With hundreds of thousands of Syrian men killed in warfare, and an uncertain number fleeing conscription and economic hardship, Syrian women are maintaining cultural traditions in the ways that they still can.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed a number of women who have recently hosted a wedding celebration without a groom by their side. According to the anecdotal evidence gathered from wedding industry workers in Syria, it has in fact become very unusual for the husband to be in the country for the ceremony. College student Lava Ibrahim told them, “I remember going to a wedding where the groom was actually there, and I just sat and stared at him. It was so weird.”

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During the first few years of the Syrian war, families held off on wedding ceremonies, but now they see continuing with celebrations as an affirmation for the future. It still makes for a difficult evening:

In March, Sandi’s parents and future in-laws threw an elaborate engagement party that resembled a wedding in every way except that her dress was pink and her fiancé was in Turkey.

“It was a difficult situation, and I wasn’t very happy. Even though everything was perfect, something was still missing,” she said. She said her in-laws were eager for the party so they could celebrate on behalf of their son...

“In a war, everything you are living is against your will,” said Oula, a resident of the capital Damascus who works in a company that makes and sells handicrafts and counts three male employees out of 83. “So when they have an opportunity to be happy, they aren’t going to relinquish that. It is in defiance of their circumstances.”

The wedding traditions are very similar to what the women would experience if their husband were by their side, except for the cake—which are usually made to be so enormous that they can only be cut with a ceremonial sword, a task that falls to the groom.

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Many of these brides will go to meet their husbands once they have established themselves in a new country. One bride, Siwar, went on to meet her husband in the Netherlands, where they will retake their wedding photo to replace a previously Photoshopped version.


Image via Getty.