Marjan's Wedding: A Time for Celebration
Sohaila's home is a hive of activity. Women
are busy cooking over open fires in the courtyard. Children chase
the goats and sheep that have been brought in from the pasture to
be slaughtered and cooked for the evening's feast. It is the day
Sohaila's sister is getting married, and everyone is preparing.
"Family has come from Jalalabad and even as far away as Kabul
for my sister Marjan's wedding celebration," says 13-year-old
Sohaila, who is clearly excited about the evening's activities.
"There are over 40 people staying in our home. Tonight we are
slaughtering two sheep for a barbecue, and my uncle will play the
ribab [a traditional Afghan stringed instrument]."
The family is the center of Afghan life, and marriages are a cause
for great celebration. Like almost all marriages in Afghanistan,
Marjan's is an arranged marriage.
"My mother and aunt were responsible for finding my husband,"
says Marjan. At age 16, Marjan is marrying her first cousin, a
very common practice.
The process of finding a suitable mate starts very early in a
young girl's life. Marriages are often agreed upon before a girl
turns 10, but typically the wedding does not take place until
a girl is 15 or 16 years old.
The women of the girl's family initiate the process. They meet
with female friends and relatives to discuss possible marriage
Many factors are taken into consideration before making a selection:
family status, financial security, and the personalities of the
bride and prospective grooms. When Marjan's mother and aunt decided
on a groom candidate, they presented their choice to Marjan's
father and uncles for approval. The men, agreeing on the candidate,
set to work to make the financial agreement with the groom's family.
According to local tradition, every marriage requires two exchanges:
At the evening celebration, the women all sit together inside the
courtyard. The men are in the hujara, a large room with Afghan carpets
and pillows on the floor. The hujara is traditionally where the
men sit. In Afghanistan and other traditional Islamic cultures,
it is customary to have men and women separated at social events.
A large meal of kababs (grilled meat on skewers), nan (Afghan
bread that is flat and oval-shaped), subzi (stewed vegetables),
and pilau (rice cooked with meat) is served to the guests first.
As is dictated by the Pushtun tradition of hospitality, the hosts
will not eat until after the guests have had their fill.
Finally, the music begins. Marjan is sitting with her sisters
and cousins. She is beaming with happiness. "I am very grateful.
They have chosen well for me," she says, referring to her family's
choice of her husband. "And, inshallah [God willing], we will
be blessed with a child soon."