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A Kuwaiti wedding

For Kuwaiti families, a wedding has always been considered a very important occasion, and a lot of money is spent on marriages.

Marriage was seen as a way to strengthen bonds between families of a similar creed who shared social and financial levels. In the past, the family would choose the partner, instead of the bride or groom. A partner was usually sought amongst relatives, but when this was not possible, a matchmaker would be called in to help out. Once a suitable girl was found, the matchmaker informed the groom’s family. If the groom’s family approved of the match, the matchmaker would inform the bride's family.

A Kuwaiti engagement

Once both families had agreed, a date would be arranged for the first meeting of the bride and groom. The fiancée was not allowed to leave her house or meet anybody during the engagement period. The groom’s father gave his son’s bride-to-be fiancée money to buy a wedding gift, called “Daza”, which consisted of four valuable garments, two rolls of cloth, towels, bed covers and blankets. A special band of women would take the wedding gifts to the fiancée's house on a Monday or Thursday night.

The band would sing all the way from the fiancé's house to the fiancée's house, accompanied by the light of a lantern. If the future groom’s father accepted the gift, this meant that he blessed the marriage and would prepare the bride's trousseau. On the night of the wedding, the groom would walk from his house to his bride-to-be’s accompanied by his father, uncles, relatives and neighbors. He was received by female singers on reaching the bride’s house. A party called a “Jalwa” was sometimes held for the bride at her family’s house. Here, the bride would wear a green garment and sit on a special seat with a green silk scarf thrown over her. Female members of the family and musicians held the edges of the scarf, raising and lowering it, in time to the rhythm of a traditional song.

The bride would then be carried on her seat to meet her groom. The newlyweds would spend their first week as husband and wife at the girl’s house. After this, the couple moved to the groom’s family’s house in a procession with family and neighbors. The new wife’s mother was not be allowed to accompany her daughter as it was considered a bad omen.

Times, and traditions, have changed

Changes in social relations in Kuwait have been reflected in the way of choosing a life partner, as relationships between men and women have become somewhat more flexible. Young men can now meet girls at family social occasions, university, work, clubs and other places. A Kuwaiti girl can now get engaged to a man from outside her family. A Kuwaiti man who is studying abroad may marry a foreigner. In addition, higher education and job opportunities mean that the typical age of marriage has been delayed till around twenty-three or twenty-four. Despite this relaxing of rules, the approval of both families must be sought, with old and new formal traditions being vitally important within Kuwaiti society.

Just like before, a young man asks for a girl’s hand in marriage from her father or one of family elders if her father was dead. This is the formal proposal of marriage. Financial matters such as the dowry are then discussed. When these matters are agreed upon, the occasion is celebrated with an engagement party in the girl’s house. There is no fixed engagement period is not fixed, but it typically lasts one month. The wedding reception is usually held in a large public hall or in a hotel. A party is given for men to congratulate the groom and a separate party is held for women where they sing and celebrate.

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Wedding cakes are taken very seriously in Kuwait: click here for more about wedding cakes by royal patissiere Omar Addihaoui. Here's a "taster".

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