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Al-Aniyyah: A marriage tradition that is still alive
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 20 - 02 - 2016

It is no secret that marriages are an expensive affair in Saudi society for men. Left with the immense financial responsibility of raising money for dowry, the wedding, furnishing a home and various other wedding-related costs, many young men find themselves delaying marriage until they can afford to do so, often with the help of family. However, for those on limited incomes, the opportunity to marry may never come. Al-Riyadh daily reports on the unique tradition of Al-Aniyyah where relatives and friends pool money together so the groom can get married without having to borrow money from bank.
One of the social traditions that have survived the test of time, Al-Aniyyah reflects the solidarity that has long been the hallmark of Arab societies. Usually given to the groom before his wedding night, the gift can include non-monetary items such as furniture or even a car. The groom will have to reciprocate and help anyone whose gift he accepted when it is their turn to get married, thereby creating a sort of domino effect.
Cloaks and cars
During the wedding, the groom must wear a black, brown, or white cloak known as a bisht, which can be expensive to buy but is considered an integral part of the ceremony. Worn once on the night of wedding, many grooms borrow a cloak from a friend or a relative.
Another common item that is borrowed are high-end luxury cars. After the wedding ceremony, a couple will often drive to their home in a convoy of cars filled with friends and relatives. The car with the newly-wed couple is typically a high-end car that the groom may borrow from a friend and return a week later.
In the past, the families of the groom and bride used to provide the chairs, teapots, glasses, carpets, cooking pots and anything else needed on the night of wedding. The neighbors of both families would step in and help and some would volunteer to pour the tea or coffee in glasses and serve it to guests. Some even cooked food for the ceremony. Such group efforts allowed the groom and his family to save money on the wedding ceremony, costs which, depending on the wedding hall, can run into the tens of thousands of riyals.
Wedding ceremonies
Some grooms throw large weddings and invite as many relatives and friends as possible so that they can get Al-Aniyyah from them and use it to cover wedding expenses.
Depending on the tribe and region of the Kingdom, there are different traditions for Al-Aniyyah. Some tribes delegate a member to collect money from all members of the tribe and give it to the groom on the night of the wedding. The average amount given by each member is SR500 but can be much higher depending on the relationship between the groom and his relative or friend.
Often, the money is put in an envelope with the name of the donor on it so the groom's family can note the amount given and repay it when it is their turn to get married. If it is a big amount, the groom can return it in installments.
Some prefer to give Al-Aniyyah by reserving a suite for the groom and his bride in a fancy hotel or spa. Others give it in the form of gift certificates. Regardless of how it is presented, it is undoubtedly an old tradition that has survived and proved to strengthen social solidarity.

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