Four thousand Yemeni couples tied the knot on Thursday, in a mass wedding expected to make the Guinness Book of World Records. In addition to the 2000 grooms flooding into the marriage hall, Guinness representatives also attended the ceremony.
Yemen’s Orphans Development Foundation organized the event for four thousand brides and grooms, with financial sponsorship from Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Qatani. The Orphans Development Fund distributes marriages licenses, a stipend, and ceremony clothing to registered grooms.
One groom told Gulf News:
I registered at the foundation two years ago and they requested proof that I had not been married before or that I did not have a family … A month ago I was notified that the wedding was scheduled for October 31 and received YR150,000 (Dh2,564) as well as clothes from the foundation.
Thursday’s wedding was the fourth in a series of mass weddings organized by the Foundation, which has now married over 5,500 Yemeni couples.
Group weddings have gained popularity in Yemen over the past few years, with increasing numbers of citizens – many of whom are not orphans – unable to afford the costs associated with a traditional Yemeni wedding. “Since the uprising that started two years ago, even comfortable middle-class Yemenis are feeling the economic crunch,” explains Asma Al-Mohattwari of NationalYemen.com.
At a mass wedding in 2005, Governor Abdulwahab al-Dorah of the Thawar province explained that such weddings are “very important” for Yemen because they “make it easy for young men and women to get married.”
For many Yemenis, however, the costs of a wedding are an insurmountable barrier to this societal expectation. Cultural imperative is not lining up with economic reality.
For Yemen’s poor and working class, the task of marrying your children off is often too costly to manage. While customs and traditions encourage early marriages – nearly 40 percent of Yemeni women are married before age 18 – men in particular are putting marriage off until their 30s and 40s.
Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister for International Cooperation, Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Jabor Al Thani, explained that the wedding “has several developmental dimensions, primarily psychological stability for this category of the society.”
In the view of the Qatari government, marriage and its impact on the “psychological stability” of a society warrant large financial assistance from concerned neighboring states. The monetary donation from Qatar reflects both national and regional expectations about marriage, and the growing impossibility of getting married for many Yemeni youths.