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It’s wedding season — Tajik style!

Tajikistan, August 6, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nuriddin Mukhtorov for Mercy Corps  </span>
    A Tajik bride and groom are welcomed to the groom's parent's resident in Mienadu, Tajikistan. Photo: Nuriddin Mukhtorov for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Nuriddin Mukhtorov for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Tajik girls dance at a wedding in Mienadu,Tajikistan. Photo: Nuriddin Mukhtorov for Mercy Corps

About a year ago, I was sailing into the sunset off the coast of Maine with my boyfriend (who also works for Mercy Corps) when all of a sudden a ring appeared! Since then I’ve sadly spent more time out of the country than in the U.S. with my fiancée, first in Vietnam and now in Tajikistan. Somehow, though, the wedding planning has gone on despite my travels to places where the internet and phone connections are sporadic, or non-existent.

My engaged Tajik colleague and I have spent many hours comparing our wedding planning processes. The President of Tajikistan has put a US$2,000 limit on wedding spending (my parents would like this). There is no Tajik word for engagement because most marriages are arranged and it all happens so fast. The groom says he’s ready for a bride, and voilà! His parents present a beautiful bride.

Like most Tajik events, there’s a lot of food involved. The buffet we’re planning pales in comparison to the amount of food presented at Tajik weddings. Even in areas where families are struggling to make ends meet, they find a way to throw together an excellent party for their children.

As for bridal style, we both wear white, although I’m opting for off-white to hide how pale I’ve become from being covered all the time in Tajikistan. While I’m skipping the veil, this is absolutely not an option for Tajik brides who wear a knee-length thick veil. In fact the veil is so thick that the brides can’t really see through it, so they hold it out in front of them while they walk with a bridesmaid gently guiding them.

Often times the bridal and groom parties split off after the ceremony. Ladies and men break off into separate food and dancing parties while the children look on hoping someone will pass them some of the candy or a boiled egg from the table. It’s a tradition to tip the dancers, so children can make out like bandits this way. One of my favorite moments at a wedding I was recently invited to was when the groom took the plateful of candy that had been placed on his lap and threw it into a crowd of children! It was utter chaos!

Moments like these you realize that despite the abject poverty we see in many developing countries there is still so much joy.