Sunday, December 10, 2006


Today mom is off to a wedding at five along with grandma. My aunt and myself have been invited as well but she being too busy with her children decided to cancel and I didn't feel like it especially since my sisters weren't invited. We don't know this family very well but my sisters were all anxious and excited about the news as far back as a month ago, then when they called back to ask if the card had arrived via mail we realized we didn't recieve anything which would have mention four people being invited and .. no kids - no boxed gifts (whatever that means!)

I've been to only a few weddings so far and the traditions vary depending on the cultural backround of the family, for instance arabs have a certain style - specifically lebanese, syrian and egyptian and then pakistani and indian weddings are quite different as well, I've never really been to a khaleeji wedding as they don't tend to mix very much with outsiders of their culture, and I don't believe there are hardly any who get married in the west.

With pakistani and indian weddings there are usually two parties, one a henna party done a few days or a week before the wedding and just for females. Here the women have a chance to dress up but the bride tends to stay very plain in a simple yellow shalwar kameez. Later in the evening the henna is performed on her body as well as the guests if they wish, children usually have a blast getting some henna done on their palms.

The wedding ceremony follows and there the entire family would attend, men and women. The bride would wear a gold or red traditional indian bridal outfit with all her gold and she and the groom would generally sit somewhere together side by side. If the family is religious then the bride would be on one side on a raised platform and the groom on the other and men and women would be seperated in the hall by a plain divider. I find that the south east asian culture tend to include the families as a whole, smaller children as well making it a very festive occassion.

Arabs however usually plan all womens parties, the bride would wear a western styled white gown and veil, a slight difference would perhaps be dressing her up infront of the guests with the gold that was presented to her as a dowry by the groom's family. Younger children are excluded due to the seat limitations at the banquette hall. There is a lot of socializing, dancing even by the bride along with her friends, the younger ladies and teenage girls would generally dance the night away doing traditional stepping dances known as "dabka" or even belly dancing to the sounds of arab music or nasheed (if the family is more religious). Sometimes if there is a woman who is familiar with playing the duff she will perform live on the spot -this is an islamic tradition permitted as opposed to the music. When the bride enters the hall the elderly women usually call out making a specific high pitched noise by moving their tongues (kind of like a bird) not all women can do this and it usually catches everyone's attention when they perform this tradition while the bride gracefully walks into the room.

While most people think weddings are all about the "food" I don't really see it that way especially weddings that were arranged at a banquet hall, the food is generally bland and boring compaired to the middle eastern cuisine. Occassionally community centeres, schools and party rooms are rented where food can actually be prepared by families for the weddings, this is much more enjoyable and following the dinner baklawa and other middle eastern sweets are served to the guests. Wedding cake isn't such a common tradition with everyone.

Parties usually last for 4 or 5 hours, depending on when all the guests have arrived and generally the bride's entrance will be delayed until everyone is there.

Regarding my own kurdish culture weddings are slightly differnet than that of the arabs, I've attended a few weddings when I was younger, I'd say they're a mix of the arabic and south east asian traditions where the bride actually wears white or if she is more culturally traditional she may wear a kurdish outfit, the families come from all over gathering in flocks at relatives homes in the city where the wedding is to be performed and there usually is a lot of gold presented to the bride.
Because kurds aren't very religious the weddings tend to be mixed. On the 'big day' the bride would sit on a platform and rarely move, speak or smile, I was told that if she smiled it was shameful, she had to remain very neutral and not express any happiness outwardly.

As a child I used to immitate brides while playing childish "make-believe games" by sitting politely with my right hand gently overlapping my left hand in my lap and my eyes glancing down at them with my head slightly tilted.

Kurdish weddings tend to drag on through the night with hours and hours of non stop debka dancing.

Clothing: "What am I going to wear??" is usually a big question for everyone attending the wedding, bride or guests. At kurdish weddings women wear traditional kurdish outfits which consist of a slip, sheer undergarment dress and a thick overcoat covered entirely in flashy sequins, hair is mostly left out and women take the chance to adorn themselves with all the gold they own. In arab weddings they've pretty much abandoned many of the older traditions and so all through the arab world women wear western inspired party clothes, some more revealing than others but generally longer formal gowns. Guests generally arrive at the hall in Abayah and headscarf or face veils if the makeup is already done at home, if not then everyone heads to the powder room in a bit of a frenzy doing hair, makeup and last minute touchups before entering the main hall.

Gifts: Depending on what the family specifies in the card gifts are usually offered as money to the bride and groom on the wedding day. Other household items and boxed gifts, personal gifts for the bride are usually presented to her on the henna party or any other gathering before the actual wedding.

In Islamic weddings as long as the traditions or culture does not contadict anything in the Islamic faith then it is permitted. Many muslims also prefer to follow the Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him) and his companions' traditions, meaning a simple ceremony and sticking closely to the traditons back then.

Every country in the middle east has specific wedding traditions, for example in egypt it is well know that tents are put up on the roofs and the wedding parties are performed up there. In Yemen the streets are decorated and men dance traditional folk dance with daggers drawned in the streets.

One common tradition performed by men in many parts of the Islamic world is shooting bullets up into the air to celebrate the occassion, upon hearing it people all over will realized that a wedding is going on, foreigners who are not used to this may become startled for a few seconds wondering if there is an attack or something going on outside but they are to be assured that this is a very regular custom that goes on.

Finally the last tradition is when the bride and groom are to be driven to their home in the decorated car or limo, guests would follow in their own cars beeping every now and then celebrating, all this causes somewhat of a "beep beep beep beep" frenzy in the streets but it's all kind of fun : )

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