Marriages/Weddings in Modern Egypt

First, A little History of Egyptian Marriages!

The Egyptians were the first people to frame laws for marriage! Interesting, right?

Most of the Egyptian marriage customs follow the laws made under the influence of religion of the people. Marriage in traditional Egypt, is dictated by religion. The bride and groom would get engaged after the parents of the couple have approved the marriage. All legal rights and duties of the couple are well defined. In ancient Egypt, contracts (Prenuptial Agreements) were written documents signed by at least three officers. Men and women could divorce each other, but still as today, it is not common.

The Egyptian marriage customs of ancient times demanded that the marriage contract has to be written out and signed by both parties. It is treated as a contract and is registered by the priest in the temple. The wedding ceremony takes place at night when the richly dressed bride and groom go through the rituals. The bride is covered in henna tattoos, drawn on by family members, even today. The bride is taken to the groom’s home on a camel. Green wheat is sprayed over the procession as a symbol of fertility.


The married life in Egypt, and marriages themselves, are different than those in the west, like the United States. In the Islamic culture, they discourage dating. Men and woman who are single are not supposed to be alone together, if they are not related. The man and woman often know each other from school (similar in western cultures), mainly in the middle and upper classes. The lower classes however, the opportunity to mingle with the opposite sex is rare this sometimes family members negotiate a arranged marriage for their unmarried daughter or son. Either way if the couple knew each other before or not, the steps toward a marriage are the same. The two families meet to discuss terms of the marriage. The topics discussed are usually dowry, who will pay for the wedding, how much will the wedding be etc. The two family then arrange a supervised meeting between potential bride and groom and either CAN say no to the marriage (this is usually in an arranged situation). The wedding is taken place rather quickly in this culture however, the groom may go abroad in work or study, in which case the marriage is postponed. In the West, both men and woman have that option while in this culture, it is mostly male dominated. When it comes to the wedding, they are similar in its contexts of those to the west. Weddings are a time of celebration. Couples can arrange for photos in specific and scenic locations, like overlooking the lights of Cairo.Marriage is somewhat simple, containing only the imam from mosque presiding over the contract between the brides father (who speaks on behalf of his daughter) and the groom. In a wealthy family, large amounts of money is spent on the wedding. For example, renting out ballrooms, hotels and extended weddings are just a few. Divorce, although it happens, is not common in Egypt. According to the Egyptian secular law, both men and woman have a right to ask for a divorce. Traditionally, the father is granted custody of any children after divorce, which is a complete opposite tradition in the west. Also, any dowry paid by the groom to the bride's family must be returned. A woman's right to ask for a divorce under any circumstance was put into law in Egypt in 1999. Interpretations of Islamic law give women the right to ask for a divorce only in certain circumstances, like husbands inability to be fertile. The new law was written both by secular lawmakers as well as representatives of the Muslim clergy in Egypt in order to ensure that it would address concerns of a marriage.

Family Picture of an Egyptian Wedding in Cairo.

Henna on an Egyptian Bride.