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FACEMAGAZINE WORLD NEWS : My big, fat, very expensive wedding

culture – FACEMAGAZINE WORLD NEWS

Spending on traditional ceremonies and gifts is an alternative economy and an investment in social capital where banks and businesses are unreliable.

ables are laden with appetisers, fruit, pittas and colourful soft drinks in the courtyard of the parents of the bridegroom, Kovous. in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital. It’s seven on an already hot Saturday morning, and men wearing embroidered skullcaps arrive to eat plov, a rice pilaf with onions, carrots and meat. Kovous’s parents have laid on the feast.

A mullah sealed the union at his fiancée’s house yesterday. Today he will fetch her, accompanied by family and friends. Hired Mercedes and white limousines will take the party to the registrar’s office and then to the botanic gardens. There will be a romantic stroll in the shade of the plane trees for pictures against a backdrop of plastic hearts, Eiffel towers and big white letters that spell ‘LOVE’.

Then Kovous will bring his bride back here and the celebration will continue: more than 200 have been invited — relatives, friends, colleagues, anyone whose presence reflects well on the family. A singer will introduce musicians and dancers, and partying will go on into the night, drawing in local families. At the back of the courtyard, the piles of gifts and food will grow.

Lavishness extends beyond the day itself: there are 17 ceremonial stages in Tajik wedding celebrations, which go on until the birth of the first child. Kovous’s family — whose monthly household income is less than $400 — will spend $7,000, and the bride’s family, which is poorer, $9,000.

The rising cost of ceremonies, including weddings, circumcisions and meals prescribed as part of traditional hospitality, is a regular topic of debate in Central Asia. The Uzbek government passed legislation regulating them in 1998, and in 2006 Tajikistan restricted the duration and size of public and private celebrations, and outlawed some celebrations outside the family circle, to restrict practices the authorities feel hinder economic development. The potential sanctions are severe: a civil servant who breaks the law risks being .

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