Even though I’m in Toronto right now I can hear the cars honking on the streets of Amman to indicate that two people are on their way to getting married and everyone in their family apparently has a car that came with a horn. So I feel inclined to rant about the noise pollution from a distance.
Its wedding season and I had nothing really to say on the subject other than the usual cynical view of our society and culture. Weddings have become a pseudo-science in our modern day culture and there’s nothing to be done about it; you can’t turn back the wheels of time. So I’ve remained relatively quiet on the subject, especially while reading a few excellent posts on the subject here and there in the Arab blogosphere.
But today something caught my interest…
Marriage Cancellations May Reach 50%, Stock Market Crash Blamed
The stock market crash, which affected more than 3.5 million middle income investors, has delayed the marriages of many people this summer, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported. Every summer, tens of thousand of Saudis get married but this year, the number is expected to drop by more than 50 percent.
Fahd Al-Harbi, a wedding hall owner, said that many people who had made reservations cancelled them after the crash. Al-Harbi said that many wedding hall owners would reduce prices to attract customers and that he had reduced his prices by more than 50 percent.
Saleh Al-Muntasheri has postponed his wedding which was scheduled for the summer because of the crash. He said that he had lost SR120,000.
Ahmad Ali is another Saudi who lost money in the crash. He said he had lost SR67,000 which had taken him more than five years to save. He said he had been forced to cancel his wedding because he could not afford it and that he would not borrow the money. [source]
Upon reading this I thought it was funny that people would cancel their weddings because of a crash in the stock market but then it started making sense. 120,000 riyals is about 32,000 US if I’m not mistaken.
I think people are very passive on the subject but in reality it’s something that is going to transform our populations. It’s a vicious cycle I don’t see ourselves breaking any time soon. This is about the middle class Jordanian man. The rich are rich and they tend to marry rich and can afford to, so all the variables cancel each other out. The poor are poor and neither family has money or high expectations and just want to get rid of their kids who become financial burdens so there are no surprises, and all the variables cancel each other out. What’s left is that shade of grey where this new phenomenon in our part of the world, this new social experiment known as the middle class, is most affected.
And it’s growing, and it’s troubling. I have many “issues” with weddings I see in Amman, and they are many, but my concern here is more societal than anything else. When I ask friends my age (early 20’s) they seem to react to the word marriage in horror like it’s an unspeakable act to consider at such an age. When someone our age is about to get married you hear people saying “he/she is too young”. Ironically most of these people are old and were married at a much younger age themselves. Perhaps they are aware of something the rest of my generation is not? Or perhaps they’re just victims to this vicious cycle and unaware of it. My friends seem to always say the magic number 27 as the ideal age and they say it in such a matter-of-fact way that makes me certain they’ve put a lot of thought into it. Strange enough this is the same number the government says is the average age in Jordan for males. Honestly I’m betting it’s much higher if you remove the poor who marry younger and occupy most of the population. From observation the age seems to be in the 28-32 range.
This is a leap from the early 20’s of just 15 years ago. In other words, in these past 15 years when I was still growing up men have pushed back the age almost 10 years. That’s where they set the bar for me and my generation. (Seriously, thanks for that)
But is it the men who set the bar? The situation is complex. It’s a vicious cycle that has many parts to it and all those parts are connected and interdependent on each other. The parents of young women need men who are financially secure which is something which takes some time to do in our economy. So they look to someone who is about 10 years older than their daughter, or even the daughter looks for someone of that age (not only because of her parent’s reasoning but also these days it seems most men my age are still boys). Also society tends to judge the man and what he’s achieved. When men actually do get to a position where they feel financially secure they’re in that higher age bracket and when they look around for a wife their age, those women have been married for 10 years now by men who are 10 years older, basically where he is right now. So he marries a very young girl. And we’re stuck in the cycle. Perhaps the parents search for that security because they hear about all these young couple getting divorced, but perhaps the reason they get divorced is because of all the social and financial pressure/burden they inflict upon themselves from the get go.
It seems silly to me that all of this is done over nothing more than a farce. That’s what it is. All this talk about financial security is crap and that’s the truth. Most middle class men take years to reach any form of stability in Jordan where the economy is not very supportive and work is rare. What happens really is that they aim for this stability but then turn 30 and realise it’s a lie and this is around the time when his parents and family are driving him nuts to get married. So he does. And it’s all done on credit cards and loans and monthly payments and you get two young people entering the first few crucial years of their lives in debt: a marriage on lease. Keep in mind that the middle class man is not only looking for financial stability but also social status, so they tend to become lawyers and doctors and engineers so they can have that title and get that money: two birds with one stone. Of course this means we have a whole lot of doctors, lawyers and engineers that pretty much suck at their jobs.
And all of this goes back to that small period in time that is called the marriage process. From the proposal to the wedding party a lot of money is lost; not invested, no, lost. Wasted. As simple as that. Because really, if you can’t afford to invite 100 people to the wedding why do you invite 500? Do we actually even know that many people in our entire lives? And all that crap about it being a joyous day full of memories also seems to be just that: crap. Because all the money people pour in just to make their weddings “memorable” is wasted since the average Jordanian family will attend 10 weddings every year and they all become one giant blur in their memories. In reality I suppose it’s not just an attempt to out do another wedding but really just to reach that bar that’s been set so high. If you know someone who drove to the wedding in a Mercedes, you need to get a convertible, a Lamborghini, a space shuttle and so on and so forth. Book the hotels that are impossible to book. Invite the most well connected guests (usually government ministers). Build a cake that will sustain an army or possibly feed the poor for a few years. From shooting hand guns to Ak-47s; from firecrackers to TNT.
None of these families can afford any of this so it becomes a charade, an act. I don’t understand how people invest so much in a lie.
This is why weddings have become the same old thing. A common 5 star hotel wedding today would’ve been talked about to death over a decade ago. Today? Today Amr Diab has to jump out of a plane and parachute right on to the platform of your wedding to his latest song to 6,000 guests, only to be joined by the groom’s best friend 50 cent. “6ab how does the groom know 50 cent?”, I ask. “Through a friend of a friend who did him a favour”. And the cake was 4 stories high and they used King Arthur’s Excalibur attached to a crane to cut it.
Yeah, yeah. Those people are actually rich, and again the elements cancel each other out. But they do set the bar for the middle class which is stuck in this part of society that is trying to move in to the high class (through pretence) but ends up spending so much on the farce that they fall down to the lower class.
Above all this I always laugh inside when I hear Gods’ name invoked during these weddings. Because after all this whole marriage thing used to have something to do with religion we just don’t remember what that was exactly. Seriously, position yourself near conversations during weddings and from the sheik who marries them to the people who gather around them you hear Gods’ name everywhere. “God brought them together”…or “it was Allah’s will”. Then they all read the fate7a and when the moment of humbleness is over they get in a bunch of rented lavish cars and drive through the already traffic prone streets of Amman honking their horns, slowly.
For some reason during weddings, I’m inclined to look up to the sky and wonder what God is thinking at that very moment about all this. Weddings should be secular because the more you bring religion into it the more it feels like one giant contradiction. Islam makes the process fairly simple, we come along and complicate it, but still attach religion to it.
I don’t have an exact solution to what I regard as a problem. There is a domino effect and there is a cycle we can’t seem to get out of and that’s what I wanted to point out in this post. I’m well aware of all the other arguments, and I’m well aware of the woman’s side of the story, I just don’t have enough time to discuss it all. Instead I chose the middle class Jordanian young man because that’s the segment of society I’m more inclined to categorise myself in.
I don’t see the cycle ever being broken unless of course there’s a major war and we’re all brought down a peg or two. I’m not suggesting that what worked in the past is necessarily the solution to the present; things change, elements change, situations change and new solutions are required to address them. What I mourn is the loss of our humbleness, the loss of our spirit, of our traditions; all of which we’ve sold for something valueless.
To many this isn’t a major problem, or it’s insignificant. I don’t know if I agree with that. We tend to be passive about it because itÃ¢??s something we want to get past and never worry about again. Meanwhile every generation unknowingly sets a precedent for the following generation, not caring about the generation that comes after it and what they have to deal with. In that process we often forget that the next generation will be our own children. Our debts carried onto them.
But I’m just ranting…
you said one thing that i always say to my friends….. getting married has nothing to do with saving up money!! you can never have ‘enough’ money… they wait and wait, and THEN they realize that their careers are going no where and their bosses are asses and they are married to a job they dont even like!
bnsh, lol yeah that’s pretty much it…especially the “bosses are asses” part 😀
Nas, I’m sorry I couldn’t read all of it. But I just wanted to say that if you examine the financial life of a couple who get married during the few years before their marriage takes place, you’ll find that they’ve usually graduated with some kind of degree, have some kind of job, but still are financially dependant on their parents in terms of housing and sometimes a car.
My question is, what’s wrong with the idea of them marrying a few years before and still accepting the reality that they, even as a couple, are still gonna need the financial backing of both their families?
I don’t think financial independence should be a prerequisite to marriage if it’s going to delay that marriage.
Also, “bosses who are asses” are more likely to feel with their employees if these employees where married and with dependants. It changes the whole way employers look at employee compensation.
That’s not the truth … financial stability is important, for the lack of it could be the cause of many problems in the marriage…If one cannot afford to start a family, then they should not…
Naseem, please explain to me how a marriage can be successful if the couple do not have enough to cover their bills at the end of each month?
These are people who have their priorities screwed up …they get themselves in this mess and end up cleaning up the hard way…Extravagance is not important …after all, it’s just a few hours…
Not that complicated to break.you can start breaking that cycle!
what “should be” and what “is” are two different things my friend. there is the general tendency in our society to define financial stability as financial independence. Which is why I don’t know many 30 year old guys who are still financially dependent on their families.
Iman, the point I was making in the post seems to flew right over your head. I didn’t say financial stability was not important or that not being able to cover bills is normal. But there is a difference between spending thousands and thousands of dinars on a wedding and being able to cover bills. What I find absurd is the extravagant and unnecessary spending on a wedding with the knowledge that one will be in debt soon after. And yes they have their priorities screwed up but it’s part of a bigger thing, it’s not a minority.
And it wouldn’t be called a “vicious cycle” if one man alone could break it 😀
but you’ll feel great about yourself for not taking part in this vicious cycle…in the end, you can lead a horse to the water but you cant make him drink!
iman, Oscar Wilde said “Those who try to lead the people can only do so by following the mob”….also, technically i’m not a horse 😀
nas, okay! i don’t know what you’re trying to say…Oscar wilde’s quote contradicts what you just said!
again, the cycle can be broken starting with you!! after all, didn’t you say:
Iman, I dont see the contradiction but anyway, come on…you’re essentially leaving it up to me to change a social paradigm. It doesn’t usually work that way 😉
the new fashion of getting married in Amman is the reception and family dinner which i think we should all back. the rich this year are not doing the WEDDING thing where the car in a red bow comes down from the sky and lands in the pool on a stage built especially for it. now they have a dinner for the family of the bride and groom (this is close family and a scattering of friends) and then they have a standing reception with wedding cake and drinks (about 3 hours) although this sounds like it cant happen in Jordan, a country where you just have to invite the man who lived net door to your parents when you were in second grade, or the friend of a friend shows up because your friend was coming anyway and decided one more person wouldn’t make a difference. but thatÃ¢??s whatÃ¢??s happening this year. the cost is low, it takes a total of 5-6 hours, everyone is happy because they got invited, and the bride and groom get just as many wedding gifts and money as they would have at the big wedding. the other idea i like is the ‘bait al sha’er’ or Bedouin tent and mansaf…everyone invited all dig in and they cant complain about not liking it because u can always argue that its traditional.
Fad, about this reception thing…i don’t think it’s caught on and I doubt that it will. count the number of these weddings that you’ve seen and tell my how many fingers they add up to (you’ll only need one hand for the excercise). as for bait sha’er, the traditional bedouin wedding with mansaf, you will literally (for the middle class) get half the people invited eating mansaf with their hands on one side of the tent while the other half of those invited will look down on them with disgust.
lol I think we should all start breaking the vicious cycle, at the same time; we’ll get rid of 6 hours of awkwardness and tasteless fashion.
Seriously, I like the reception idea a lot, and the mansaf dinner too. Anything that doesn’t involve me sitting for 6 hours while wearing a stupid white gown. And of course will save a lot of money 😀
Nas, thank you for linking to my post about this issue; for those interested; here is the link again:
Now, back to your post.
I totally and completely agree with you but I have to note that there is a lost generation between the way it used to be and the way it is now .. this generation is mostly women who did not fit the criteria when their peers of the same generation finally got ready to get married but then chose the younger more vital females and not those that belong to the same generation … so most men tend to prefer the 10 years younger bride out of pure choice and not necessity generated of their female peers from the same generation are already married … I can comfortably say that men are the ones who started this trend … they just want someone younger and more “fresh” inexperienced little girls to make them their wives!!
Although this post was long but I read it on stages 🙂
I loved it
Sorry for the vent. UGH weddings. I hate any and everything about weddings. I can’t even go to a wedding without giving my DH hell for a week afterwards. We didn’t have a wedding. NOTHING. Just went to the masjid and signed some stuff, etc. No 7 cakes, hell not even a cupcake. No flowers, no gold, no flowing gown – just a jilbab. Over 10 years later, I’m still sore. And it doesn’t help to hear, “Well, if you WERE Arab I couldn’t have married you, I couldn’t have afforded too.” Gee, thanks. UGH Call me childish, but what about me?
so how does it work then? sure, it’s only common sense that only one person cannot change a social paradigm in its entirety… however you can be the start of change within your own social circle, you can be the change that you want to see in your children and gradchildren … don’t underestimate your capabilities of making a difference in vulgar social paradigms like the one you’re mentioning – even if it’s on a relatively small scale!
bertrand russell said: we have, in fact, two kinds of morality side by side: one which we preach but do not practice, and another which we practice but seldom preach.
To you Nas of the middle class Jordanian young man segment and to the great people of Arab Lands, I wish to say ‘Chazak Ve’ematz’ be strong and of good courage, and we – and all peoples who cherish reform – will be with you. aahhh… i just finished reading Olmert’s address…such great PR!
Excellently written! Any Jordanians listening out there?