My baby sister got married! Ok, it didn’t take 2 weeks but I will use it as a reason for not writing for so long. It was (Thank God) so much fun and so sweet and so relaxed. We had a small wedding at my mother’s house which was probably more effort than having it in a hotel but definitely so much nicer. (More info about our weddings at the bottom of this entry in italics, figured I’d give you a choice to read my blahdi blah about Saudi weddings or not.)
L, my sister, is truly one of a kind! She loves blue, and had a beautiful blue wedding. She is fun and full of life and has the best sense of humor. She is tougher than I have ever been but sometimes a little too tough. She is completely indecisive! which is completely out of character but I think it is a wedding phase that she was going through. She cries when she is happy, when she’s sad, when she’s touched, when she’s bored. She cries almost at anything. But it was us who did the crying on her wedding day, thankfully not her. She does this thing where she smiles and it’s confusing because you know she’s not ok but you can’t get through the smile to get to what she’s feeling. That frustrates me! Having said that, she is probably the least one out of us who has meltdowns. L is controlled in a way I admire and wish I could be.
I say she got married but what we did last Sunday was the wedding party since she was officially and religiously married a week earlier than that.
My sister had all the little girls in our family be bridesmaids (Or flower girls rather. We don’t really have brides maids or maids of honor, just little girls and boys who walk ahead of or behind the bride).
We had J and my niece as well as other cousins for a total of 11 girls! 2 of the bridesmaids were slightly older than the rest and they were to walk behind the bride and fix her train if needed. The other little ones just walked out ahead of her to the “Kosha” which is an area at the end of the aisle, usually with some sort of decoration or background and a large seat for two or love seat, where the bride and groom sit.
S felt left out and tried to find a place to fit. He first decided to escort one of the girls down the aisle because she was shy. Then later decided against this as he felt strange being the only boy. He then said he would walk with the girls behind the dress, I told him he couldn’t because it’s a girl thing not a boy thing. So we reached a compromise that he would walk in front of his other aunty on her wedding day holding a Quran.
I was fully kited out in makeup from 3 p.m. (since there was a lot of us in line for makeup and that was my time slot) and my hair was done a few hours later. I had my hair up in pins while waiting for my turn and this was utterly bizarre to my children and everyone else there. I was in jogging pants with full makeup fake eyelashes and pins in my hair at 4 in the afternoon.
My sister was, Thank God, not stressed (or at least didn’t seem to be). She looked more beautiful than I have ever seen her look. She looked happy and relaxed, even when the photographer totally stepped on her train and made her head jerk back a little! She was relaxed when the little girls walked to the kosha and sat down when they were supposed to walk back to where she was standing then walk up with her again. She was totally relaxed when it rained and the water started flowing under the plastic covers we used to cover the walkway from the wedding area to the dinner tent. She was completely calm when my niece and my daughter decided to tell Aunty L every little thing that is going wrong and blowing it all out of proportion. Like when they ran up to her and said “the tent is leaking!!” when it wasn’t or “there are LAKES on the way to dinner!! People will slip and get wet”.
It was beautiful in every way. Even the rain, that actually did mess up our shoes and some of our dresses, but Thank God no body slipped in. In the dinner tent (That was not leaking) they cut the blue cake and were given forks to do the whole “Feed each other” bit but they declined. At which point my mother decided to feed them instead! It was so cute and funny, I heard the photographer say “I have never seen this before!”.
We had a smaller dining area set up for the bride and groom and their friends in a private area so that they can sit and chat and relax during dinner. The children ran amok till 1 am! INCLUDING BABY B! who was busy dancing around in the pin stripe suite his Aunty A got him.
I feel bad because I can’t remember what S was doing all that time! I remember seeing him vaguely running around with his cousins. J I had to pay attention to because she was a bridesmaid and because she picked the Kosha clean after the bride and groom went to dinner. Also because she kept eating the blue chocolates on the tables and ended up with a blue mouth and tongue so I had to stop her doing all that… or try at least. And I remember trying to get someone to take baby B in to sleep! But obviously never quite getting around to it.
Anyway, Aunty L is on her honeymoon. We miss her. She will be back in 8 days but we still miss her!
I want to tell you L that your wedding was a so much fun. That Camma (My baby baby sister) cried her eyes out for a good hour when you left. That Gayya also cried her eyes out but refused to do so anywhere near you in fear of you starting and then not stopping. I want to tell you we danced till past 7 am. I want to tell you although things were not how we expected them to be they were perfect. I want to tell you that I kept looking for you in the crowed all night! I can’t believe you are married! I wanted to tell you it is obvious your husband loves you and we love him! I hope you are having a blast! and I hope you are not reading this now.
What we do (we being my friends and family not all Saudi’s as different families and communities have different customs) is have an official engagement. We do not do arranged marriages where the bride and groom are chosen for each other. The way it happens is that the Man either sees or hears about someone (through family usually) who might be compatible with him. If he is interested then they contact the girl (usually his sister or cousin would do that) and ask her if she is already committed to someone (sometimes engagements are not announced for a long time) Or if she is interested in getting married, and more importantly in marrying their brother.
If the answer is a no then the usual reasons given are “I am not ready to get married yet” or “I am concentrating on my studies” or “ummm…. ummmm….. I have to speak to mama” then they get mama to say no. It is sometimes VERY awkward.
If the answer to this question is a yes, the etiquette is not to say yes directly, but to say that a few days are needed to think about it and that she would need to speak to her mother and father first. Then a while later, not too long, the official yes is given. At that point the groom to be’s mother calls the bride to be’s mother and makes it unofficially official. Most people then invite the prospective groom over for tea and they all sit together as a family and then ultimately leave them alone for a short while to talk.
Assuming all the above goes well then different families take it different ways. Some encourage the couple to speak on the phone and get to know each other but not to officially announce the engagement for a few months. Others make it official sooner. Some, after making it official encourage the couple to spend a lot of time together. Most of the time in the bride to be’s house.
The next step is “Katb ilkitaab” which is the religious and legal marriage. This sometimes happens early in the engagement because some families are not comfortable letting the couple spend time together before they are officially married. In our family we usually do that closer to the wedding day (for me it was on my wedding day). Recently I found out it is not good to tell people the exact day and time this is happening. You should not even tell the closest people apparently. And when I thought about this I realized it’s true, I hardly EVER know when someone is officially married till after it happens.
Then there is the wedding party. The men have a dinner, usually an incredibly boring affair that is over in 2 hours. While the women have a wedding party, usually loud and sometimes fun and lasts till 6 or 7 am! The bride walks down the aisle anytime between 10pm and 1am. Then the groom and his father and the brides father and close male relatives walk down the aisle to bring the groom to the bride. They take pictures then all the men leave except for the groom. They sit for a while, see the dancing and the music then go to cut the cake and have dinner then they leave and everyone stays to party.
Lately some brides are coming back after dinner to continue the party while the grooms friends usually throw him a party elsewhere. This is so that the bride can actually spend some time at her wedding party as opposed to just an hour.
That’s about it. As I said, this is our community and not all Saudi’s because some people have more restrictive customs and others have more european weddings. So again, don’t take this as a guide to all Saudi weddings.