When it comes to Egyptian weddings, though arranged marriages are not quite the norm anymore, they still are not an unusual occurrence. A lot of marriages are arranged between people similar backgrounds, religions, education and social classes.
Once both families have given their approval, a marriage agreement is drawn up. This marriage agreement is made up of two parts – the mahr and the shabka.
- The mahr is a dowry of sorts. It is money that the future groom gives to his future bride’s family. They use the money to buy furniture and household items which the bride will take with her into their new home.
- The shabka is usually jewelry which the groom gives to his wife-to-be.
If the couple are Muslim, then prior to the wedding day a ceremony known as katb el katb is performed. This ceremony is basically an agreement between between the fathers of the bride and groom to seal the marriage arrangements that have been made.
Also prior to the wedding, the couple draws up a divorce settlement just in case things don’t work out. If the groom backs out of going through with the wedding, then he must give the bride half of the agreed-upon settlement. On the other hand, if the bride is the one who decides not to go through with the marriage OR to divorce her husband after the marriage, then will have to repay him the full amount of money that he gave. An inventory is taken of all their furniture and household goods as well as the jewelry he bought; he officially takes responsibility for his new household.
In preparation for her wedding, the bride is taken in a silk canopy to a bathhouse wearing a red cashmere shawl and small cap or crown. After this her hands and feet are painted or decorated with henna.
During the engagement ceremony, the bride is given a wedding ring. By covering their hands with a piece of cloth during the betrothal ceremony, the engagement is made official. Although not as common now as in the past, in some rural areas evidence of the bride’s virginity was sometimes required and would be displayed on a handkerchief.
Among Coptic Christians, both the bride and the groom have all their body hair removed prior to the wedding. The more devout members of the Coptic church will proceed to either fast for three days or go to a monastery for three days after the wedding.
Don’t play match maker for your son but rather for your daughter
– Egyptian proverb