Small is beau­ti­ful for Saudi nup­tials

Cou­ples es­chew big cer­e­monies amid slow econ­omy

The Star Malaysia - - World -

JED­DAH: It was a Saudi wed­ding like any other – clutch­ing a dec­o­ra­tive sword, the groom bobbed and swayed in a tra­di­tional dance.

But there was one strik­ing dif­fer­ence – a tiny guest list.

Wed­dings in the oil-rich king­dom are typ­i­cally lav­ish af­fairs, with a bulging guest list seen as a so­cial obli­ga­tion and a sign of af­flu­ence.

Such ex­pec­ta­tions are of­ten an eco­nomic strain for grooms, who foot most of the bill, in­clud­ing rent­ing out the req­ui­site ex­or­bi­tantly-priced mar­riage halls.

But mil­len­ni­als like Basil Al­bani are host­ing wed­dings at home, de­fy­ing fam­ily tra­di­tions and so­cial pres­sure while mak­ing huge sav­ings in the process.

Fewer than two dozen close rela- tives and friends were in­vited to the 26-year-old in­sur­ance ex­ec­u­tive’s re­cent wed­ding feast at his an­ces­tral home in western Jed­dah city.

It was mi­cro­scopic by Saudi stan­dards.

“Peo­ple go crazy with wed­dings, invit­ing hun­dreds of guests and spend­ing mil­lions in one night,” said Maan Al­bani, the 21-year-old brother of the groom.

“We wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent which can also be fun.”

Al­though preva­lent for years, home wed­dings sym­bol­ise a war on ex­cess by the youth as much as a barom­e­ter of the lag­ging econ­omy.

They ap­pear to be gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in a new age of aus­ter­ity amid low crude prices.

With cuts to cra­dle-to-grave sub- si­dies and a value-added tax amid high youth un­em­ploy­ment, Saudis are see­ing stag­nat­ing in­comes and a life­style down­grade.

And there are signs of an im­pact on the Saudi wed­ding mar­ket.

An­nual spend­ing on mar­riages in the king­dom ex­ceeds two bil­lion riyals (RM2.18bil), the high­est in the Arab world, Saudi wed­ding fair or­gan­is­ers said last year.

Two wed­ding plan­ners said spend­ing on mar­riages dropped by 25% over the past year, with many trim­ming back the pomp and pageantry.

A re­tailer of wed­ding in­vi­ta­tion cards in Riyadh said busi­ness fell by 70% over the pe­riod, as many cus­tomers de­mand rich de­signs at cheaper prices.

— AFP

Mod­est joy: Basil in his home dur­ing his wed­ding in Jed­dah.

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