Saudi Arabia: It’s the Wedding Night

So many marriages continue to be arranged in Saudi Arabia.  It depends on individual families on how many times the bride and groom had interaction before the marriage.  In traditional families, the couple may see each other once or twice until their marriage.  Some more forward leaning families allow or enterprising couples will get to know each other via phone calls or exchange of emails.  In this case the young woman will be cautioned and advised not to share any pictures of herself as the young man is prohibited to have photos of her before they are officially husband and wife.

As a result, due to the traditions which limit contact and interaction, the couple are never alone together until the wedding night.  Now try putting yourself into the shoes of a traditionally raised Saudi girl.  She’s accustomed to segregation.  She would not have any interaction with men who were not a grandfather, father, brother or uncle.  She may or may not have had any discussions with a trusted female relative or good female friend about marital relations and what is expected or what happens.  All she may know is that she is married and now her husband is her mahrem (guardian).  She may also be away from her family for the first time and her wedding night may be the first night spent with a husband who is still an unknown stranger.  I think it is fair to say that instead of looking forward to the wedding night with joy and anticipation; she is likely scared and missing her family.

Now what about the young man?  Would his father or an uncle or a brother have come forward to talk to him about the wedding night?  Would he have been told that this is the night he proves his manhood or would he have been told to be patient and gentle?  Does he look at his wife as an individual whom he needs to take his time and get to know?  Or would he look at her as his new possession to enjoy?

The wedding night is a night one never forgets whether it is the happiest night of a new marriage or a living nightmare that results in an instant divorce.  This is probably the most critical night for a newly married Saudi couple on whether their marriage will start off on a positive foundation.  It would be nice if part of the Saudi marriage process required that a bride and groom receive guidance and a candid positive talk on marital relations.  The new bride should be aware in detail of marital relations and what to expect.  The new groom should be aware of how a new bride may be fearful and he must be both patient and kind.  He needs to patient with his young bride.  If she is fearful he should not push her to have relations with him immediately.  The couple need to get to know one another and be relaxed and comfortable with each other in order for intimacy to be a positive experience instead of a traumatic experience which can scar a young bride emotionally and physically.

41 Responses

  1. I’ve often wondered about that. I can’t imagine going from strict segregation to the most intimate act in one night. Of course you can’t just come out and ask a saudi woman what it was like, because that’s just not good manners. Great post!

  2. @Kristine – thanks…glad you enjoyed the topic.

  3. Well said.

  4. A few of my female friends in India have had traditional arranged marriages, and while most of them met and interacted with the groom before the wedding, I was a little suprised to find out that in many cases they waited to consummate the marriage, sometimes for a few weeks, in one case for a few months. This is actually a more humane way to go about building a relationship for two people who barely know each other. I wonder if this also happens in Saudi.

  5. Californiadreamin is right. In many cases in India the consummation of an arranged marriage takes place only after the couple get to know each other well and feel comfortable with each other.

    At least in India the situation is quite ambiguous. Things are not what they appear on the surface. I have noticed that in many families where arranged marriages are likely the norm, girls since young age are acquainted with sexuality. They may not be well educated or even working, but they learn about it from their female family members and friends at a young age. On the contrary, girls from modern families who leave home for higher studies and spend their time building their career are more likely to not be aware of sexual issues. It’s not as if the tradition girls get a formal sex education – they simply learn by talking and listening to their family members. On the other hand, girls in modern families are busy with other aspects of life and have very little knowledge of sexual matters – they just get some education in school.

    Somehow the girls in traditional Indian families also know better how to deal with men in marriage – even though they don’t go out with men – than do the girls in modern families who may mix more with men in school or job but they don’t have much idea about handling marital relationships. I have never quite understood how this happens – perhaps because girls in traditional families associate more with married women and learn by watching their actions and talking to them. On the other hand, modern girls don’t spend that much time with married women and talking about marital issues.

    My guess is that Saudi system should be close to the traditional Indian families, where girls get acquainted with these issues informally within the family environment.

    I am personally against the arranged marriage system on principle and will never go for an arranged marriage myself, and do believe that Saudi girls should have the right to choose their own partners after interacting with them, but I just wanted to share these different perspectives which are normally not known discussed.

  6. very interesting !

    i cannot understand why most grooms should be nerves during a wedding night ?

  7. Many interesting comments!

    In responding to why should men be nervous during the wedding night, I would say it is not so much they should be nervous but they should be kind and compassionate and aware of the feelings of his new wife. Does she seem shy and nervous? Does she appear afraid? If so, the sensitive groom should give her time. He may have been told by his uncles or brothers that the wedding night is the night for him to prove he is a man but at the same time, if the groom is to insistent on proving himself, the new bride may be terrorized and come away with instead of a beautiful experience, a traumatic experience which may stay through the marriage.

  8. yeb,,, a woman need a man a strong and passionate to lean on him ..i think a man who insists on proving himself is not confident enough..

    hey carol, i have a question for u is out of the issue… why most women are so afraid of rats as much afraid as an elephant :P
    seriously why ?? i know a woman is afraid of lots things but fear of a rat or mice to a woman is high when it comes ?

  9. Good question Mohammed…maybe because a rat or mouse is viewed as a dirty and sly animal which sneaks up or scurries around if found in a house. I think others will have to come forward with their views on this topic!

  10. I could tell you horror stories from working in the emergency room of a very busy hospital in Riyadh. I am sure there are Saudi men who are sensitive to a new bride and show kindness and respect.

    On the other hand the girl is at the mercy of her new husband. It does not always end well. I hav seen more than one case of wedding nite sodomy that ended up have go to surgery. Maybe that is to harsh to publish but it is the truth I have seen it in the hospital.

    I think maybe some type of instruction to the couple should be mandatory

  11. @Saudi Medic: Welcome and thank you for your comment. Again, I think that sodomy may be more common due to segregation and lack of understanding on intimacy.

  12. Now, if only most Saudi men would have the mentality of “Mohammed USA”. I think then, A LOT of women, in general, would have a different perspective of Saudi guys! :)

    Totally agree, if any guy works too hard to prove himself, then definitely he’s got confidence and self-esteem issues!

  13. I agree with medic. My brother-in-law is a physician and he said the number of anal prolapses is shocking!! I always wondered if it was due to the amount of homosexual sexuality that is prevalent in KSA, btw, I think most of that is due to ease of proximity rather than actual homosexuality.

    Too gross to think about in any case.

  14. My friends husband waited 5 whole days after the wedding to enforce his rights. He tore her up…she was crying and in agony…he told only hurts the first time and she have to deal with it and get use to it. 3 years later..he is still “raping” her.

  15. Daisy,
    interesting perspective. there’s a lot to be said for traditionalism. i think this is better than the modern sex education in schools which gives sex an over important status.

    anal prolapses in females or in males?

  16. The shameful thing is that women are not taught how to safeguard themselves. They are kept innocent, I guess, so that it will be easier for others to maintain control over their bodies. Not to mention that they are taught to be emotionally dependent on a man, so that they wouldn’t be able to make the necessary emotional change to be able to take actions to maintain control over their bodies.

    It is difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to be an ‘ordinary’ woman, in that I am big enough and strong enough to throw almost any man out of bed even if he’s lying on top of me, if he gets too rough, and never heard anything at home to the effect that I should be dependent on anyone at all, or that I can’t handle a man because he’s ‘so much stronger’.

    Quite the contrary – I was carefully taught that society would indeed try to inculcate such views in me, and… let’s say their aim was no doubt to let me know I had a choice not to heed society, but the atmosphere at home was practically more along the lines of that I’d d*** well better not pay attention to that garbage, or even that I’d d*** well better live my life as hard evidence that what society says is not true.

    And I think that for the most part I have succeeded. The problem is that the vast majority of people on the planet would probably consider such a woman as myself unmarriageable, all the more so that I am now closer to 50 than 40. But why pretend to be someone one is not, just to please a man?

    And that is just it: this whole package of which the wedding night horror story is a part, presupposes that girls are not permitted to develop any sense of self at all – they are expected to define themselves exclusively in relationship to others. They are not permitted to view themselves as having any rights at all – only obligations. In other words, the ‘wedding night terror’ is systemic – it goes way beyond just one night, and indeed extends from birth to death.

    Let us view this system for the idolatry it is and speak out against it. How else will anything change?

  17. Mohammed, it’s a myth that women are scared of mice or rats. I used to have a mouse as a pet and no mouse or rat has ever frightened me.

    Africana, I”m all for a decent informative sex-education. Why shouldn’t children of an appropriate age know about sex? Sex is a part of life. Not knowing about it has been proven to end up in a lot more teenage pregnancies as knowing about it. I don’t see why the fobia about sex anyway.

    And especially if somebody gets married you would expect to have the partners to be informed at length and in detail.

    Besides, look what happens in Saudi Arabia, the men at least know very well how how have sex with other men. I heard it’s a heaven for gays. And Saudi friends have told me often enough that anything goes on in Saudi. Also between men and women.
    So I think a good bit of sex education would be very beneficial.

    Besides, you should at least experiment with yourself. How else can you explain to your spouse what to do?
    Especially as Saudis have no sex-information except grotty pornvideos.

  18. Aafke, You would think people would be informed in advance of their wedding night, right? I just don’t get it either – that a lot of people aren’t. The thing about experimentation on oneself, for Muslims anyway, is that it is in principle prohibited. That having been said, I agree that that can be useful – especially for women – to do some of that in order to be sufficiently acquainted with one’s body to be able to avoid being taken advantage of, to be able to make real choices about what one will or will not do, what one will or will not permit to be done with one’s body.

  19. It just seems un natural to be put together with another human that you dont know or necessarily have feelings for and expect it to be beautiful. There is no freedom to date and mingle, its forbidden, so what do you expect really. Sex craved men, and protected disciplined women who cant be shown to anyone..I dunno, sounds like jail time or something…

  20. whether arranged or love marriage, both have + and – points

    at India, esp with hindu families, a majority brides and grooms are allowed to know better

    @ daisy – are you married?

  21. I am an American convert to Islam, and thankfully I survived my extreme phase. It was mainly due to the fact that the extreme ones quickly disillusioned me and I backed off to a moderate approach.

    Interestingly, I know a few Saudi men and women. One couple seems to think of me as their Auntie. She is American and he is a very nice Saudi man. Still, from a purely sociological point of view, he carries certain attitudes with him that he was obviously taught while being raised, and so do the women.

    I think that the men I know tend to see women as possessions, and expect the women to obey. It is interesting, and sometimes humorous watching these two. He moans about his wife not being properly obedient like a Saudi girl, and she tries so hard to be good; getting used to asking to leave the house; thinking of many ways to help him, and allowing him to dictate how she dresses.

    Oh, these two are deeply flawed, as we all are, but inshallah they will learn, and I will avoid interfereing in their um negotiations. :)

    I am confused by him because he says he hates Saudia and never wants to go back; wants to stay in the US forever, but seems to expect to create a little Saudia here.

    Oh well, when their kids have children, they will act just like these poorly trained Americans. I just hope that they are good Muslims. :)

    Hala Maksoud

  22. American Bedu, this reminds me of this incident with our friends, when one (soon to be married) asked another (just got married) if the ‘act’ is done on the first night. You may enjoy this story!

  23. Wow — powerful post Haleem!

    @Hala – I know a number of Saudis who have chosen to remain in the US with their American wife. They are indeed very Americanized but deep underneath still a Saudi and proud of their heritage. Honestly, I don’t think I’d want it any other way either. I think we should all respect who we are and where we came from.

  24. Haleem:
    That sounds like the story I heard in the office about another couple, but this was before I was Muslim. Apparently several salesmen were talking to one of their newly married friends who was complaining about his wife nagging him. They told him that he needed to establish that he was MAN of the house and that the next time she did that, to just tell her to SHUT UP (deleted explitive). Apparently he came to work the next morning looking really downcast after spending the night sleeping in his car. Men are very mean to each other. :)


  25. He’s lucky he didn’t spend the night sleeping in the grave.

  26. American Bedu:

    I love cultural cross exchange, and it is making me learn much so that I do not offend.

    I really like your site. I have not had such a relaxed exchange with Muslims on line before. I am sorry to get off topic, but I want to collect Hijabs because there seem to be many types and styles of wearing them. I have become fascinated with what appear to be copper masks, Jeweled Masks, and the black one. Do you know people who sell these things?

    I want to be really careful and respectful here because I was once absolutely adamant that I would not be wearing a Niqab, but in a very short time I found myself in a situation that it was obligatory in the group I was meeting with.

    Was it Allah SWT showing me that I had gotten to big for myself? The experience has made me much quieter.

    Hala Maksoud

  27. American Bedu and Hala,

    Many of us that post comments online here in this column do so from a very Western, very outspoken, point of view aiming the messages at other expats like ourselves.

    If we thought that we were speaking directly to many Saudis, we would probably say things differently and in a more formal manner.

    Please note that Americans can be vulger at times with other Americans for fun, jokingly, and get away with it because it’s viewed as just being ‘naughty’ It’s well-known that it’s not to be taken seriously.

  28. RoseColoredGlasses:

    I am just an old retired American Muslim revert. While I have travelled around the world some, I have not been to Saudia, and as much as I would like to experience it, well, I just doubt that it will ever happen unless Allah SWT wills it.

    Since I lack the proper credentials, may I still come here and chat? :)


  29. Hala, You probably have more credentials than I do. I’m not even a Muslim :)

  30. @Hala – I am guessing that the niqab you described sounds like ones that can be found in Dubai and perhaps part of Kuwait. Of course in the region it is easy to find the differing styles. Where are you located? I’ll try to think of some ideas and suggestions to make it easy for you to find them from your area. Many styles can also be found online too.

  31. American Bedu:
    Are you still in North Carolina? Good grief, what are you doing up at this hour? Please take care of yourself OK?

    I am in Portland, Oregon. I have tried every thing I can to find the traditional garments but all I can really find are the square Hijabs, and the Turkish style. It is pretty easy to buy the Saudi Niqabs too.

    I would really appreciate any information that you can give me.

    Take care of yourself sister.

    Ma Salaama

    Hala M

  32. @Hala,

    Sometimes I tend to keep crazy hours and I find if I cannot sleep I’ll check in on the blog! (smile)

    It is more difficult I think to find traditional garments if outside of the region itself. Although I’ve not tried it myself, I wonder if Craig’s List or Ebay would have any?

  33. Probably can get them on E-bay. I’ve recently quite by accident stumbled on some traditional Uzbek garb, of all things, that includes unique forms of hijab and even niqab. If you can get Uzbek, why not whatever else strikes your fancy?

  34. iam saudi woman and iam happy in my life i think american people should solve their problems before finding solution for us….

    Iam so happy and i will not be worry <because iam amuslim

  35. As Salaam Alaykom Sister Sarah:

    Astigfirallah, I had not meant to offend, it was not my intention.

    In all fairness, as a Saudi woman, perhaps you would not have the troubles that expatriates would have. And, in a manner of speaking American women are brought up with at least some freedom and privelege, and are not prepared to give that up when they go to Saudia. I would not like it.

    I know some Saudi women who live part of the time in the US, and none of them have complained to me about life in Saudia.

    Part of the problem is the American Judeao/christian ethic. We are brought up with it and to us it seems right and the only way to live. The very idea that a man could lie to us about having other husbands, is abhorent to an American woman. In fact, the very fact that a someone could lie to us for any reason is very unsuitable.

    I’d like to think that I could adapt to having other wives beside me but I think I would struggle for sure.

    In spite of the fact that I had servants and drivers, I’d still want the freedom to go out as I wish. Still, even in America, I am not really free to go out at times since it would be very dangerous.

    Ma Salaama


  36. […] have received multiple queries about Saudi weddings.  I have written some posts about Saudi weddings before so with this one, I’ll focus on the […]

  37. […] to no time alone with their wife until –after- the marriage ceremony has taken place.  The wedding night is usually the first time the couple will have been alone […]

  38. This world is so biased sometimes. Men are seen as sex hungry devils. There is no one to support men :)
    Women are the sufferers, men are the blood suckers as usual.

    What about those women who ask “Are u gay?” if he is not quick to respond her devilish sexual urge? :)

    what about non stop sexual demand just becoz she is sex machine and man is sex slave and men have limited power?..he is not powerful like her?She is living like queen at home without doing anything and husband has to work whole day…Why she doesnt care that he also has to sleep few hours apart from being sex slave non-stop?

    Well, on serious note, I think any1 knows abt sex now-a-days even though they havent expereinced practically before marriage. Following link is about how husband should treat his wife regarding sex in Islam, those typical Saudi men need to know if they do not know:

  39. hi moslem brothers/sisters.

    i feel islam is modified to each countrries culture and customs…like for instance, demanding dowry among indian moslem families, having a ‘thali’ a sacred chain tied around the neck, to show the lady is taken already, n similar rituals in other countries too, like doing castration for females, i think this is still prevalent in african countries…and along this countries falls saudia too…they entrust their customs into the religion…n being arab speakers , they feel they know the Holy KOran ..too well and make fatwas not even mentioned by Almighty…..n bully the women..belittle them….no concern to their female halfs feelings,.having them just for sex n baby producing machines!!!!

  40. Hi avana,

    Respectfully,I agree what u say but partially. It doesnt happern generally but exceptionally. Indian Muslims were converted from Hindus just like all Muslims in all over world were converted from some other faiths. Yes, culture affects people. And it will happen somehow but disappear slowly.
    India is a big country and has 200 million Muslims and so culture is different from different region and place. Demanding dowry from bride is not so common among Indian Muslims but quite common among Hindus. In North-East India, its completely no no for Muslims. Its the groom who give mahar to bride. A few countable number of Muslims may ask dowry from bride among Muslims in Central and North India.

    “having a ‘thali’ a sacred chain tied around the neck, to show the lady is taken already” – I do not know any such culture in India.

    I can not say much abt Arab countries as I havent seen/experienced them personally except Morocco where women are uncontrollable i.e. no man can control or force any woman there. Like men, they do whatever they like. They do not return home for days if they wish..they do whatever they like without restriction…they do prostitution if they like, virtually almost every gal has boy friend..they drink,go to bars, dance clubs at mid night and so n so. I think same is the case with Tunisia. So, there is no question of suppressing women in Morocco n Tunisia. Even in Egypt there are more women workers then men in all sectors except construction and oil field.

    Even in non Arab countries like India(200 million Muslims), Indonesia (230 million Muslims), Pakistan (210 million Muslims)(excluding Taliban controlled region), Malaysia (30 million Muslims), Turkey(75 million Muslims) Bangladesh (160 Million Muslims) do not suppress women. In these coutnries a man can do polygamy but still u will not find polygamy.Muslim woman became governor of the state in India. Muslim women have been both prime Minister and opposition leader since 3 decades- almost since independence in Bangladesh. Muslim Women became president, prime Minister in Indonesia, Pakistan 2 decades back while Australia got first Women prime Minsiter just 4 months back and Brazil got first women president 1 week back. U will find Muslim women in Army,Armed forces, pilot, taxi driver, software engineers, doctors, professors, business women in these countries. Of course u will find exception too where women are subjected to harassment just like u will find exception in other faith/relgion/place/country. U will see Muslim women judges in Shariah courts in Malaysia. There so many women in parliament in these countries.

    So, what u say is more suitable for Muslims in Arab countries(only 18% of world Muslim population) but not for all Muslims in general. Arabs need big change. Only blaming men will not change but women themselves need to change also.

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