Friday, February 1, 2008

The Afghan Wedding Industry

I'm back to wedding blogging! I'm settling in to my hotel room in rather bland Northern Virginia suburb and on a cold rainy day like today my mind drifts to thoughts of warm spring days (which are nice days for weddings!).

I think so much about the American wedding industry and how it's sort of destroying the fun and family elements of a wedding and turn it into a credit card monstrosity. Recently I came across an article in the New York Times about weddings in Afghanistan:
Big Weddings Bring Afghans Joy, and Debt
Published: January 14, 2008
In one of the poorest countries in the world, extravagant weddings are a mainstay of modern life.

There's so much pressure to conform to the wedding traditions there, especially in the years since the Taliban fell. The Taliban had outlawed many elements of the festive traditional wedding, so now there's even more pressure to bring those elements back into weddings, as part of a celebration of freedom.

I can be all for a big traditional family event. But in Afghanistan the burden of paying for the wedding, prewedding parties, and a "reverse dowry" falls on the groom. The average yearly salaries are under $10,000 yet a "budget" wedding comes in around $12,000. What do you do when tradition is utterly impractical? The large, lavish wedding is often dictated by the bride's family and it's a way for the groom to show his status within the community. What's ironic is the groom often needs to borrow money and starts off married life in debt, which seems like a way to instantly lose some of your status. He's done all this work to prove to the bride and her family that he's worthy... and then can't pay the regular household expenses afterward. It all seems so backwards.

Reading the article really puts an American wedding into perspective. We're so lucky to have the freedom to say "No!" to the traditional wedding trappings if we want to. (No matter what your family pressure may be, you really do have that choice.) Yet we are still pressured, even if it's subliminal, by advertisements or the sense of living up to others' expectations. And we don't, and shouldn't, have to start our married lives in debt due to wedding expenses.

(Image from the New York Times)

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