As I am curating the twitter user @weareqatar , I get some questions that aren’t easy to answer in 140 characters or less, so I’m replying here and linking there.
“The men can come” … When I heard this sentence I was so happy. We agreed on a Thursday.
My father and I went to their house (I drove his car), and were greeted by her uncle (maternal), and some of her brothers.
In their majlis we went through the usual Arabic coffee, tea, greetings, how are yous… The TV was muted and was showing a football game.
After a while, my father requested her hand for his son (me)… Her uncle said they’d be honored.
In some families, the bride’s family requests a specific amount to be paid to her as a dowry, in our tribe this is not an accepted practice (the bride’s family wouldn’t want to be seen as gold-diggers, and they usually get higher amounts this way).
We continued drinking tea, and discussed many unrelated things. When we were ready to leave, they brought in some oud incense … The traditional saying no staying after the oud applies.
That was the first step, now we’re engaged, but I haven’t seen her or heard her voice yet. I still wasn’t sure if she was asked and if she agreed (she was, and did).
Families/Tribes also differ in what happens after that, in some families he can call her on the home phone, in others he can see her (chaperoned), in others he can go out with her… in ours, it’s NOTHING until the contract is signed.
What’s this contract? It’s a marriage contract. We’d be officially married. Separation would be a divorce. And it’s only complete when the wedding party and consummation happens. (This is part of the reason why divorce rate is so high here, you’re married during courtship – not even “dating” )
We ( our mothers, my father, and I ) agreed later on a contract date. The contract requires the presence of the groom, the bride’s guardian (father, or paternal uncle, or brother, or maternal uncle in that order), and witnesses. It can be signed at the marriage court, or one can bring the registrar (maathoon/mazoon – I prefer to use English words) to their house.
We called one of the registrar and described the house. I drove my father there again. Usual protocols applied, coffee, tea, greetings, …
When the registrar came in, he asked for the groom, the spouse’s guardian, and witnesses. He took our ID cards and requested the bride’s ID card. He asked about the dowry amount and her uncle said nothing. The registrar said it can’t be nothing, he suggested to write QR1000, and anything more than that would be a non-binding gift. (Most families send a few hundred thousand riyals)
The registrar needed to be sure that she agreed, so he asked to hear her approve, even if it was behind a door or window.
While we were all sitting in the majlis, she was behind a door, and the registrar stood on the other side of the door with her brother. He verified her name, and asked if she agreed to marry me. He cited both our names in the ID cards with many ancestors.
They both came back and said we can continue if I approve of her condition: “to allow her to continue studying”, I approved. Both the groom and guardian needed to recite a specific approval text, the registrar read and we repeated.
I signed, her brother signed, then the witnesses did the same. We were officially married.
YOU MAY NOT DO ANYTHING TO THE BRIDE!
The long wait comes next…