
**Addendum: A previous version of this article contained copyrighted images which were used without permission and wrongfully attributed to a false source by the author of the story, in a way which impacts credibility. Al Arabiya English regrets this mistake, the disputed images have been removed.SHOW MORE
Last Update: Monday, 26 September 2016 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50