Afghans couples marry in mass ceremony to cut costs

Fifty couples married Monday in a joint ceremony in the Afghan capital — a growing practice to reduce the astronomical cost of traditional weddings in the impoverished country.

The couples were joined in matrimony in one of the dozens of glitzy wedding halls that punctuate Kabul, but the ceremony itself was somewhat austere.

Since the return of the Taliban in August 2021 weddings have become low-key affairs, with dancing and music effectively banned after authorities deemed such activities un-Islamic.

In front of the City Star wedding hall near the airport, around a hundred turbaned men dressed in traditional shalwar kameez chatted in groups — not a single woman present. They decorated cars with green ribbons and red plastic roses forming hearts to carry the newlyweds away. Roohullah-Rezayi, 18, due to leave with his wife in a few hours, told AFP he could not afford a solo wedding.

“A traditional wedding would have cost us at least 200000 to 250000 Afghanis ($2800 to $3600), but this time it will be between 10000 and 15000 Afghanis,” he said.

The young man, a member of the Hazara minority and from Ghor province, earns barely 350 Afghanis per day doing odd jobs. “We invited 35 people from our 2 families, otherwise it would have been 300 to 400,” said the groom, a plastic flower in the breast pocket of his waistcoat worn over a white tunic.

Donations to each couple from the Selab Foundation, who organized the event, are equivalent to $1600 – a huge amount in one of the poorest countries in the world. They will also leave with a cake, a kit containing toothpaste, shampoo and moisturizer, and a carpet, blanket and a few household appliances to start married life.

A thousand guests

Hundreds of male guests wrapped in traditional patu shawls attended the ceremony in a large, chilly hall, festooned with garlands. An official from the ministry for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice gave a speech, and there were recitations from the Holy Quran. The brides-to-be were kept out of sight in a separate wing, however, and journalists were prohibited from approaching them. It was only after lunch that the women appeared, fully veiled. Larger, more pricey weddings in Afghanistan can bring together more than 1000 guests and cost over $20000.

For Monday’s mass wedding, 600 couples applied. For some of the lucky chosen ones, it has been a long wait. “I’ve been waiting for this day for three years,” said Samiullah Zamani, a 23-years-old farmer from Kabul province. “I can’t wait to see her,” he said of his fiancee. — AFP

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