It may sound pretty average to Westerners but in conservative Iraq, the wedding of a couple who met online and ditched local marriage traditions for a short ceremony by the riverside, was unusual enough to attract local reporters.
It was hardly the most likely place for an Iraqi couple to meet – especially not within a sexually conservative culture in which most marriages are still arranged by parents or relatives. But Facebook was the place where Baghdad local Haidar Hamzouz first met Dina Najm ad-Din three years ago.
As a result the couple’s eventual wedding was also somewhat unusual – most Iraqi couples get married after an elaborate series of parties and receptions, including events where the groom’s family ask for the bride’s family’s permission, an engagement party when rings are exchanged, a henna party (or hen’s night), an official marriage ceremony presided over by a judge or cleric and then a celebratory reception with music and dancing.
But Hamzouz and ad-Din chose to celebrate their union in what some might call a more Western style, by crossing the Tigris River in a convoy decorated with coloured lights.
“By organizing this unique wedding, we wanted to motivate young people to reconsider traditional ways of thinking and behaving,” ad-Din told NIQASH about why she got married the way she did. “We wanted them to become innovative and creative. We want them to think about new things and come up with new ideas that Iraqi society is not familiar with.”
That plan, carried out with the aid of Baghdad’s river police, seems to have worked. “The wedding attracted many young people who were walking near the river,” Hamzouz told NIQASH. “We heard them shouting encouragement.”
The wedding ceremony also drew reporters who accompanied the wedding convoy and at the reception, broadcast journalists from various local satellite television stations also covered the event. It was noted that even during the wedding celebrations, ad-Din, dressed in her wedding gown, was already carrying her laptop and sending e-mails in reply to congratulatory messages.
Hamzouz had had to overcome objections from his family to marry ad-Din. He explains that for them, it was a really strange and unusual thing to meet a future spouse online.
One of the couple’s friends told television reporters that the pair was the perfect “Facebook family” and that they only got off Facebook when they had to do some work. So perhaps it was hardly surprising that there was a special Facebook cake made for the event too, complete with a confectionary “Like” button.