Are virtual weddings here to stay?

Perhaps this pandemic came to remind us that simplicity is the key to true happiness.

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By Sama Al Taie

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced us to a new way to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and most notably, wedding ceremonies. With the global strict health measures and social distancing practices that have been in place for months, gathering hundreds to mark these milestones are no longer an option. We have moved on from the luxurious, overpaid and extravagant wedding ceremonies that were ubiquitous in the Gulf region in the pre-corona world. Many of us are now frequently finding ourselves watching our beloved couples sign their marriage certificates via Zoom or FaceTime.

While many couples have decided to postpone their weddings until further notice, others have chosen to wed virtually instead, and have thus become some of the first to experience digital celebrations during this global pandemic. The long guest lists and big banquets are not present during these virtual weddings.

With these changes, couples do not have to worry about the exaggerated prices of wedding halls, food services, or performers. They now can simply gather with their close family members at home, open up Zoom, send the link to their dearest loved ones, and celebrate their marriages more intimately. This has been facilitated by the availability of religious officiators online in some countries. For instance, in the United Arab Emirates, the Ministry of Justice announced in April that residents and citizens can schedule an online wedding ceremony via video link with a mathoon after receiving their paperwork. Now that future spouses do not have to worry about planning big weddings and their expenditures, they can put all their focus on forming a prosperous, stable family instead.

Illustration: Shaima Al Alawi.

Perhaps this pandemic has come to remind us that simplicity is the key to true happiness. In the past years, many of us were increasingly consuming more and more of the materialistic lifestyle every day, consciously or subconsciously. We were witnessing more costly weddings, dinners, events and celebratory travel trips that were resulting in toxic comparative existences for many. This has drifted us away from their actual purpose of celebrations, which is to enjoy and share them with those we love the most, not to impress everyone present there or virtually on our social media accounts. Perhaps this outbreak came to remind us of the true meaning behind such ceremonies because, at the end of the day, we can celebrate with our loved ones regardless of where we are, and how the place looks like. It is the company that makes it all count.

But will we adhere to the lessons we learned after the pandemic is over? Are we truly not going to spend huge sums money to please and fulfill social expectations? In a poll that I conducted, out of 116 millennials from the MENA region 73 percent noted that they would wait until after the pandemic to have more ‘typical’ weddings  in order to celebrate with their friends and family members, while only 27 percent stated that they would go for a virtual wedding instead.

Illustration: Shaima Al Alawi.

Sarah Gaussoum, who wed virtually on 25th of May said, “Our wedding was meant to happen in April, and just a few months before that COVID- 19 hit. We considered postponing the wedding but everything seemed unclear, and it was impossible to plan. We then realized how much we didn’t care about the ‘typical wedding’ arrangements. What was more important was for us to start our lives together so we found a practical alternative – a virtual wedding! And the rest is now history.”

Many believe that with a pandemic or not, we will not be able to break the norm we once had concerning lavish weddings. On the other hand, some argue that COVID-19 has clearly shown us that we should go back to basics, and to how our ancestors once celebrated their weddings and social events. But the real test will come after the pandemic.

Illustration: Shaima Al Alawi.

I clearly remember when one of my aunts was getting married approximately 18 years ago. She wore her colorful texturized Omani dress, and had beautiful henna painted on her hands. We all walked from our neighborhood, singing folk songs and throwing jasmines on the streets along the way, until we reached her husband’s doorstep. Happiness, love and peace are all I recall from that evening. Social expectations were almost non-existent during that evening. We did not have to pay to impress and feel happy. Instead, we just had to be simple, rational and enjoy God’s blessings.

Sama Al Taie is an Omani journalism graduate of the American University of Sharjah who
is passionate about writing, Arabic classical music and singing. Sama hopes to change the world through her words. She is currently interning at Sekka.

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