Al-Azhar suggests 'modest' weddings, dowries to curb Egypt marriage crisis
Al-Azhar's Islamic Research Academy announced an initiative to combat extortionate cultural customs surrounding marriage, which it says has contributed to a lack of marriage in young adults.
The project, launched on Sunday researches several stages of getting married and the difficulties young people face. The initiative especially assesses the periods of engagement, wedding preparation, and marriage itself.
The initiative recommends that the engagement period should be modest with guests limited to parents and immediate family. Only engagement rings and small gifts should be given for the purpose of declaring love, not for families to brag.
In many cultures, the families of grooms often give brides grandiose gifts as a status symbol to mark the generosity of the groom's family and to display the worthiness of the bride. The more gifts, the more welcome the bride is perceived to be.
The initiative recommended that the bride and groom's families discuss a budget for the wedding, dowry and other expenses before signing the marriage contract and to keep the engagement period as brief as possible to prevent problems that may halt the marriage.
However, critics say that a short engagement period would lead to couples not knowing each other well enough and overlooking deal-breakers before the couple marry.
The academy recommended that prospective married couples take marriage classes and choose an affordable place of living without "unnecessary conditions" and extravagant furniture.
It also recommended a small and inexpensive wedding ceremony to remove hospitality costs. Parents on both sides of the wedding should refrain from being gifted clothes by the bride and the groom.
The initiative also suggested that weddings leave out photoshoots and for them to avoid travelling for their honeymoon to save money.
The initiative comes as an Egyptian MP asked his country's leadership to look into the wealth of a government official who allegedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a star-studded wedding, which caused outrage in the cash-strapped country.
Khaled Megahed, a former health ministry spokesman, celebrated his marriage last weekend at a hotel in Cairo overlooking the Nile river, surrounded by some of Egypt's most famous faces - including singers Amr Diab and Mohamed Ramadan.
The wedding - reportedly Megahed's second in the space of a year - allegedly cost up to 10 million Egyptian pounds (US$534,000), according to news reports.
The wedding and the subsequent outrage surrounding it comes as millions of ordinary Egyptians struggle to cover the cost of basics.