ESL student talks of two marriage types in Iraq

By Rasha Jasim

GROSSMONT COLLEGE — Getting married in Iraq is a long process. It takes a lot of time and many steps to get done. Some of these steps are interesting and some of them are complicated and boring. There are two main different types of marriage in Iraqi society, the traditional marriage and being-in-love-before marriage.

The traditional marriage is more common in Iraqi society. That’s how my father and mother got married. I’ve heard the same story from both of them many times, though with some differences. My mum was working as a teacher in one of Baghdad’s schools. She was a beautiful, intelligent, funny and very nice young lady, from an educated family. A girl like her was the perfect bride for a man like my father. He was a handsome, successful businessman and wanted to settle down with his soul mate.

Since they were complete strangers, their friends helped them. Saadia was a common friend for both of their families and she arranged a “non intent” meeting for them, so they could see each other before having a formal step. The mission was successfully completed and there was a spark between them. After that, my father and his family went to my mother’s house for a visit in order to get acquainted with each other. Then there was another visit to make everything clear, such as when they were going to get married, where they were going to live and the most important thing was the “nishan”. That was the jewelry that the groom had to buy including the wedding ring, necklace , bracelet and earrings. And the second thing was the “mahar” which was the amount of money that he was going to spend on the wedding and the “jehaz” which was buying clothes and makeup products for the bride. All of that and more, the two families had to agree on.


During that time, my father and mother couldn’t meet each other privately. The next step was the engagement party, a small ceremony in my mother’s family’s house. At that party, my father gave my mother the engagement ring and put it on her right hand and she did the same. In our culture, the man wears an engagement ring, too. A few months later, they went to the court and did the marriage bond officially. The day before the wedding day, my mum invited her girlfriends to her home and had a celebration called “henna”. Henna is a kind of plant that is dark red. The bride and her girlfriends usually put a small amount of it on their hands just for good luck. I like that part.

Finally it was time for the wedding day. On that day they changed the rings from their right hands to their left hands. Every traditional marriage must follow all  these steps and maybe a lot of other details.

Being-in-love-before marriage also needs to follow all these steps, but the only benefit is that they know each other well,  which may be better for them after getting married because they had the chance to know each other’s personalities and habits. In some cases, all of that doesn’t help because at that time both of them try to act very nice, but after the marriage, everything changes.
After all, the purpose of marriage is to start a new life between a man and woman full of love and understanding for each other. So these details are not the basis for happiness, but still some of these steps are lovely because they will keep it in their minds for the rest of their lives. That is  what happened with my parents.

They always remember these details and laugh about them.

For me, I don’t know if I’m going to do all of these traditions if I get married one day, but I would like to have a lovely story such as this to tell to my daughter.

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Jasim is a student in ESL 103

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