Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Traditional Wedding

Before I begin describing the traditional part of my wedding, there are a few aspects of getting married that I need to make clear for my readers in order to avoid any confusion.  In the Arab countries, it is of vital importance for the groom to take permission from the father of the bride-to-be before any wedding could commence, every one is involved in organizing the wedding as the family is a tight unit and it is usually the bride’s side of the family that pays for an engagement party while the groom’s side of the family pays for the wedding.
My wedding was kind of like a shot gun one… it took my parents some time to accept my decision to marry someone who was not of my culture, background or religion. They believed that marriage had its usual problems with men and women being very different to one another, the stress of having children, stresses of work and trying to build a secure life, and living under one roof. Therefore, they were afraid that if the cultural, traditional and religious background differences were added to that equation, I would not have the easy comfortable life that they wanted me to have. They were and still are protective parents and therefore, I do not blame them for their trepidations.
I did not have an engagement party but my mother made sure to throw me an exquisite “marriage certificate” celebration, Katb Iktab (as it is called in Palestine) or Mahr (as it is called in Iraq). And what an awesome ceremony it was… My dear Uncle in Amman took all of the below pictures and I will go through each one explaining the meaning behind them… Since my father is Iraqi and my mother is Palestinian, she decided to join both cultures and traditions together.
I hope you enjoy my Photo Diary:
I wore a traditional Palestinian Thobe (a hand embroidered dress in different Palestinian cross stitch designs) which my mother bought... but then embroidered the cover of the Quran with the same colors as well as the top of the box it came in. The other parts of the ceremony are Iraqi... except for lighting the candles which is a shared tradition. In Palestinian customs, the bride wears ten thimbles on her fingers with ten lit candles on them.

I was reading a certain section/part of the Quran over and over again while my feet were soaking in a pot filled with water, jasmine flowers and green leaves. This is a traditional Iraqi custom to signify fertility and blessings... that may my life be showered with greenery and flower scents.

The passage in the Quran talks about the marriage between men and women and how God created two genders so that they could mingle, love and be there for each other.

My sweet mother kept pouring warm water into that brass pot fearing that I would get cold.

The women sit in one room and the men in another for the first part of the ceremony and until the marriage certificate is signed.

My husband and his father, my father, my two uncles who were witnesses and the rest of the men were sitting in another room with the Sheikh who was to bless the marriage.

On the table in front of me there was a silver tray with seven dishes filled with white and green things (such as sugar cubes, cardamom, henna, rice, yogurt… to signify blessings and fertility and a white peaceful marriage) , a mirror (to reflect all the good that is in this world), a lit candle (to mean that we will always have each other to light our path... but in my case there were 3 lit candles; joy, love and peace) and a lock and key to indicate that I have locked his heart forever… I was supposed to throw the key away afterward but I have no idea what happened to that key.

The Sheikh’s responsibility was to ask my father, my husband and I a few questions before my husband and I and the witnesses signed the certificate.  For example: The men had to talk about the right to take care of me and protect me… the Dowry (before marriage and after in case of divorce) and the like… most of it was translated into English for my husband of course or he would have been like a deaf man in a Zaffeh  (an Arab saying)… Zaffeh is the first section of a White Wedding ceremony with loads of people drumming and cheering.

The three questions that were asked of me were:
Do I accept this man to be my husband?
Is it my choice to marry him?
Did my father or anyone else force me to marry him?

During the whole time I was asked by the Sheikh and was signing the certificate, my sister in law, cousin and best friend were right on top of me. My sister in law and cousin were carrying a white cloth while my best friend was rubbing two large blocks of sugar together on top of my head while the sugar grains fell onto the cloth. This signifies blessings of sweet moments and events in my married life.

After that the men went back to the men’s side for the witnesses and my husband to sign the certificate, shake hands and read the Fatiha verse of the Quran…. To start the marriage with a blessing.

Another Tradition is the lighting of a Life Size candle that stood in the hall greeting the visitors and which was later brought in to stand amongst the guests. My mother tried to find one that was my height but was unable to... however she did a fantastic job with this one... it is supposed be lit during the whole Katb iKtab, the next day when I had the reception wearing my white dress, on every wedding anniversary and the day a child is born. My mother still has it stored in her closet to this day.

After the whole ceremony, Kunafeh is served... it is a sweet cheese delicacy with crunchy fine vermicelli and sugar syrup....yet again signifying a sweet start to the marriage.

I wish you every kind of blessing in this world and may you be surrounded by greenery, white, candles, mirrors and sugar!


paula devi said...

What a wonderful heart-filled story. Traditions and family - aren't they the breathe of life and love. It's all about that, isn't it. You look so beautiful and so calm and you married a very handsome man who I am sure is a good partner and father. Incidently, he fits right in with our middle-eastern looks!
I am so happy that you described so much of the tradition involved in both the Iraqi and Palestian wedding ceremony. DId you have a henna party for the women?

Tabouleh said...

Thank you Paula for your sweet comment... yeah Aaron does look Middle Eastern doesn't he? the next day on my White wedding, many of my relatives told me that he looked more Middle Eastern than myself... so funny... he has the nose and the goatie... LOL...
I, unfortunately did not have a Henna party (because everything was quick), but I did use the henna in the bowl in front of me to draw some stuff on my palms ... I have participated in many Henna parties though and so what I did was very similar to what really goes on... other friends and cousins also drew on their palms after the siging of the certificate...

Judy Croome said...

What a wonderful wedding story! The photo of your Mom keeping your feet warm is just lovely.

What I love most about stories such as these are the similarities, the universality of Love. Husband and I (as Christians - Church of England, called Anglicans here in South Africa) also lit a marriage candle! Many South African couples end up having more than one wedding ceremony - there will be the lobola (dowry) arrangements and the traditional ceremonies and a more modern wedding ceremony.

Judy, South Africa

Tabouleh said...

Thank you for your warm comment Judy... yes I believe that there are many similarities between many cultures around the world... we come from the same father and mother after all...I love similarities... warms my heart... makes the world a little smaller... to find them brings me closer to my dream.

Rula Abdel Hamid said...

I like your new blog.... as for your marriage story... very nice.. I do remember there was a lot of detailed traditional rituals but didn't know it was this lovely.....

Maha said...

Aaaaaamazing Lanoush! You warmed my heart and brought the biggest smile to my you always do whenever I read any of the stories you send me.
I loved the way you narrated our cultural values and traditions in the simplest yet intriguing manner.
May your life be filed with everything sweet and wonderful, just like you and may you and Aaron grow together and continuing loving and caring for each other the way you do.
Love you my precious Lanoush xxx

Sazan said...

Thank you so much for taking us through your own experience!! I found this entry really interesting and enojoyed it all. Thank you

Tabouleh said...

Thank you all for your sweet and warm comments... I am glad you enjoyd it...I wish you were with me to celebrate it.