Society and Norms: Family and Family Life - Marriage

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Though laws in Pakistan allow people to marry whomever they wish, almost all marriages are arranged by the bride and groom’s family. The marriage tradition is not seen as bringing two people together, but as an alliance and agreement between two families. Potential mates are chosen by looking at family background, social status, wealth, education, religious denomination, skin color, etc. The most desirable marriage is between first cousins as this insures that the potential mate will always have the family's best interest at heart as they are already part of the same extended family. Initially, the groom's family will approach the bride's family with the proposal. If the bride's family accepts, the potential bride and groom may be allowed to meet and reject the proposal if so desired.

Once agreed, the marriage ceremony lasts four days. On the first day, the families of the bride and the groom both wear yellow and celebrate the upcoming marriage separately.

The second day, called Mehndi, includes singing and dancing with the women receiving henna (a dye made from plant leaves) designs on their hands and feet. In addition, the groom's family delivers the bride's wedding dress to her family while the bride's family delivers the groom's wedding attire to his family. Finally, the bride’s house is decorated in colored lights by her family to announce the upcoming wedding.

The wedding takes place on the third day. The bride wears an elaborate red wedding gown and the groom wears a traditional white and red outfit with a turban. After the wedding vows are exchanged, the Qur'an is held over the bride's head as she joins her husband's family. Finally, the paperwork is signed in the presence of an Islamic priest and wedding guests. On the fourth day the bride and groom host their first dinner as husband and wife [4].

Outside the family, there are several ways to locate partners for arranged marriages. Male families may place personals in a newspaper looking for a potential bride and more recently online dating websites have become a common way of finding mates. Additionally, a small group of the young, urbanized population has begun dating. However, most families try to discourage potential marriages based on love because they are seen as unstable relationships.

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