Earlier this year, former Collegian staff writer Sofia Sher embarked on a 21-hour trip to her home country of Pakistan to marry a suitor chosen for her by her family. Though some consider it archaic tradition, arranged marriages often have higher success rates than love-first couplings. This is a modern woman’s take on the practice.
Nowadays, many believe arranged marriage is outdated.
Instead, they believe in “falling in love” first and spending time together to get to know the person before getting married.
However, in the Middle East, arranged marriages are not only common, but have higher success rates than what many consider the traditional marriage path. In February, I wed my husband Sajjad, in a traditional Pakistani-arranged marriage.
A LONG ENGAGEMENT
Arranged marriages in Pakistan don’t happen overnight or even in a week, but it takes months to years.
Parents often talk to family members, relatives and friends to help them make the right choice.
Before arranging a marriage, the bride’s parents look at a few things including the potential suitor’s employment status and his family.
Once the engagement is set, both the bride and groom aren’t allowed to see or speak to each other until the wedding day.
My engagement happened over the phone, when both my parents verbally accepted the marriage proposal. The traditional interviewing wasn’t done because his mother and my mother grew up together.Our families know each other well.
My engagement was only finalized, though, after three-years of continuous marriage proposals from his parents to mine. I was working on my associate’s degree and postponed the wedding until after I earned my degree and completed enough units to transfer to a four-year university.
CELEBRATING THE COUPLE
The engagement celebration occurs when the bride’s parent accept the marriage proposal. Exchange of rings between both families during the engagement celebration makes the proposal official. Then the wedding as impending.
There’s a celebration, involving the gathering of both sides of the family. The mother of the man brings a gold ring for the soon-to-be wife.
In my case, my now husband and I were out of the country – me in the United States and him working in Saudi Arabia – so our families celebrated without us.
There are eight events in the process of a traditional Pakistani wedding, each taking place on a different day.
Some of the pre-wedding events include Dholki and Mehndi on both the bride and groom’s sides.
The women’s-only Dholki event begins a week before the wedding.
Women of all ages gather, one sitting in the middle and tapping the Dhol to the rhythm of the beat.
They sing wedding songs that relate to the bride and the groom, usually incorporating the bride and groom’s names. There’s laughter and teasing. The bride and groom’s families hold separate celebrations.
BEGINNING OF CELEBRATION
The first actual day of the wedding is the Nikkah day, when the signing of the marriage certificate happens.
The wedding stops if one party declines to sign the marriage certificate.
The Nikkah happens in the evening when the groom’s family comes to the bride’s house with relatives and a priest reads the Nikkah to the groom. There are prayers. The groom signs the marriage certificate first, followed by the bride. Witnesses also sign.
Usually the groom and bride will be asked if they agree to the wedding before signing the marriage certificate.
MARRIAGE A MULTI-DAY EVENT
After my Nikkah, there was a week in between the other events before my wedding.
First was the Mehndi when his family came to my house.
Usually the colors of the Mehndi dress are orange, green and yellow. The groom isn’t supposed to dress up on the day it’s Mehndi for him, but the bride does on her day.
My husband’s family sent me the Mehndi dress, along with jewels and shoes, a day before the event. I wore the outfit and braided my hair into seven braids.
Seven married women are supposed to open these braids. This ritual brings good luck and longevity in the marriage.
My sister-in-laws brought sweets, Mehndi and tied Ghanna – decorative bracelets – on my wrists.
On the Mehndi day, my husband’s family also brought the wedding collection for me. They brought my wedding dress and 57 other dresses that they bought for me, shoes, jewelry, make-up, perfumes and other accessories.
All the items were set out to show. This event is called Wari, where the groom’s family is to show the collection for the bride.
Next comes an event where the groom’s sister picks up a container, called a Ghourli, filled with water and carries it to him on her head.
When he receives it and takes if off her head, he gives her money for it.
The groom’s head is covered with an oil, then his head is washed with the water from the Ghourli.
Next comes Baraat, when the family, friends and relatives of the groom come to the bride’s home for the official ceremony.
The groom takes a decorated car as the Baraat follow in other vehicles.
The bride’s family welcomes the groom with rose petals.
The Rukhsati, or the sending off the bride, takes place shortly after the groom arrives.
The Qur’an is held over the bride’s head as she’s leaving with her husband to his house to bless and protect her.
This moment for me was emotional.
That night is the first time that we met each other.
The last event, the Walima, occurs the next day.
It is an event when the couple hosts dinner as husband and wife. I wore a heavy dress with gold jewels.
On the seventh day after my wedding, the bride visits her own family with her in-laws and they host a dinner. I wore another heavy dress with the matching jewels again.
AFTER THE WEDDING THOUGHTS
I think arranged marriage isn’t as bad of a process as I thought it would be.
I felt as if I would be nervous, but experiencing the events, I was more happy than nervous.
This is because I knew about him before the marriage and felt confident about marriage rather than getting into something I wouldn’t know anything about.
I feel as if I would be nervous about him, his family and the wedding as a whole if more was unknown to me.
I’m glad I got to meet his family and I love the fact they are just perfect for me.
It’s nice to have someone that you can call your own and to have someone who understands and supports you.
I’m thankful my husband is in my life and look forward to spending every day with him when he comes to United States – a process that will take a minimum of a year.
My marriage is the most important addition to my journey of life.