Nevertheless, it seems that the ice begins to melt slowly. It was started two years ago, and now people of both genders are allowed to attend cinemas, theatres and concerts in Saudi Arabia. Since 2018 a series of unexpected reforms have been implemented throughout Saudi to make the Kingdom more progressive and easy to visit for potential tourists and businessmen before Vision 2030. Also, globalisation and the social influence of other countries alleviate the strictness of dating rules there. Today, in the port city of Jeddah, where rules are less strict, it is not uncommon for passersby to see Saudi Arabia girls and young men strolling along the corniche or dating out in the open. It was almost impossible to imagine that level of freedom even a few years ago, but of course, most Arabians are still very conventional and prefer making families in a very traditional way. Arabian men value their modest and obedient women for being respectful and housewifely, and Arabian women value their men for being caring and protective.
So what customs make it possible to create traditional families in Saudi Arabia?
The decision on who to marry depends on the family
Traditionally, it’s up to the groom’s family to choose the bride. Those decisions are usually made based on social and financial status. The background is extremely important there because the Arabians appreciate their name and reputation the most. The groom’s family chooses carefully and arranges the meeting with the bride's family of the bride.
Most of the marriages are made neither with the future newlyweds’ opinions nor their acquaintance before the wedding, even though in some more religious families there is a custom of “the seeing” when a groom has an opportunity to look at the potential wife before making his final decision. His choice is mostly based on whether he likes his potential wife or not, cause that’s the only moment when a man could see an unmarried woman, who’s not his wife, without her veil. If he likes what he sees, he offers gifts to the bride. At this point the bride may accept or decline the gifts, and if both of the potential spouses like each other, their families start the marriage preparations. But that step is not compulsory in Arabian marriage customs, so mostly the newlyweds see each other for the first time at their wedding ceremony.
Arabian men value their modest and obedient women for being respectful and housewifely, and Arabian women value their men for being caring and protective.
What happens when the couple is chosen?
After both of the future spouses are chosen, their family begins the wedding preparations. The negotiations are held between the groom and his father-in-law, and the charges may include not only money but also jewels, gold, perfume and other valuable items. The Arabians from rural parts of the country may also present cows and sheep as a gift.
The bride usually has some ceremonies which are usually held exactly three days before the wedding. One of them is called Burma, where the bride’s friends apply henna patterns on her skin. After that, she is usually rubbed with traditional oils and perfumes all over her body because of the old customs of the Muslim countries. Some of those traditions tend to fade because of the modern changes in society, so men often don’t attend those ceremonies, but they are allowed to take wedding photos before the marriage as the newlyweds in other countries do.
The wedding itself may look very unusual for non-Muslim people: there are two separate ceremonies for the men and women because the Muslim traditions don’t allow them to celebrate together. So the future spouses are asked whether they agree to the marriage in different places and without the presence of each other. After the agreement, the groom joins hands with the father-in-law and two more witnesses, who usually consist of one more man and one woman or two men.The traditional dressing is also a very important part of the ceremony, and even though society changes, and now men can be seen in modern official suits as well, the groom usually wears a traditional white Saudi dress. The bride usually wears a traditional dress too, but the colour of the dressing may vary and it mostly depends on the bride’s taste.
The ceremony may last for two days and a number of different dishes can impress almost everyone. The women's party is traditionally much larger than the men's party, which usually have just a small party to dine together and perform a traditional dance together.
As we may see, the traditional Saudi wedding ceremony differs from the wedding traditions of other countries a lot. That approach of making families guarantees newly made couples to be financially stable and also creates strong bonds between the relatives of the newlyweds. Partners learn to respect and love each other and after a while become truly mutually connected.
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