Wearing of engagement ring during wedding ceremony in Tunisia
Wearing of engagement ring during wedding ceremony in Tunisia. Source: Vivaystn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Family-arranged marriages are commonplace amongst diverse ethnic and religious Arab communities. Though marriage customs are changing in some Arabic speaking families in Australia, couples still tend to seek family approval of the person they have chosen. This is viewed as an important act of respect towards their parents, and people rarely marry in defiance of their families.

Many Arabs feel that because marriage is such a major decision, it is still considered prudent to leave it to the family’s discretion rather than to choose someone solely on the basis of emotion or ideas of romance. However, in the arranged marriage, the prospective bride and bridegroom have the opportunity to meet, visit, and become acquainted — and to accept or reject a proposal of marriage. The degree to which the individuals are consulted will vary according to how traditional or modern the family is.

Wedding Party, Sanaá, Yemen
Wedding Party, Sanaá, Yemen. Source: Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For both Muslims, Christians and other religiously diverse groups, marriage and divorce are controlled by religious law. Marriage across religious lines is rare, although Islam permits a Muslim man to marry a Jewish or Christian woman without requiring that his wife convert. A Muslim woman, however, must marry a Muslim man; in this way the children are assured of being Muslim (children are considered to have the religion of their father).

In the Islamic tradition, the marriage contract is an extremely important step in the marriage process. It must be signed in front of witnesses, and it will outline the specific responsibilities of each party. This could include several monetary conditions, like the dowry and what happens in case of a divorce. In many cases, the signing of the contract will be followed by a large celebration.

Amongst Arab Christians, the marriage is a sacrament consistent with the traditions of either the Orthodox or Catholic Church and does not include details of specific responsibilities, monetary conditions or requirements in case of a divorce.