I didn’t know the bride. I didn’t know the groom. Nobody cared. Everybody was glad I came.
It’s really not wedding crashing when it’s an open invitation.
Nine out of 10 Weddings in Egypt follow the same format: For the first 1 minute, 20 seconds, a solemn prayer is recited as the bride and groom walk out, and everyone sits properly contemplating God, austerity and traditional marriage.
Then at the 1-minute, 21-second mark, the DJ (a guy with an iPod and a loudspeaker) hits the dance music, all the women belt out cheers using their tongues, someone begins twirling a cane in the air—any sense of solemn piety is waved away by it—and the dancing begins.
Even if you miss the invitation, walk-in guests are always accepted. And even if you miss the wedding, that’s no problem either; the wedding will come to you. Weddings don’t just have receptions in Egypt, they have their own parade—with a marching band of hand drummers, car hornists, air hornists, screamers and kazooers leading the procession through the streets.
And if there is ever cause to celebrate in Egypt, there is no worthier occasion than a wedding. Not because it’s a union of love and soulmates and loveliness, but because in a country that has seen 60+ years of struggle from dictators, there is no greater struggle Egyptians have ever faced than saving for marriage. On an average salary of 1,000 Egyptian pounds a month, men are expected to pay 10,000-15,000 pounds as a dowry to the bride’s family—an entire year’s salary just for the right to ask to get engaged. Meanwhile women are expected to be married and mass-producing babies in their early to mid-20s.
Women have no time to wait around for poor men, and men have no money to pay for young women.
This doesn’t include the skyrocketing costs of housing, food, basic necessities or the wedding itself. And this also doesn’t include the 13% of Egyptians who are unemployed, or the many Egyptians who work menial jobs, earning less than $2 a day. (High school drop outs and college graduates can often enough be found working next to each other at KFC.)
Good luck to the young men of KFC who try to convince a girl’s family to let them marry their daughter. After all, Egyptians were able to convince a 30-year-long military dictator who had financial and military support from the most powerful nation on earth to step down from power, yet can’t convince a girl’s father to let them take her out to a movie. Men are expected to have an unreasonable amount of money. Women are expected to marry unreasonably young.
And so when a wedding comes together, from sunset to sunrise, they have reason to celebrate. Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Weddings shouldn’t have to be.
While this particular summer wedding didn’t lack warmth (figuratively and literally), it did lack food options. So when we left the wedding still hungry, what else was there to do?
We crashed another wedding next door in a different room of the same club. We walked in, made a plate, ate, shook a few hands, caught up with people we’d never caught up with or met before, then left and moved on to the next wedding.