Big, fat Afghan weddings

Articles, Traditions

Weddings seem to be a growing source of entertainment for rural folks in Afghanistan. In a country starved of joy and celebrations, everyone is welcome at weddings, even uninvited guests.

Afghan wedding

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Guests are regarded highly in several Asian countries. Despite financial constraints, uninvited wedding guests in Afghanistan are not turned down. They are respected as “god’s friends” and wedding gate-crashers are welcomed warmly, generously fed and graciously respected just as much as the invited.

However, generosity has its downside too. Large weddings involve increasing costs that is pulling down the financially strained economy further. The shift is more visible in urban centres.

With increasing concentration of population, unemployment and insecurity, tradition and lifestyles are changing rapidly in Kabul. Wedding events take up a lot of space, incurring astronomical costs. Add to that, the costs of pre and post wedding feasts, gold jewellery, wedding gowns, bridal make-up, music, photography, video, flowers and decoration can amount to thousands of dollars, far beyond the average salary of a well-to-do Afghan civilian. The financial strain from weddings is eroding the social fabric of the country as much as corruption, illiteracy, poverty and terrorism in the war struck country.

Lavish Afghan wedding

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Religious conservatives put a ban on excessively large weddings in 2010, restricting the number of guests, costs per guest, the length of the ceremony and choice of bridal wear but civil society organizations turned that down. Private affairs should remain private, they insisted, refusing to impose restrictions on women and gender segregated gatherings. The bill was also a threat to the growing wedding businesses.

What’s interesting is that despite financial constraints, the cultural warmth and tradition to embrace everyone alike in private gatherings be it at wedding or funerals, has strengthened Afghanistan’s society emotionally. The country has few cases of psychological disorders that come from loneliness – an increasingly worrying trend in several developed nations.

To combat exorbitant wedding expenditures for the rural folks, mass weddings are now planned by the resourceful. Youth groups are also helping plan smaller evening receptions instead of large buffet dinners.


by Joyeeta Dutta Ray, freelance writer at

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