Muscat: As part of a new social initiative, the residents of Jalan Bani Bu Hassan have come together to help reduce the wedding expenses incurred by newlyweds. Known as “Afaf Wa Kafaf”, the landmark campaign aims to reduce the financial hardships couples experience while getting married, and thus, help lower the divorce rate among newlyweds.
Speaking to the Times of Oman, the Wali of Jalan Bani Bu Hassan, Awadh Al Mandhari, said, “The guidelines (of Afaf Wa Kafaf) include lowering the dowry to OMR5,000 or less and reducing the cost of wedding parties and public feasts.”
Dr. Nasser Al Masroori, a member of the “Afaf Wa Kafaf” initiative, said, “With these measures, the cost of the wedding should not exceed OMR7,000. Previously it was more than OMR12,000, while some weddings would cost as much as OMR26,000.”
Al Mandhari explained how the process began. “We held several meetings with the people of the wilayat, including sheikhs and local officials, to discuss different proposals and received a positive response from citizens regarding ‘Afaf Wa Kafaf’.”
“During the meeting, we clarified a number of misconceptions about marriage, explaining that the dowry was for the bride alone and not to be used to provide hospitality to thousands of people. We also explained that the dowry does not determine the value of a bride,” Al Masroori added.
He continued, “The youth were very happy with the new instructions. A committee will continue to follow the implementation of the guidelines. What’s more important than making rules is putting them into action. If one or two people start, more will follow in the future.”
The new initiative began with a group wedding in Jalan on the third day of Eid Al Fitr.
The move to reduce wedding expenses came after a similar initiative was launched to organise funerals and reduce the financial burden they caused to the families.
This included a ban on extravagant funerary meals, with visitors being provided just sweets and coffee when visiting grieving families to convey their condolences. The initiative was a huge success, with every citizen following the instructions to the letter.
Al Mandhari added, “We did face some difficulty in the beginning because some were not convinced that it would work, but now, the same people who doubted us thank us for the initiative, as previously, the family of the deceased was compelled by social customs to spend a lot of money. Now, we are following up on that success with the initiative to reduce the cost of weddings.”
Al Masroori, said, “A study commissioned by the wilayat showed that the cost of weddings had gone up in recent years due to three primary factors: higher dowries, the adoption of new marriage customs, and wedding feasts, which amounted to one-third of the total cost of a marriage and were usually attended by thousands of people.”
But with the advent of Afaf Wa Kafaf, all that has changed.
“Public wedding banquets are no longer allowed in wedding halls for individual weddings, with only coffee and halwa (Omani sweets) provided for guests. Dinner feasts are only provided for group weddings, as well as family celebrations at home. Meanwhile, the traditional gift box given to the bride can no longer amount to more than OMR1,500,” Al Mandhari explained.
Family feasts usually cost a lot less than public feasts, which can amount to anywhere between OMR2,000 and OMR6,000.
Al Masroori added, “Those who want to have a public feast will be allowed to do so during collective wedding celebrations held every three months in the wilayat. Each groom will contribute an amount not exceeding OMR300 and all the young people will be allowed to apply to participate in the wedding.”
Rising divorce rate
Afaf Wa Kafaf is being implemented during a time when divorce rates in Jalan Bani Bu Hassan have skyrocketed, with up to four to six cases of divorce registered every month in the wilayat, primarily due to the excessive costs and the negative impact they have on the couple after the wedding.
Al Masroori said, “According to court reports, many divorces occur due to the financial hardships husbands suffer after the wedding because of the loans they take to pay for everything. The number of divorces documented monthly in the state of Jalan Bani Bu Hassan range between four and six cases; in some neighbouring wilayats the figure has reached 20 cases a month, while marriage rates have fallen over the past five years.”
“Usually when there is a huge public wedding, it leads to others feeling embarrassed or pressured because the one who spends a lot is seen as someone expressing his integrity and social level, which is a misconception.
“With this initiative, we have made everyone feel equal when it comes to organising weddings; whether rich or poor, people will no longer be allowed to inflate the costs of their weddings for social reasons or otherwise,” he further said.
Salim Al Mishaiki, a citizen of Jalan Bani Bu Hassan, said, “This initiative is a wonderful idea as it relieves the burden that many young people face, a burden which makes them less reluctant to get married.
“This is a problem that has arisen in many communities due to the high costs of dowry and public weddings. It used to cause a lot of disputes between families and often lead to the cancellation of engagements in some cases.”
He added, “I have already managed to get two of my daughters and one son married for dowries lower than OMR3,000. Now, my other son will participate in a group wedding to support this social initiative.”