Wedding dress symbolism: A right tied to a once-in-a-lifetime event

Wedding dress shops in Fawzi Pasha Street, Istanbul - March 22, 2024 (Enab Baladi)

Wedding dress shops in Fawzi Pasha Street, Istanbul - March 22, 2024 (Enab Baladi)

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Enab Baladi – Razam al-Sawadi

Every girl dreams of being special on her wedding day, considering it a unique, once-in-a-lifetime event. This is true for Birivan Ayoub, a young Syrian woman from the city of Ain al-Arab/Kobani, currently residing in Germany.

Birivan married about seven months ago, aware that she will not have a wedding ceremony as traditionally celebrated in Syrian culture, due to financial constraints, she told Enab Baladi.

Birivan settled for wearing a wedding dress during the marriage contract signing and described it to Enab Baladi as “very simple, without a celebration.” Nevertheless, she pointed out that her joy was “indescribable.”

The fear of regret

For Fatima, the experience differed from Birivan’s, as the wedding dress did not make a difference to her—in fact, it was a nuisance, as she put it.

Fatima Kojegit, a Syrian Turkmen woman currently living in Ankara, married a Turkish man about three years ago and has a two-and-a-half-year-old child.

Although Fatima, hailing from the countryside of Aleppo, was not interested in the dress, she considered, as she told Enab Baladi, whether she would regret not wearing a wedding dress, so she decided to “spare herself the potential regret” and wore it.

Since she got married during the spread of COVID-19, Fatima could not have a wedding ceremony but had a gathering that resembled a family reunion.

Fatima believes that the dress is a girl’s right, yet her choice to wear it was not related to it being her right but was more about a psychological aspect. As she said, she did not share her thoughts of indifference with anyone and insisted on wearing the dress.

Important, though dispensable

According to Birivan, the dress is an important and beautiful detail, but it certainly does not represent everything for her. From her perspective, there might be situations that require sacrificing some details.

Birivan hesitated before indicating that it is difficult to decide against wearing a wedding dress, adding to Enab Baladi, “One should not compromise on wearing a wedding dress if circumstances allow it.”

For her part, Fatima views wearing a wedding dress as a part of the marriage customs and traditions, not only in Syria but across the world.

 

One should not compromise on wearing a wedding dress if circumstances allow.

Birivan Ayoub – A young Syrian woman residing in Germany

 

From her perspective, one should not forfeit this wedding ceremony detail, as it may lead to other concessions in the future.

A “beautiful” memory

Looking back at their wedding photos, Birivan and Fatima confirm the importance of wearing the wedding dress and the “radiance” it brought to them, they told Enab Baladi.

Although the dress was uncomfortable for Fatima during the ceremony, and she had difficulty breathing due to its tightness, she wondered about her motive for wearing it. Now, looking at the wedding pictures, she feels happy that she had worn it.

Fatima feels that the dress made her appear as “the bride” in the wedding photos, not just a girl at a party.

A girl’s “right”

Sarah, a girl from Damascus residing in Istanbul, considers the wedding dress one of the most important wedding rituals.

Sarah, who is about to get married, does not see the dress as a dream, but she refuses to give it up. She insists that the joy of the wedding comes once in a lifetime, as she described it.

The young twenty-year-old always thinks about the style of the dress, its size, its shade of color, which should match her skin tone, and other details she will care for because the bride must look like “the queen of the event,” as she put it.

Fatima Kojegit finds that the wedding dress highlights a woman’s femininity; it “serves the purpose that the girl aspires for it to draw attention and appear in the most beautiful form in front of her husband and guests,” she expressed.

Dress specifications

The designs of wedding dresses vary: some have long sleeves, others half sleeves, and most are sleeveless, in addition to the design of the chest, waist, and bottom area, which are usually fluffy. The fabric type and gradations of the white color vary to suit the bride’s skin tone, and so each girl looks for what fits her body, skin tone, and height during the selection process.

The circumstance, personal taste, and the wedding location are factors that determine the dress style, according to Birivan. She considered that the venue played a role in her choice as the marriage contract was signed at home, so she could not wear a huge dress and settled for a simple one.

Regarding the style of the dress she wished to wear, Birivan said, “I didn’t think of a specific style, just that it be simple, shiny, and tight at the bottom,” and that is how her dress was for the contract signing. However, she rented a dress for her memorable photos due to time constraints and financial situation.

On the other hand, Fatima’s taste differed from Birivan’s in some aspects; she preferred a completely plain dress, without beads or shine, long sleeves, and a preference for lace fabric.

Because of the rush to marry, Fatima could not customize the dress she “imagined,” since tailoring takes a long time, and it is costly.

Fatima decided to choose what was available in the market, which was entirely different from what she wanted to wear. In the end, she chose a wedding dress that encircles the waist and neck area and has beads around the shoulders, as she described it.

Donating the dress

After the wedding, Birivan thought about selling her dress but found it difficult to part with it. She was encouraged to give up her dress after a friend shared a post on Instagram about her intention to donate her dress.

Birivan did not hesitate to tell her friend about her intention to donate her dress as well.

Fatima siad, “There are many who cannot afford a dress; how wonderful it is for another girl to experience my joy that day,” noting that she will not wear her dress again. Besides, storing it is difficult due to its size, and it can get dirty and wear out if kept, eventually ending up discarded without benefiting her or any other girl.

Fatima also thought of donating her dress due to her lack of need for it, as she indicated earlier, especially since the economic situation Syrians face provided an additional motivation to donate the dress.

 

There are many who cannot afford a wedding dress; how wonderful it is for another girl to experience my joy that day.

Fatima – A Syrian woman living in Turkey

 

Initially, Fatima wanted to send her dress to a girl inside Syria, but it proved difficult. She decided to donate it through one of her friends involved in this field.

According to Enab Baladi‘s observation on online sites in Turkey that specialize in clothing sales, the starting prices for long wedding dresses are 10,000 Turkish liras.

The minimum wage in Turkey rose by 49% on December 27, 2023, to 17,002 rather than 11,402.

The minimum wage is equivalent to about $552, with one dollar exchange rate against the Turkish lira at 32.5 liras, according to the currency exchange site “döviz.”

Turkey hosts 3,136,353 Syrian refugees under the temporary protection system, according to the latest statistics issued by the Turkish Presidency of Migration Management, and there are no statistics on the number of Syrians married in Turkey.

Cost of Living in Istanbul” research by the Planning Agency (IPA) of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) in September 2023, showed a living cost increase of 80.59% in August 2023 compared with the same month in 2022. The average living cost for a family of four members in Istanbul reached 42,593 Turkish liras.

What do men say?

Ahmad, from Deir Ezzor and residing in Urfa province, married during the COVID-19 pandemic and believes under any circumstances; he would not have asked his wife to give up her wedding dress, given its importance to her.

Mustafa Keng, married for ten years from when he was in Damascus before coming to Istanbul, told Enab Baladi that he didn’t wish to hold a wedding celebration and didn’t care for these formalities due to the situation in the region at that time. However, his wife had another opinion, wanting to wear a dress and have a celebration. As Mustafa said, it’s her right, so they agreed, and ended up having the wedding and buying the dress.

Mahmoud al-Sourani believes that the dress is not that important, and he and his wife gave up the idea of having a wedding or even wearing formal clothes when they got married five years ago.

Mahmoud, originally from Hama and now residing in Istanbul, said the decision to forego wedding ceremony rituals was his then-fiancée’s request, “as she did not want us to incur debts that we could live without.”

Today, years after their marriage, he feels that things between them are good and their decision was correct.

 

 

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