A friend of mine from Pakistan posted on Facebook how her mother has been talking to her about marriage and since I practically spend my days looking for issues that will fit my blog, I knew I had found a topic!
Marriage in Pakistan is a very important affair with singing, dancing and merry fanfare. It is not only the bringing together of two individuals but of families. The affair starts with the proposal, where the groom and his family formally asks for the bride’s hand in marriage, this is then followed by an engagement party to a put a seal on the union of both individuals. The engagement can last for years before marriage depending on the age of the couple or bride. The Dholki, Mayun and Henna party (a decorative ritual that supposedly brings longevity and good luck to the bride) follow separately but recently in modern times as joined ceremonies. If the couples are Muslims, a Nikah wedding follows. This is the culmination of the build-up and a very important event. It is preceded over by an imam who oversees the signing of the wedding contract binding. After this ceremony, a feast, called Walima, is made by the groom’s family to celebrate and publicize the union.
Though for the Nikah, the couple must have two witnesses each to testify that the wedding is consensual, most marriages are arranged or semi arranged (the couple have met a few times) with emphasis on family union rather than the couple. The couple are usually elaborately dressed especially the bride, who is lavished with jewellery and bright coloured dress with a glowing skin resulting from the Ubtan turmeric paste, sandalwood powder, herbs, and aromatic oils rubbed in weeks before the wedding.
Recent years have seen women risking it all to defy this prevalent traditional mind set. While some have found love and happiness in arranged marriages, others haven’t been so lucky. Cultural and religious tradition reinforces the view point that a woman’s responsibility lies at home and is required to behave accordingly as the honour of her family depends on it and so in some cases, the bride might never pursue a career after marriage.