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Call a Spade a Spade: How to overcome mehriyeh dilemma


By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

For the past few weeks, Tehran has experienced enormous number of weddings. How do I know this you may ask? Simply by the number of flower-decorated cars that roam the city streets and highways, in the afternoons or late evenings, to take the newly weds to and from one party or another. There is no doubt that, at times such processions may cause quite a traffic chaos, in a city which chaos is the last thing it needs.  However, this can be rather fun for young children, and even for young and hopefuls. Nevertheless, the sight of the video-camera man or even a video-camera-woman at times, half out of a moving car in Tehran highways, trying to take a better shot of the bridal car, is quite shocking.  Well at least most of the cars that follow them refrain from honking their horns, thankfully.

Marriage ceremonies are always very delicate and require a lot of tact and work on the part of those who are involved and those who organize them. This can be a delightful or a quite sour-sad experience. I have hardly been to any weddings that did not have a hell of lot of ‘talk’ attached to it, before or afterwards or both.  In the past few years I have learned of many possible marriages that did not materialize because the two families could not agree on the issues involved.  These may include first and foremost the amount for mehriyeh[1] or the dowry. The next items on list that may lead to cancellation of the whole affair may include cost of the ring or its size, number of guests, where to hold the wedding party and how much to spend per guest, the fee for the band, bridal make-up or the wedding dress. Others are the gifts that the bride receives during aghd[2], or even where to get the flowers from and such ‘serious’ issues.

One wishes to hear in vain that these are trivial and insignificant details/points. What matters most is that these two young, or may be not so young, people love each other.  Sometimes the stories that emerge from behind the scenes are preposterous indeed.  In one case, the father of the very young groom simply calculated the cost of his son having girlfriends and the possible ‘risks’ and the family’s worries and distresses against the potential wedding costs and the “final settlement.” Finally, he gave permission to proceed with the whole affair. In another case, the mother was bored and wanted to have a woman around as her daughter was going to university; so she made sure that she found a bride for her very young son so she could have a woman around to chat with!’ 

Call me old fashioned, if you must, but I still strongly believe that marriage, a gallant and wonderful union, is between two individuals who love and care for each other and wish to spend a major portion of the rest of their lives together. Am I being naive to want to see that the future couple enjoy each other’s company and can have fun together, without others’ presence or involvement in someway? These are real stories and although it may be funny; yet, I assure you it is not as many such marriages produce children who will suffer terribly and that is truly sad indeed.  I have learned about many such unions in the past few years. Several of them affected me personally since these were marriages of either those who are near or dear to me or both. The worst thing about  many of these fussy-unions, especially among the middle classes-westernized families, is they are too pragmatic! Many such marriages would not be considered, in anyway, if there was not so much wealth, title to be called, or money spent on the ceremonies and gifts, or if they did not bring along a foreign passport/residency with it. The one question I always ask is that, if this major factor-wealth, degree, or life outside Iran- did not exits, would this marriage take place or not? 

There are traditions that may make one’s dream a little hazy e.g., mehriyeh. Here I have a suggestion with regard to how to deal with the enormous amount asked for mehriyeh these days. I state firmly again that I propose this idea mainly for the middle class urbanized westernized families, who claim that they are modern and not so much materialistic.  I am well aware of shortcomings in the law that prevails in Iran towards well-being and financial future of women in general; I do not wish to expand such idea to all aspect of the society.

You are to be married to your true beloved hopefully. The bride’s family for the sake of their reputation must make sure that their daughters’ mehriyeh is “the same” or “higher” than another’s. The lovely bride for the sake of her parents’ reputation always seems to go along with the idea, instead of protesting that in modern times such ideas are not only old fashion but rather an insult to her as a woman. She is independent, educated and can work to earn her livelihood within and outside any marriage! 

Bride’s parents demand hundreds or thousands of sekkeh[3], or kilos of gold equal to the weight or age of the bride, from the groom; and the groom must accept their demands in order to prove his love for the bride-to-be! 

Here I suggest that the groom agree on the numbers asked, given he can afford it, but with a twist.  Please make sure that the twist is clearly stated in the aghd-nameh [4] and that it is witnessed and signed not only by your bride and her father but by others present as well to make it legally irreversible.

Generally, it is claimed, that the number of the gold coins requested are symbolic and there are no financial consideration involved, really! God forbid that there should be a divorce! Here is my tip. Make sure that all parties agree, that out of the stated hundreds or thousands sekkeh therein, the lady will take only 5 pieces (beh niyate panj-tan [5]) or 14 pieces (beh niyate 14 masoum) for herself and that the rest will be donated to one of the registered charities stated there by the groom with the receipt delivered to the bride!   Please feel free to come up with any other version along similar lines and please let me know so that I pass them on to others! 

May the time come again when people fall in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together, honestly and truly. Then they promise themselves to make compromises and love and care the other more than they do themselves.


[1] Mehrieh - What the groom agrees to pay the bride.  But in practice Mehrieh is  hardly ever collected.

[2] Aghd - Wedding.

[3] Sekkeh - Coin, but in the context of weddings it’s Iran’s national gold coin which is given as gift to the bride.

[4] Aghd-nameh - Wedding certificate

[5] Beh niyate panj-tan -These numbers have significance in Shiia Islam. Five stands for the prophet Mohammad, his daughter Fatima, son-in-law Ali and his grandchildren Hossein & Hassan. The 14 refers to Prophet, his daughter and 12 Emams.



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