Cohabitation amongst Iran's young couples is seeing a significant increase, with many finding it more suitable to live this way as opposed to a more traditional marriage.
"Abroo rizi," is the term used when a father is not able to offer a favorable dowry for a daughter. The bride's family is expected to provide a substantially high dowry. So much so, that the dowry is often drawn up in a contractual agreement prior to the wedding ceremony.
It has become somewhat of a trend, with fathers going to extremes to furnish their daughters home with all the latest gadgets and the most exclusive home décor. One dowry, or jahaziyeh, can exceed $16,000, even for those whose monthly income is but a fraction of the amount. The most elaborate jahaziyehs may include the purchase of up to 300 household items.
"It is customary for guests to visit the newlyweds' home several days before the wedding to admire the bride's treasure trove." The family take great pride in displaying all the items from chandeliers to rugs and various art pieces. They even go so far as to make sure the refrigerators are full of delicacies for the guests to see. However, many appliances won't even be used at all. In fact, a jahaziyeh, in excess of $16,000 can take up a living space 100 square meters.
Young couples often tend to take on the financial cost of a jahaziyeh when their parents are not able to afford it. The consumer market has experienced supply shortages resulting in a high quantity of imported goods being purchased by couples who struggle with increasing rental prices, unemployment and high inflation rates. In addition, prices fluctuate and many products are not available to purchase.
This leads to newly engaged couples constantly being on the lookout for the best deals, as they don't want to miss out. Hence, instead of enjoying their time together, they are trying to purchase as many items as they possibly can even though they don't feel that it's necessary to have all of them before even purchasing a home.
Haniyeh and her fiancé have been engaged for 6 months. Although the parents are paying for the jahaziyeh, she spends a lot of time shopping for appliances. A superstore in Tehran is well known amongst the dowry shoppers in Iran and Haniyeh frequents the store to look for deals.
Jahaziyeh is only part of the elaborate wedding expenses and this has led to many of today's young couples not getting married at all. There is a considerable increase in cohabitation of unmarried couples which is not customary in Iran, where pre – marital relations are discouraged.
The reformist government of Mohammed Khatami, attempted to promote a "countercultural program," and bring back old – fashioned weddings. The government even distributed funds to eligible couples, but many were not ready to wed and it resulted in rather high divorce rates.
While jahaziyeh places quite an emotional and financial strain on young couples and their families, it is important to them to uphold the family name and continues on in Iranian society.