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A wedding is one of the most important rites of passage in various societies across the world. This occasion is often a highly regarded ritual in the Middle East, as people consider taking of nuptials as a show of commitment and love between two people (Burke 218). Over the years, people in the Middle East have carried on the wedding traditions that were introduced during the ancient days. Reports indicate that the traditions have been taught and passed through subsequent generations up to the present one, which continues to uphold them despite the influence of modernization (Pappe 182).
It is important to note that the Middle East is comprised of several states, religions, and customary beliefs that have a huge influence on the way some societies handle certain elements of wedding ceremonies (Kaplan-Mayer 110). In some cases, a wedding can divert from the normal traditions depending on certain individual preferences or needs, which might make some elements hard to apply. Some of the main cultures in the region are Jewish, Arabian, and Persian. The Middle East is a Muslim dominated region, thus most of the weddings are done by the religion (Monger, An Encyclopedia of Dating 416). One of the common elements about this rite of passage in the Middle East is the fact that they act as an occasion through which friends and family come together to celebrate love (Burke 221).
To have a wedding, there should be a bride and a groom. Traditionally, young people in the Middle East are not allowed to marry their spouses of choice (Monger, An Encyclopedia of Dating 419). Instead, their families select spouses for them depending on several factors. This responsibility is given to the fathers of both the bride and the groom, who have to agree that their children are good enough to bring up a responsible family (Monger, From Henna to Honeymoons 196). The reason for families choosing spouses for their children got inspiration from the bible when Abraham selected a wife for his son Isaac. According to the customary beliefs in the Middle East, one of the biggest responsibilities of a father is to ensure that all his children are happily married (Monger, From Henna to Honeymoons 196). The culture also encourages young men who feel ready for marriage to ask their family to get them a wife.
Some men often mature faster than their age mates (Kaplan-Mayer 113). This makes them ready for marriage sooner than their peers, thus the need to alert their families when they feel ready. When a man gets a spouse, preparations for paying the bride price often begin immediately. As soon as this process is completed successfully, both families start making wedding plans (Monger, An Encyclopedia of Dating 425). During the wedding preparations, a lot of the time is dedicated to the bride who has to look her best. The groom also has to ensure that he looks good with clothes that differentiate him from the guests. During the wedding day, friends and family members pick the bride from her home. They also escort her to the new home at the end of the ceremony (Pappe 188). Some of the common features of bridal processions in weddings across the Middle East include song and dance, as well as horse racing (Kaplan-Mayer 119). The bride is always covered in a veil, which the groom should remove after they finish taking their nuptials.
Weddings in the Middle East involve a lot of steps that ought to be followed keenly by the guests. It is important to note that depending on the preference of the couple getting married, some celebrations can be done before or after the wedding for seven days (Monger, From Henna to Honeymoons 209). The first major step in the wedding process is the engagement party. This step involves the couple meeting their friends and family in a bid to familiarize themselves with each other. During the engagement party, the bride often receives a lot of gifts from friends and family. In some cases, the bride and the groom may choose to gift each other (Monger, From Henna to Honeymoons 210). Another important element of this step is the clothes worn by the bride, who might be required to change her dress several times. Food is also an important element of the engagement party, as women use the opportunity to showcase some of their specialties that could be served during the wedding party (Monger, An Encyclopedia of Dating 429). During the party, quests often engage in traditional music and dance as a celebration of their culture.
The second step of the wedding often takes place a week or two before the wedding. This step involves different activities depending on the country, culture, and religion of the couple getting married. Among the Muslims, it is called the Mahar party that involves the couple getting married, signing their matrimonial agreement before an Imam (Monger, An Encyclopedia of Dating 437). In Palestine and other countries, this second step is called henna and involves a party organized by the bride’s female friends to help her celebrate the last moments as a single woman (Monger, From Henna to Honeymoons 238). One of the main activities during the party is drawing of henna tattoos on the hands and feet of the bride, as well as other women that will be involved with the wedding. This practice is often considered as a good luck charm for the bride, as people believe it helps to attract blessings and chase away bad spirits (Pappe 201). Also, the tattoos enhance the beauty of the bride during the wedding day. The henna party only involves women, thus allowing the bride to get advice about marriage and hear the experiences of her married friends (Monger, From Henna to Honeymoons 239). Depending on the cultural background of the bride, the henna parties often embrace varying themes.
In the case of Christians, this step is often referred to as the bridal shower party. This event mainly involves the bride, her maid of honor, mother, and other females that will be involved in the wedding (Burke 268). This event can be used to give the bride special gifts, although this might not be the case for everyone. Bridal showers often happen on the eve of the wedding and can extend up to the morning of the wedding day depending on the bride’s choice. It has a lot of similarities to the henna party apart from the tattoos, which are expressive of a certain belief among Muslims (Burke 270). However, it is important to note that it is allowed for Christians to accept an invitation to a henna party, as much as it is permitted for women from other religions to attend bridal showers in honor of the bride.
The next major step in the wedding ceremony. A common feature of the wedding party across the numerous cultures that exist in the Middle East is the exchange of rings (Heine 154). This tradition was started several years ago and continues to be practiced to date. Its meaning and value to the institution of marriage have grown immensely over the years because of the strong desire by the people to maintain, as well as grow the tradition (Kaplan-Mayer 122). One of the unique elements of wedding parties across the Middle East is the almonds given to the couple by family members as a show of support and best wishes in their union. The almonds are given by the guests to show their support and wishes for good health, prosperity, happiness, as well as a beautiful family (Burke 275). Wedding parties are often held in hotels, gardens, or reception halls that have ample space for the numerous guests invited. It is important to note that the bride and groom play the hosts during the wedding, thus the need for them to ensure that their guests feel comfortable and satisfied with the service that will be offered (Heine 156).
Food and dance also constitute some of the common features of all wedding parties. However, the nature of entertainment available at the wedding depends on the cultural background and religion of the couple (Kaplan-Mayer 125). For Christians, the entertainment often features singers, dancers, and alcohol for the guests. For Muslims, alcohol is never part of the entertainment because of their religious teachings. Across most countries in the Middle East, wedding parties take place at night. Day time is preserved for bridal processions that involve the bride being escorted to the groom’s house by her friends and family (Heine 162). It is important to note that throughout the procession, the bride remains under the veil regardless of the weather conditions. This can often be troublesome or disturbing for a bride if the wedding takes place during the summer. During the procession, the groom should not be at the house. Instead, he leads his team in a procession that will arrive at the house to receive the bride. Everyone in the community is always alerted when the procession nears the home of the groom to start the welcoming party (Heine 168).
One of the most distinguishing elements about weddings in the Middle East is the person responsible for funding the whole activity. Unlike other parts of the world where the bride and groom combine in meeting the wedding expenses, the responsibility in the Middle East is taken by the groom (Monger, An Encyclopedia of Dating 500). This has been the tradition for very many years, although recent developments about the economic empowerment of women in the Middle East are likely to influence a few changes shortly. Some of the changes that are already being witnessed in the 21st Century include monetary input from the bride and her family (Burke 300). Other couples prefer to receive gifts in the form of money, as it has a greater value about meeting the wedding expenses. The traditional customs that guide, wedding ceremonies are not likely to be affected by this kind of developments. Under the Islamic religion, a wedding is validated only when the marrying couple jointly and willingly agrees to go ahead with the ceremony (Heine 200). Also, the groom should ensure that he makes one last visit to the bride’s homes before the wedding as part of the formalities. Both the bride and the groom should resist the temptation of engaging in any form of sexual activity.
The marriage between couples in the Middle East should be consummated during the wedding night. According to the wedding customs in the Middle East, two major activities often signal that the marriage between the bride and the groom has been completed. First, there is the step of removing the bride’s veil by the groom (Heine 210). Traditionally, this is considered the first time that the groom sees her bride who was chosen for him. At this stage, a friend to the groom is tasked with the responsibility of leading the negotiations seeking the acceptance of the bride. The second activity happens if the groom gets impressed by the bride selected for him.
The two are often escorted to a private room to consummate their union, an activity that involves the groom having sex with the bride for the first time to prove her purity (Heine 212). If the bride is pure, the crowd waiting outside is notified and celebrations to officially welcome her into the home kickoff. According to the cultural practices of many societies across the Middle East, discovering the purity of the bride is a very important aspect of a wedding ceremony (Burke 320). The reason for this is the fact that it acts as proof that the bride is a respectable and well-mannered woman, as well as an indication that the marriage will attract a lot of blessings. In weddings that involve wealthy families, the couple often goes away for the honeymoon in their preferred destination (Pappe 230).
The social event at which the ceremony of marriage is performed is one of the most important rites of passage in the Middle East. The occasion is used as a way of recognizing that the bride and the groom have changed their status within their respective communities or social groups. The fact that the Middle East has several countries, religions, and cultures, how weddings are celebrated can have slight differences. Weddings in the Middle East are preceded by paying the bride price by the groom’s family. Traditionally, the family holds the responsibility of finding a spouse for their son or daughter from the people that have attained the marriageable age.
However, there are very many common elements that characterize this rite of passage across the Middle East. Some of these elements include the engagement party, henna party, bridal showers, and the actual wedding ceremony. Most weddings conducted in the Middle East involve a lot of singing, dancing, as well as eating a variety of delicacies representing the cultural backgrounds of both the bride and the groom. In the Middle East, the wedding night acts as the occasion in which the newlywed couple consummates their marriage by having sex for the first time. Prove of the bride’s virginity is always a joyous moment for the groom.
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Heine, Peter. Food Culture in the near East, Middle East, and North Africa. Boston: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008. Print.
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