Uzbek weddings: a blessing or a curse?
Uzbeks take justified pride in their ways and traditions including weddings known way beyond Uzbekistan itself. These ancient traditions are taking a definitely lopsided shape nowadays. They actually discredit uniqueness of the Uzbek culture and turn peoples' lives into hell.
One of the latest Kuz Tegmasin [Preventing Malevolence] talk-shows regularly run by the Namangan regional TV network was dedicated to this matter precisely. Guests in the studio chose to discuss negative aspects of wedding traditions, much to their host's dismay. This latter had clearly intended to sing hosannah to the unique ways and traditions of Uzbekistan but guests in the studio would have none of that.
Once the host was through with his exultant prelude on "the merry-making throughout the mahallja", one of the women in the studio began talking of how prepared the young were for the wedlock. In fact, she spoke of the necessity to choose both the daughter-in-law (as is usually done) and the son-in-law.
The host countered it by calling weddings "an event of great value, a great school of education" but the response it evoked was not what he had counted on.
"Sure, weddings do offer young people a lot in these terms," another guest said. "I'd say that it takes he family years to save enough for a wedding. The white pojandoz [rug thrown under the feet to show respect] is used to show that the daughter-in-law is expected to become a real princess, the true hostess who has come to stay."
The host did another attempt and brought up the matter of jer-jer [wedding songs]. One other guest announced that ways and traditions were being distorted by "unnecessary pomposity".
"The guests are treated to several dishes, they are given the sarpo [sets of clothing sometimes including everything from headgear to handkerchiefs] and whole parcels with gifts inside," the guest said meaning preparations for the wedding. "The guests feel uneasy because they are expected to match the generosity. All of that becomes a great burden for poor families or families with many children."
Praising the relations between the parents of the bride and groom, the host said, "I wish diplomats of the world learned the art of conducting negotiations from them." Even that, however, failed to win the sympathies of the audience. "It is fashionable now to take several savats [big crates] to the groom's household after the wedding," someone in the studio remarked. "Matchmakers quarrel over how many. Some couples even divorce because of that."
All Uzbeks condemn this particular tradition. The government of Uzbekistan even issued several special resolutions on reduction of wedding costs. Nothing helps. The tradition wouldn't be rooted out. Uzbeks say that this problem is typical of all of the Ferghana Valley including the southern region of Kyrgyzstan where Uzbeks live. "The number of the savats is the measure of respect," a man from Andijan told Ferghana.Ru. "It is women who insist on it and men go along to avoid a scandal and make sure that the daughter will command respect in her new home."
All the same, some Uzbeks are not afraid of going against the traditions. A woman in the studio said she had bought her daughter books and paid her way through college. "It became her dowry," the woman said. "I wasn't wrong, you know. Our children live happily." Few, however, are so liberal. Quarrels are quite frequent at wedding parties. Every now and then these quarrels even end up in divorce of the couple that would have been happy otherwise.
Sep or the dowry is one of the numerous headaches for families with girls. The dowry is different in various regions of Uzbekistan. In Tashkent, for example, the dowry must include a great deal of clothes, furniture, and jewelry (gold). "No wonder it is said that a man who brought up and married off three daughters should go to heaven," an acquaintance from Tashkent told this correspondent. "On the other hand, I do not know where or how my woman and me will live when our daughters are off our hands." An ordinary lathe operator, he has four daughters.
Wedding parties in restaurants and cafes become fashionable even in small townships now. More traditional weddings - at home - take place too. Almost all of the village population, with or without the invitation, turns up for these latter. Dishes of the national cuisine are cooked, various ancient rites observed. All of that is outrageously expensive. Expensive or not, people gladly pay so as to retain the respect they command with neighbors.
The authorities never stop trying to make weddings and funerals less expensive, knowing them to be one of the obstacles that do not permit the population to better its economic standing. All these efforts are futile. Every campaign the authorities launch lasts a year or two, and everything is back to square one. It takes more to change mentality than halfhearted campaigns.
"It is impossible to say everything there is to say about weddings in one short programme," the host wrapped up the talk-show. "They are events of great value, they embody our collectivism. We need unity because of the greatness of the goals we are destined to accomplish." The audience clearly had many more things to say on the subject but cameras went off the air.