Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Wedding

Edited to add: I've since been informed that such an escapade is hardly a traditional Muslim wedding, the want of propriety a departure from the etiquette of many many Muslims around the world.

Hope nobody takes this as a standard (as I perhaps very foolishly was about to do.)

Sometimes, I hate being a woman. Times... like when people get married. I have only had to attend a few weddings in my life, and as I think about it, only one was by choice. (And that one was my favorite, and I drove 9 hours both ways to get there! Definitely worth it.)

I don't understand all the hooplah with weddings. Seriously, what is the big deal? Why such a big party? Why so many people involved, why so much money being spent, why such the hassle? I have wondered this since I was a little girl. My oldest sister had a very large wedding, and it is with tremendous anxiety I think of my own wedding. For a long time (several years) I didn't even want to get married, so I wouldn't have to go through with all that nonsense. For the next several years (when I had finally found the guy I thought I wanted to marry) I thought that eloping would be a suitable alternative. I just don't want to deal with a wedding... all the dresses and flowers, the planning, finding a venue and decorating and catering--who wants to do all that? I actually have not ever been much of a party girl. I tried to be for a while, with the sorority... but these things really aren't my idea of a great time. Maybe I'm anti-social.

The reason I even bring it up is I went to a wedding last night--my friend, for whom we had the henna party a month or so ago, finally got married. (Not sure if I blogged this, but there was a family emergency causing the wedding to be postponed.) So... what is a Muslim wedding like? I guess they can vary, but this one went something like this:

Tardiness. Okay, I was late, and I usually am to functions like these. It's not so much to be fashionable but since I so loathe actually attending, I feel no rush to be early (or even on time.) But tardiness is never an issue at these weddings, that's the first point. Although, I should admit that I did have a good excuse--I was busy failing a controls test until about 5:10pm, so it wasn't until after 6 that I had gone home, prayed, and changed clothes (because if you don't wear something "pretty" you look out of place). Unlike the rest of the ladies, however, I did not opt to wear make-up. That's because I never wear make-up. I had no need to bother fixing my hair and didn't see make-up as appropriate anyway because this was a mixed wedding. Thank God. I'd have gone crazy if it were segregated!

So I was late, the bride was much later, and several other attendees later than that. So when the bride arrives, with the groom (the nikaah or wedding contract, I should mention, had already been signed, so they were legally married) and they walk the length of the room, between the tables where the guests were sitting, to two chairs at the other side of the room. But before they come in, the stereo is turned on (too loud--it's always too loud!) to some song everyone seems to find familiar, some Egyptian bridal march perhaps. Then, the women (especially the older women) begin to scream. Not just any kind of scream, mind you... this banshee-howling at the top of their lungs involves wagging their tongues back and forth (the tongue is protruding from the mouth!) leaving me (and I think only me... even my convert friends did some howling of their own!) watching in wide-eyed shock (or horror!?) at this stunningly loud and hideous sight.

Then the stereo fails... (alhamdulillah, this din has ended?)... but alas, someone fixes it. In the meantime, however, the older banshee-howling sisters picked up some tablas (a tabla is like a drum) and start drumming the same rhythm that was in the song. It doesn't stop the howling, though. Then the music resumes, along with the banshee-howling tabla players... but the two are no longer "in sync." The crowd is clapping in beat... with the music... then with the tabla... then with the music again... why can't they synchronize, this is so confusing!! Clap? No clap? Shriek? Eventually the song ends, bride and groom sit down (in their chairs, way over there), the crowd gives a round of applause and people start taking pictures like crazy. That goes on for about half an hour or so. Then food is served, and people eat and it quiets down somewhat (although, the stereo is still playing.) There is some conversation, and some "natural" segregation, where the men take to sitting at certain tables and the ladies at the other tables. I try to make small-talk with the people around me. Another sister and I leave to pray 'asr, and come back to find the cake being served. The cake was... relatively normal. The bride's daughters then pass around some chocolates wrapped in shiny paper from Egypt. Chocolate isn't my thing... and it had peppermint-flavored goo in it. So I took one bite and left the rest on my plate. If I'm going to bother to eat candy, it might as well taste good!

After the cake... the party is split up. A divider is pulled between the two halves of the room, with women going to one half, and men to the other. I grab my purse and slip outside. Why? Because they are going to dance. I just danced a month ago... and come on, I have to dance again!? I don't like dancing, especially in front of other people because they are laughing.. I can't help but think they are laughing at me. And I didn't even know these people. So I enjoy the rain, the solitude... then a security guard comes and chats with me, then a police officer (not sure what they were doing around, really.) The security guard wanted to know if everyone in there was dressed like me. (I was wearing a jilbab.)

I come back in, and notice that some of the brothers have found a room with a pool table and fussball table. I pass that room and head back to the main hall, look in the "brothers' side" and see the men sitting around a table, talking. Conversation... no doubt something worthwhile to talk about instead of the fashion in Dubai. There is no peeking in the "sisters' side," because they've draped a tablecloth over the window, so nobody can see inside. They're dancing. No thank you... I don't want anyone to see me so I don't go inside. "Where have you been?" they'll ask and "Come dance!" they'll say. They'll be shrieking and clapping and the music obscenely loud... I pass. I walk back outside for a few more minutes, then decide to go watch the boys play pool. Eventually I play fussball with an 8-yr-old boy named Saif for a while, until people start coming back to look for us. "Is the dancing over?" I ask, and "When are we praying maghrib?" and one sister tells me "There's just one more dance then we'll pray." So I play a few more rounds with the kid and head back. The bride and groom are dancing in the middle to some song that was probably supposed to be romantic (what is romantic about hearing loss, someone tell me?) so I sit by my friends and they get all fussy asking where I've been, what was I doing. The groom leaves when the dance is over, and guess what? They keep dancing. They grab me by the hand and try to force me out of my seat to dance with them, but nooooooo! Haha, I am too strong... no way are they getting me out there. No maghrib, though.

After the dancing finally stops and people like me keep asking about maghrib, the clean-up begins. Okay, I'll help with the cleanup. Putting the food into smaller containers, folding the tablecloths (who saves vinyl tablecloths? why??), stacking the chairs and putting tables away, picking up flower petals scattered around the floor, and so on. A few of us finally pray maghrib and then the bride and groom leave... we keep cleaning. And eventually when it's pretty much clean I just leave.

So basically, the wedding is just a disorganized mess involving music that is too loud... that's what I'll remember. I'd rather play fussball than dance any day of the week. So much for it being a "mixed" wedding too--they did have to split to do the dancing. Why the dancing? I don't understand. I thought maybe I would... but I still don't get it. This is why I say "thank God" it was mixed. If it were a segregated wedding, and I had to spend the whole time with sisters? I'd go nuts! I think this might be why, to the end of my days, I will hate gender segregation--because women don't know how to behave. Grass is always greener? Maybe. But I can tell you this much, I have no love for pool, but I'd rather watch pool than sit with the sisters, and rather talk to the brothers about something interesting than do what I did, but unfortunately am expected in one place or the other.

One night of dancing is about enough to last me for a year. I can do without that, for sure. I had hope that being Muslim, I wouldn't have to worry about so many garbage traditions for my own wedding. And the more I think on it, the more private I want my own wedding to be. Segregated? Oh **** no. And absolutely no dancing.

Therefore, none of my friends are invited! They can't be trusted... I can't think of anything worse right now than my own marriage having to begin with my own humiliation at being forced to dance in front of a gaggle of strange women.

And I hope it's a long, long time before I'm ever invited to another one. Why is it that we have to attend these things if we're invited? Ugh. It started with the banshee-howling and ended with Barry White. Please... not again...


Umm Yusuf said...

loool ahhh weddings. tis the season you know!

Ibn Abd-el-Shafy said...

It almost seems like condolences are in order.

Amy said...

I've since been informed that such an escapade is hardly a traditional Muslim wedding, the want of propriety a departure from the etiquette of many many Muslims around the world. (Will add this to the post.)

Hope nobody takes this as a standard (as I perhaps very foolishly was about to do.)

Hopeful said...

lol...I was at one before, and they turned off the horrible pop music when the bride came in to play the ninety nine names of Allah!

You make your wedding what you want it to be hon bi idhnillah, and dont let anyone else make it otherwise.