It’s not a secret that every country has its own wedding traditions, some of them really unique and might seem odd for outsiders. But Arab countries are among those places where any important event is rich in meaningful customs and specific rituals. And the wedding as well, of course. Arab wedding traditions are interesting and reflect the local culture. So, let’s compare them to well-known American wedding traditions and see just how alike or different they are.
Marriage proposal. Who proposes and how?
Traditionally, the groom-to-be proposes by going down on one knee and offering an engagement ring.
The American culture is a lot more laid-back than the Arab culture when it comes to proposals. We're at a time and age right now when women actually do propose to men, but, typically, the man actually kneels down with a diamond ring and asks the girl or the guy for their hand in marriage.
The groom goes to the bride’s family and asks for her hand in marriage. This ritual is called “tolbe”.
In the Arab traditions, the groom and his family actually have to go to the bride’s family and ask for her hand in marriage. Once both families actually agree, the refreshments and dessert will be served.
Wedding expenses. Who pays for the wedding?
Traditionally, the father of the bride pays for the wedding and groom’s family pays for the honeymoon.
In the American culture, the father of the bride pays for the wedding but then the groom's family pays for the honeymoon. Though recently, it has become less traditional and many couples pay for their own wedding or/and honeymoon themselves.
The groom and his family pay for the wedding. However, it varies based on the country and which religion is practiced.
There are a lot of differences, depending on which Arab country you're from and what religious sects you belong to. But for the majority, the groom and his family actually pay for the wedding.
Wedding guests. How many people attend?
About 120 guests.
The average guest count for a typical American wedding is actually 120 guests.
About 500-800 guests.
The guests count approximately for Arabs is actually between 500 to 800 guests.
Pre-wedding traditions. What events lead up to the wedding?
Proposal, engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, reception.
These are the events that lead up to the wedding: you have the proposal, and then after proposal you have an engagement party, after the engagement party you have a bridal shower, then a bachelor or a bachelorette party, then you have a rehearsal dinner, and then you have your wedding ceremony and reception.
Tolbe, engagement, kateb kteb ceremony, henna party, pre-wedding party, wedding, tehneye, radet el ejer.
First, you have the tolbe, which is the Arab version of a proposal. Then, you have an engagement where the rings will be exchanged. Then, you have your kateb kteb ceremony, which is the religious ceremony, if you're Muslim. And then after that, you do have a henna party, which is the Arab version of a bridal shower. After that, you have a pre-wedding party; the pre-wedding parties are thrown a day or two before the wedding to celebrate the bride-to-be and the groom-to-be. After that, you have the big wedding. And then after the wedding, you have something called “tehneye”; this ceremony used to be popular back in the day, some people still do it. Basically, the tehneye means that, after the wedding, people come to your house with a gift or some flowers to congratulate you for getting married. After that, obviously, there's the honeymoon. And after the honeymoon, there's something called “radet el ejer”; it's a small event when the mother of the bride hosts for the groom and the bride, she throws a dinner or lunch to welcome them back from their honeymoon.
Marriage contract. How are marriage contracts written?
Marriage contracts happen during civil marriage and can opt for a prenuptial agreement, which separates assets in case of divorce or separation.
In the American culture, the marriage contracts usually happen during their civil marriage, and the couple can either agree to have a prenup agreement or not.
Marriage contracts happen during kateb kteb and include the dowry. The kateb kteb doesn’t have to occur at a mosque, but can be at the bride or groom’s home.
The marriage contract for Arabs happens during the kateb kteb ceremony and it actually includes the dowry. So, before having the kateb kteb ceremony, you have to agree to what that dowry is going to be. Both families meet up together, kind of discuss what that dowry is going to be, and then after that, they host the kateb kteb ceremony. The kateb kteb ceremony does not have to be done at a mosque at all, it could just be done at the bride or the groom's home. All they have to do is bring the “sheikh” and then just go ahead and perform the ceremony. It's really short, it's actually about 5-10 minutes.
Wedding budget. How much money to spend on a wedding?
The average budget for an American wedding is about $33,000.
On average, it's about $100,000. And the reason behind it is because there's a lot of cultural pressure on delivering this amazing wedding for your guests. If you really don't do that, you might have to deal with a lot of drama. A lot of people just want to avoid the criticism that may impact the family honor.
Other Arab wedding traditions. What are some other events that happen in Arab culture?
In the Arab culture, people have something called the “zaffe”, and it's, basically, this dramatic dance that involves a lot of dancers, people with drums and horns, and it's kind of the way to anticipate the entrance of the bride and the groom.
They also do a car parade. People don’t do this in the US. Basically, the groom rents out this super luxury car to get it decorated with florals, and then his family and friends follow him driving to the actual event venue. And they're honking all the way, getting a lot of attention, and it's done to let people know that this couple is getting married, let's celebrate them and make a buzz before they actually arrive at the venue.
A “zalghouta” is another ritual. It is a high-pitched sound made by the wedding guests and the participants of a wedding. You'll hear it in every single Arab wedding. People do it to celebrate the bride and groom.