Till debt do us part

It’s already August. Summer is here and the brides are in full bloom.

Driving in sunny Beirut (I’m a brave soul what can I say?), I couldn’t help but notice the wedding billboards pollinating the roads: from bridal fairs to bridal boutiques, Lebanon’s wedding industry has grown into a perennial affair. In the last decade or so, one in four young Lebanese adults has emerged as a wedding planner. That’s a totally made-up statistic by the way. That said, the industry’s astonishing boom has positioned Lebanon on the map as a top tie-the–knot destination. Rivaling Italy’s Amore and France’s Amour, Lebanese Hobb has skyrocketed into the romantic stratosphere.

Now listen closely. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There’s a catch to the fairytale made-in-our-matrimonial-heaven (all you dreamy romantics out there stop here. This text may contain cynical material that could cause irreparable damage to the sentimental soul): Lebanese weddings are not all about Lebanese love. Shocking! In fact, I would venture to claim they are more about social status, narcissistic complexes and tiny…instruments than the elusive L-word. Here’s my theory: the smaller the Johnson the bigger the wedding. Close your mouth! I said it’s my theory. I never said you had to agree with it. Besides, I will concede every theory has exceptions… that usually serve to prove it. Am I getting under your skin yet? How many guests did you have at your wedding? Just a question.

All teasing aside, what’s up with the over-the-top over-the-hills weddings in our country? I’m talking 500+ guests with dancing Leprechauns and flying unicorns. I shit you not. While wedding planners have rejoiced at the opportunity to flex their creativity muscles and have been given free reign to their imagination, brides and grooms (and their families) have allowed the phenomenon to reach alarming dimensions. This has created Dynasty-worthy family rifts. As some of you may know, many matrimonial affairs in Lebanon are just that. Affairs. Business affairs -the other kind comes later- joining two families rather than personal affairs joining two individuals. Not unlike the sixteenth century. 

What happens when the Jones’ want the Adonis ice sculpture while the Smiths prefer the swarm of doves? Refer to above rift.

 And what about the bride? The central character in any wedding story? These Lebanese circumstances have given birth to a peculiar creature, a distant relative to the well-known Bridezilla: the Lebzilla. This spawn of Satan samples every macaroon before she picks the coconut one she tried first; snatches the designer’s pen to explain her idea of the dress (he wouldn’t mind it if she used his sketchpad, would he?); asks for Jade vines to be brought-in from the Philippines Rainforest to decorate her table; demands white truffles in the summer and suggests designing a starry-sky set for an outdoor wedding…at noon.  I promise you Lebzillas exist; and they are not so rare. They have multiplied. To the bane of Lebanese grooms.

Speaking of which, there are two kinds of Lebanese grooms out there. The first is the one who ages prematurely in the few months leading up to his wedding. This poor schmuck generally sprouts one grey hair per thousand quid spent and ends up with a full set of silver tresses. This is the groom you are torn between scolding and holding. The second is more terrifying than a Lebzilla. Stay clear of that specimen or be burned by fiery commands at the slightest grazing. You have been warned. But more on Lebanese grooms another day; I would not want to be guilty of the same offense our society affords grooms, which is to shortchange them.

The reason for this lavishness of gargantuan proportions still escapes me to this day. It’s as if families are competing to show-off their diamond feathers one sacred union at a time. We’ve reached flying unicorns for crying-out-loud; how much further can we go? (Don’t answer that).  I can’t help but wonder if this situation is sustainable. Where do we go from here? Any thoughts, Nadine*? Perhaps our happy couples will flock to overseas destinations to get hitched; destination weddings have certainly become more popular in recent years. Perhaps our government will finally grant us the privilege of civil unions. After all, our brides can make even pigs fly; some of their fairy dust may work on our politicians and clergy too. Or perhaps – brace yourself, this is a whole  lot of crazy- we go back to celebrating marriages not weddings. How’s that for a little magic?

 

*Nadine refers to Nadine Labaki, a Lebanese actress and director who has directed a movie by the name “where do we go from here”, portraying the absurdity of some of our Lebanese norms (at least that’s how I interpreted it).

 

 

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