Saudi weddings are very different from any wedding I have ever attended. The whole concept is different. Marriage is a legal agreement, not tied to religion. Which is strange because everything else here has to do with it being a Islamic country. The couple is actually legally married before the wedding. The wedding is more of a party, a reception. And I don’t really understand the details with all of this arranging or timing, when they are actually married, when they can live together, etc.
Like everywhere else here, men and women are in separate areas. Often they are in different conference/reception rooms at a hotel. For the wedding I went to, the men were in a different hotel about ten minutes away. Because there are no men around, the women can take off their abayas and hijabs (head coverings), and we get to see what they are wearing!
Typical wedding schedule would be:
9:00 pm (or later) – arriving
10:00 – men eat
11:00 – bride arrives at women’s party, the groom and some of his male relatives come to the women’s party
12:00 – (or later) women eat
When we arrived at the wedding at 9:00 there were only about a dozen people there. We were greeted by the bride and groom’s family (women of course) and shook their hands. Actually, before we went in to the reception room we stopped at the bathroom and took off our abayas. Then on the way to the room someone asked for our phones (because you are not allowed to take photos) and another person gave us a bags for our abayas. There was a table with several perfumes for people to use, and another table with mints, candy, and gum. I took a couple mints so I could bring them home, but I forgot them on our table. After we passed through the reception line of family members, a lady said hello and sat down with us at a table near the back of the room. She was a neighbor of the family, and spoke English. We were thankful that she could sit with us and answer any questions. Later on the neighbor’s friend and the friends daughter joined us. The daughter was about 14 years old and also spoke English well.
I asked how many wedding you would usually go to in a season, and the neighbor answered, “many, many!” And they would want to have a different dress for each one. And we saw some dresses!
One was covered in green and blue, iridescent sequins like this one but more iridescent.
There was a floor length, long sleeved, gold sequined dress that was stunning.
Women wore a variety of dresses from 90’s prom styles to more casual, current styles to more traditional looking outfits. One lady was even wearing pants. Many dresses had trains, some with several feet of fabric trailing on the ground. And often it didn’t seem to matter how well the dresses fit. I saw way too many bra straps, underwear lines, and too tight dresses. However, many were very beautiful. I enjoyed my chance to ‘people watch’.
I was a little worried about dressing appropriately, but there was such a variety it wouldn’t have really mattered what I wore. I had a knee length, dark blue dress, and I bought some jewelry to go with it. I don’t usually wear more than a skimpy layer of powder foundation, some mascara, and chapstick; I thought I should put a little more makeup on than that. I bought some eyeshadow, practiced a bit, and I was happy with the outcome. I don’t have any good pictures, but it was dark browns with some gold highlights which went with the gold in my earrings and bracelets. My favorite (and most expensive) purchase for the wedding was a pair of nude high heels. They are comfortable and fit well. They are a nice, long term addition to my wardrobe.
I tried on the dress with the jewelry and sent Stephen a picture, but this is before I did my hair or makeup.
Finished product! Ready to go!
A better picture of my hair, but I had started to take it down. I don’t usually use any hair spray so it felt like I used a ton! And I had already washed my face, so still not a good picture of my makeup.
Enough about me. More about the wedding!!
There were some finger foods on the table: crackers and Arabian pastries. Throughout the evening other finger foods were brought around to the tables. There were too many varieties to remember! I ate a cream cheese pastry, a date, a cookie with chocolate on it, and more that I don’t recall. Everything was very tasty. They also brought small cups of juice to the tables. There was only orange juice left when the tray came to me, but it was refreshing. There was tea and coffee on the table. I meant to try the coffee, but I picked up the wrong cup. See, we each had a small, shot glass like cup and a slightly larger cup with a handle. I just picked one (the larger one), without thinking about it too much because it didn’t matter to me which one I put the coffee in, and when I reached for the coffee one of the ladies at our table said, “Oh, no, here,” and handed me the carafe of tea. I had picked the tea cup not the coffee cup. The tea was delicious though, and I was a little chilly, so I enjoyed the warmth.
I am sure it wasn’t chilly for the ladies dancing, though! The room had a raised runway in the middle which lead to a stage at the end of the room. Most of the dancing was on the runway or the stage. I’ve never seen this kind of dancing before, and I’m not quite sure what to compare it to or how to describe it. A little like belly dancing, but not as much overall movement. Sort of walking while moving your hips and arms a lot… I don’t feel like I’m communicating it very well. Anyway, sometimes they would take turns, sometimes lots of women were dancing, sometimes no one was dancing. All of the music was in Arabic, VERY loud (as in you had to shout to the person beside you), and it was playing the whole time. We didn’t dance…maybe next time….
We left at 11:40. We tried to stay to see the bride, and were hoping she would be there around 11:00 or so. As we were leaving we asked when she would be coming, and they said maybe at 12:00. Dinner was supposed to be at 12:00, so who knows when that was going to start. So we missed the bride and dinner. The guys needed to work the next day, and we had and 90 minute drive home. We stayed as long as we could.
And that was my adventure at a Saudi wedding!
Here are some pictures of the friends who invited me to the wedding. Isn’t she Lovely?!