Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Jordanian Wedding

Woot, Fireworks and men dancing while holding hands,
it must be an Arab wedding!

Ever Since I have arrived in Jordan I have wanted to see a Jordanian wedding. When a month or two ago, my facilitator stated that this was wedding season and we would hear a lot of fireworks, I had no idea how true that statement would be. Up until this past week, all I knew about weddings in Jordan could be summed up in a few words, loud, long, and expensive. Every night we hear fireworks going off late into the night and processions of cars with people hanging out of them, yelling, and honking their horns non-stop. It seems like that’s simply what you do at a wedding, and I thought I wouldn’t know anything more about it until a friend at work invited us to his nephew’s wedding party.

Arab Wedding Cake, not sweet at all!
First of all, calling it a wedding is misleading and any Arab will correct you when you say that. There is no religious ceremony for an Arab wedding, at least from what I understand, and the day before the festivities start the families and the groom (I’m not completely sure if the bride goes) go to the local courthouse and sign the wedding license making the couple officially married. After that, the partying ensues. Traditional weddings, the only one that I’ve seen, used to last a week but with dwindling money most families shorten it to two or three days. The first day is a party in a huge tent on a rented piece of clear property for only the groom’s family. The men and women are separated and for the first 3 hours or so the groom meets all of his guests (many of whom he may barely know) and loud music plays incessantly. This is the time of the party where shabab are dancing constantly, old men are talking about how things have changed with the years, drinks and snacks are sold, and basically the groom doesn’t get to have much fun. The party we went to was called very small because it only had 200 male guests and was only two full days long. Anyway, there are a lot of traditions to be involved in and the normal antics of the groom’s friends, lifting him on their shoulders, dancing with him, and generally having a lot of fun being completely sober. A few interesting traditions I saw involved the music. Specific songs require you to do certain actions. For instance, when the older/traditional music began we were told we had to stand up in the front of the the gathering with all the men, shoulder to shoulder, and sway side to side while clapping.
Henna and that wonderful Parasol!
This was where we all had to stand next to each other and clap.
The old my next to me is wearing a shamech traditionally denoting
someone of palestinian descent (It's white & black not red).
 When another song started, it signaled that henna had been delivered from the women of the groom’s family. A few elaborately dressed little girls brought over two heaping plates of henna which was then applied in designs and letters on the groom’s hands so, “They will look beautiful to the bride,” as a few arab men told me. The whole time the music is playing loudly and the men are joking around and playing with a garishly decorated parasol that the little girls brought with them. Apparently, by having the parasol placed over you, or dancing with the person holding it, it signals that you will be married soon (much like the throwing of flowers at American weddings). Also at this time, the mother of the groom came to the party to see the henna placed on the groom’s hands. I was told it is how she shows her approval of the wedding and if she doesn’t show up, the shabab at the wedding will start to chant trying to get her to arrive. Anyway, it was quite an adventure, and like always, I got to hold hands with lots of random Arab men and dance the night away, it seems to be a theme in my life.
After this aspect of the wedding was over, we were taken with the close family friends and family up to the house at about 11 o’clock (at this point we had been here for about two and a half hours). With the smaller group of about forty men we went to the grooms new home and ate mansaf which was amazing. It is probably the only time that man cook in this country but it was fantastic. There were probably a dozen seperate plates of mansaf with about 5 kilos of lamb meet on each. The men from the groom's family were the servers as all of the men devoured the mansaf and enjoyed themselves. After a very short time, less than 15 minutes, all of the non-family members were miraculously done (except for us) which we thought was extremely interesting. We found out, after everyone else left, that the family had not eaten and that everyone left so that they could eat. One the men had had their fill, the food would be delivered to the women in the family and finally to the bride's family. Nothing is put to waste here ever!
Mansaf partay ...woot!
Overall, the wedding was amazing and quite an experience. It was loud and long like most Jordanian parties but at the same time wonderful and eye-opening. It is awesome to see cultures who put such a high price on weddings and feel that they are so important, but I hope that they put that same type of emphasis on the marriage which is what actually matters.

1 comment:

  1. 1. In American culture, the star of the wedding is usually the bride. Is it just because you experienced the "man" part, or is the emphasis in Jordanian weddings actually on the groom/his family? Who pays for it all?

    2. I can't say I'm thrilled that the bride does not sign her own marriage certificate (kind of makes me think that she's considered property) or that the men eat first and then send the leftovers to the women and to the bride's family last. Call me ignorant if you want. Then again, I didn't eat very much at my wedding. Except at the dinner, which was fantastic.

    3. I've thought similar things about how important weddings are . . . to everyone but the Mormons, it seems. You'd think we'd have the biggest celebrations because we think so highly of marriage, but no. I guess we are all about putting the emphasis on the marriage, like you said. Still, if I had had my way my wedding would have been ridiculously expensive.