I attended (yet another) Dearborn wedding last weekend, and in the process realized just how wildly unique these occasions truly are. Over the years, the Dearborn wedding culture has evolved into a beast of its own. Blending Middle Eastern and Arab-American traditions, Dearborn weddings have become a hashed hodge-podge of extravagant tedium.
(Dearborners may find the following “Rules” pretty ordinary. But outsiders beware: Live and die by The Rules, insane as they may sound!)
The “Eat and Leave” Principle If only twenty minutes after dinner you find the wedding hall half empty, don’t be alarmed. The “Eat and Leave” Principle is alive and well among generations of reluctant wedding guests who’ve always believed that a wedding is far more a social duty than a celebration.
“The Gift Ban” Dearborn legend has it that a man once walked into a wedding hall bearing a large box, gift-wrapped and crowned with a lavish bow. When the families of the newlyweds spotted him approaching, they turned the man away, ordering him to take back his gift and return with cash, or to not bother coming back at all.
Ladies and gentlemen, don’t be “that guy”. Wedding card, cash enclosed. That’s the Rule.
“The Extravagance Caveat” Be forewarned. Sword wielding dance crews, soaring doves, explosive fireworks, and bespeckled brides carried in on sedan chairs, rode in on chariots, or flown in by hot air balloon or helicopter…are not unusual. Inherent to the Dearborn culture is a vicious dog-eat-dog rivalry to out-do one’s neighbor by every material means imaginable. Weddings are no exception. Shallow, elementary extravagance is a MUST, so just clap, smile, and nod.
“The Handshake Runway” Prepare to enter the wedding hall shaking hands with a long line of the newlywed’s parents, uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, possibly a member of the band, and three or four complete strangers piled at the end of the line for some reason. Men line up on one side, women on the other.
“Drunk With Joy” Be prepared to eat, laugh, and dance the night away…completely sober. Dearborn weddings don’t serve alcohol. Drink before arriving, or plan on being drunk with joy.
“The One-Course Meal” Arabs don’t like to wait. When it’s time for food, it’s time for ALL the food. Dearborn weddings serve appetizers, salads, and main courses, all within five minutes (at least they BETTER, or they’ll be hearing it from 3ammu Abu Ali). Before you’ve finished your potato balls, the dessert line’s out the door. Don’t fret, though; the food is always GREAT!
“The Shopping Clause” Weddings breed weddings, my friends. A wedding is not just a time to congratulate the bride; it’s also a time to FIND ONE. Ladies: it’s a bazaar in there. Scarfed old women asking you what village you’re from is jiddan 3aadi (very normal). Gentlemen: look but don’t touch.
“The Iron Curtain” What may strike you as biologically counterintuitive is a social tenet that dates back centuries. At weddings (and most other Arab social functions), men and women tend to gravitate away from each other rather than toward. Even on the dance floor! That’s because of the Iron Curtain: “Boys with boys, girls with girls”, and at times it can be a literal curtain (as in the split wedding). Ironically, the Iron Curtain does nothing to ease the awkwardness and tension of human biology.
“The Dabke Debacle” Do partake in the traditional wedding dance called the Dabke. But also be prepared for the two or three idiot showoffs at the head of every line. Amazingly, after all these years, nobody’s ever told these inconsiderate jackasses just how unbelievably retarded they look. Frustrating? Absolutely. But it’s just not a Dearborn wedding without the choppy holdup. (NOTE: the Iron Curtain applies here as well. Boys with boys, girls with girls.