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2008-08-29

Algerian weddings: unique, expensive and highly competitive

By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers - 29/08/08

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"Love is madness. It makes huge dents in your wallet." This is how 30-year-old Nabil sums up the situation of engaged couples in Algeria.

Before they can be married, Algerian brides and grooms go through traditional steps…and spend a great deal of money.

First, the suitor asks for the girl's hand, which happens in a gathering of the two families in the girl's house; both families negotiate the dowry and discuss what and how many "gifts" the groom will bring his wife-to-be. Then, after the business-style negotiations are over and both parties are satisfied, the couple is considered engaged.

Before the wedding is over, both families will have stretched their finances to the limit.

"Marriage costs an arm and a leg," said Lila, who will soon be a new bride. She has already spent 400,000 dinars [about 4,000 euros] for her wedding. "I've done my best to cut down on expenses and avoid wasting money," she added, "but it's an impossible task. Families put a lot of pressure on you."

She spent 100,000 dinars to hire a wedding venue and 150,000 dinars to buy six traditional outfits to wear for the party, plus cakes and dinner for 200 people. She has also set aside a tidy sum for her trousseau of blankets, sheets, bedspreads, curtains, pyjamas and lingerie.

Traditionally, the clothes were made and embroidered by the bride herself as a sign of commitment to her new life. Now, it's easier to buy everything.

"It's a case of keeping up appearances", Lila said, "a kind of competition to outdo others by making everything bigger, better and more expensive. That's still the most exciting part of wedding preparations. People enjoy buying all these things."

Modern life has made many Algerian wedding traditions obsolete. In the old days, guests gathered at the family home of the bride or the groom. Now, with guest lists often running over 200 people and with no time to make home-made desserts and food, caterers and wedding halls have come to the rescue.

There are now shops renting out traditional apparel such as the karakou, traditionally worn in Constantine, or the chedda of Tlemcen. Couples no longer have to make or buy traditional outfits.

Traditions vary from one region to the next. The most lavish ceremonies are to be found in Tlemcen, the capital of the Zianids, where weddings can cost up to half a million dinars. It is customary for the groom to give the bride an item of jewellery that can cost up to 100,000 dinars. The bride’s family gives presents to the groom’s parents.

Every member of the family, in fact, gets presents.

In Kabylia, on the other hand, the dowry is usually symbolic and there is no tradition of asking the husband-to-be for expensive gifts.

"I know weddings cost a lot of money," said 28-year-old Mokrane, who is getting married within days. "But the wonderful memories stay with you for life. You only get married once."

"Algerian weddings are an expression of the generosity characteristic of this country," Mokrane added. "People like to share their happiness with everyone."

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    Amel 2011-9-12

    I am an Algerian who lives in America and spending that much money is out of the question I mean like what about after the wedding don't you have rent and water and electricity you may have a nice extravagant wedding but don't you want a nice extravagant life? I plan to spend at most 10,000 dollars :)

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    فاطمة الزهراء 2011-7-18

    I see that these words might be true. However, this is torture and oppression for the husband in particular although woman also spends money. There is an observation, the one who said that marriage comes only one time, certainly he is joking or this is the word of men at the beginning.

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    اكرام 2010-10-9

    The most important thing above all these costs is how marital will be? How can we live in happiness?

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    INA 2010-8-16

    CAN I GET MARIED IN ALGERIA JUST RELIGIOS? OR I HAVE TO MARRIE CIVIL FIRST? THANKS.

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    AKKOUCHE MOULOUD 2010-5-28

    Marriage, as a social act, is the physical embodiment of a spiritual relationship. This embodiment should be cherished and celebrated according the means the future husband has available.

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    فاتن 2010-5-19

    Marriage is half of religion. It is a duty. Traditions of marriage are different from country to country. Marriage here in Algeria is tiring and costly. But it reflects the culture of our country. The wedding in Algeria is an art and creative in terms of traditional dishes, dresses of the bride, music bands such as Aissaoua and Fakirat famous in Annaba, traditional cookies, drinks such as Refis and milk, the procession and wonderful decoration of the car, and other traditions during the wedding. These traditions vary from region to region in Algeria. All these traditions mix up modernity and authenticity. They reflect the great history of our forefathers. But if an individual can't afford all this, it is not a shame to make a small wedding according to one's means. As we say a celebration according to his means. But the most important is family happiness.

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    hh 2009-10-22

    I want to marry a woman from Oran. I am not Algerian. I left daughters of my country as my heart chose her. However, marriage costs are a hurdle between us. Believe me if I tell you that marriage costs in Algeria are higher than in the Gulf, for example. I work in Saudi Arabia. It beggars belief that an Arab Muslim country requires for the marriage of its daughters costs for the wedding and gifts which exceed twelve thousand euros, in addition to the engagement jewellery and buying a house and its associated costs. What is going on, Muslims? The problem is that I have asked many people in Oran and they confirmed the same thing. Moreover, the cost of a two-room apartment with a living room is forty thousand euros. This would buy you a villa in Saudi Arabia and an apartment on the Nile in Egypt. May God assist Algerian young men and its daughters whose only guilt is to be born in a country which requires the impossible for marriage. In my humble opinion, the government is the main cause of the anger and dissatisfaction of Algerian young people with the so-called traditions. May God assist you to his guidance.

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    soraya 2009-7-7

    Frankly, it is just crazy to see families who live in deprivation for “x” number of years put a show on for everyone to see. Then, they have nothing to finish off the month with. They have gone into debt for nothing. Personally, I think that if you have the means, then do it, but if you do not, ought not to. In any case, the principle is that the future spouses come to an agreement, love each other for their whole lives without shallowness and without living on a whim and support each other in difficult times. Stay strong!

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    • Anonymous thumb

      mechmech 2014-3-2

      Hello– I read through the comments and I found your comment to be the saddest. I completely agree with you and, also, I think that everyone is average because the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

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    nourredine 2009-6-19

    sorry but i think algerians have a difficult time defining the meaning of love between a man and a woman...much less the importance of it in a marriage. from what i have seen living here for the last years it is a tragic situation and very few marry for love. most young people love someone but marry another. please tell me where you find this in your religion. also the monetary side of the ceremony? please also tell me where you find this in your religion

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    سندس 2009-6-2

    It is true that marriage these days has become very difficult and costly. This has prevented thousands of Algerian or Arab young people from completing the other half of their religion. If Muslims understand the meaning of facilitation in marriage, life would have been better.

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    jaja57 2009-6-1

    Salam- God willing, I am going to get married to an Algerian from Algeria. When I see how much it costs I tell myself that such a price is going to be difficult to cover. I also ask myself if the family will accept me in spite of me not being able to cover such a cost. I would like your help in finding out if there are any other solutions. Thank you. -Sincerely

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    salwa 2009-5-6

    I would like to buy three serwals and sherkas made of real silk. Does anyone know where I can get them? I am going to be invited to a party very soon.

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    bebu 2009-2-5

    I am not from Algeria but I love an Algerian girl. Honestly, marriage costs are unaffordable by young people today. On the other hand, a young man who loves a young girl will do the impossible to marry her. However, with these hurdles the poor young man cannot do anything. I, praise be to God, have no problems in this regard. But what can we say to young people who have no resources, we can just say God suffices us and He is the best protector.

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    Amaal 2009-1-26

    dont get me wrong, this is my husbent email lol !! i want to know if this shop sell's in silk fabric les serwal a sherka ou les badroune ,and higth quality karakous tops ,if yes , i am traveling to paris this months j enprondrer 15 enssemble c est tres demander a londres . mercie de voutre aide j enserai tres reconnaissante

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    عماد 2009-1-22

    Salam alikum. We are slaves to tradition and left religion in the issue of marriage. When one goes to propose to a girl, her father just wants piety and happiness of his daughter. Then he begins his traditions and the traditions of his family which are contradictory to religion saying that women claiming the lowest dowries are the most blessed. We all know the matters of our religions but who will implement them? We imitate the west in everything. We imitate them in matters of reform, knowledge and learning. We imitate evil and vice. Everyone talks about himself. There are people who take a big loan for his wedding. After the wedding, he has to pay back the loan. Therefore, he hates the day he married. Everyone must live according to his resources. Showing off between families and adoration of traditions left in my country Algeria alone 12 million girls in the age of marriage unmarried, why? Everyone of us is responsible. The daughter wants to marry and the son as well but the parents are fanatic for idle things. Some say if he marries her with a small dowry, he will bring her back to you. But there are people who offered millions in marriage but on the following morning, he took her back. “If a man whose religion and values you accept proposes to you, marry him”. But now, if a man whose car and villa you accept, marry him. Values have disappeared and everything nice as well. May God protect us and you. Anyway, anyone wants to marry. Peace of God.

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    yas 2008-11-19

    Salam alaikoum- So, I think this is foolishness, which indeed reflects the level of intelligence of certain people. “You only get married once”--that is the argument for such a waste!? Okay! This is an occasion for being happy, not for throwing your dough out the window. I do not think that from a religious point of view this is good: we know that half of our expenditures will be judged. Moreover, it is not because we dig into our moneybags that our marriage will be a happy one. This paradox is truly debilitating. Still, I understand those who have the means and even more, but as for those who do not have them, I do not get it at all. In short, as Kenza said, doesn’t a young couple has a lot more need for this money to set up a home and get a nice start to their new life or to even take their dream vacation??? It is not that I am a tightwad, but it is important to know how to be happy before trying to please those who will always find an argument. I am sorry for writing this novel, but I think this is so ridiculous and low. -Salam alaikoum

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    كنزة 2008-10-22

    Marriage is first of all a fate as Egyptians say. The high costs of the wedding are due to the negligence of traditions or rather modernization thereof. I don’t see any beauty or loveliness in present weddings. It is a result of forgetfulness and blind imitation of western countries. Peace and mercy of God be upon you.

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    ayachi 2008-9-23

    Thank you!

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  19. Anonymous thumb

    Tarek 2008-9-14

    Benned, I totally agree with you. I really think that they should start charging guests at weddings and have bouncers as well at the door, that would be good. Under 18's strictly not allowed. Dress code: Smart casual- No trainers.

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    nasser bastiano 2008-9-12

    This is exactly the paradox that exists in Algeria: marriages cost an arm and a leg and wages are poverty-level! We see luxury cars cruising down the street everyday and wages are poverty-level! There are luxury hotels such as Sofitel, Sheraton, Hilton heaving their full weight against poverty-level wages. Indeed, we live in a country of madmen where everything is unimportant or put on hold. As far as I am concerned, still not being married, I think it is wiser to waste money on a honeymoon dream vacation than to waste it on one day!

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    RAS 2008-9-12

    Well, I think that marriage represents love as a whole, expenses included. Moreover, as they say, you only get married once in your life! 4000 euros equals a modest marriage. I think we spent 10,000 euros on my sister’s. (We are in Tlemcen, that is why.) So, frankly, when you can do something grand, you do it; when you cannot, you content yourself with what you can. Now, everybody wants to do something better than anyone else. They are now at the point of borrowing money in order to get married. This is idiotic and stupid.

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    benned 2008-9-10

    When I read it was costly, I expected more. It is true that 5,000 euros is a lot. In Morocco a marriage at this price is very, very economical... On the other hand, I think admission to the wedding should no longer be free (tickets and all lol).

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    المهندس/حسن البهكلي 2008-9-3

    Awareness-raising, guidance and collective marriage will contribute to reducing costs.

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    LE RADIN 2008-9-1

    Frankly, all of this personally shocks me!!! In a country where minimum wage is less than 180 euros, 4000 euros is all the same quite expensive!!! Moreover, does love have nothing to do with this??? Frankly, if a chick asked me for more than 500 euros, I would go to Cuba, bring back a Cuban and transform her into a little Algerian!!! Yeah... because... at 4000 for marriage, then more for divorce... We aren’t in Zoubia! Le Radin!

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    Mohamed de St-Etienne 2008-8-30

    In response to the article on the cost of marriage in Algeria: 400,000 dinars only equal about 4,000 euros, not 40,000 euros. Usually, they want to spend all their wealth on that “day”, as for afterwards, only God knows.

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    houhou 2008-8-30

    This article is not too far off from reality. Living in France, I was able to have a traditional-style marriage without necessarily ruining me. Just do not make the big mistakes like having a large hall, a caterer and everything else for two evenings and you can manage it on a budget of less than $5000. You need to stay reasonable in order to avoid sinking your boat. More and more, you need to invest your emotions, work and money. I am also afraid that my mind is made up on this subject and that the rising cost of festivities will not discourage men this way. Our beautiful flowers are not eternal.

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