Large dowries, numerous gifts, lavish parties: a union in a large room in Kabul costs on average between 10,000 and 20,000 dollars, a colossal sum in one of the poorest countries in the world.
For several years, many couples have chosen to unite without spending such sums during collective ceremonies.
This movement has grown since the Taliban came to power last August. The freezing of billions of assets held abroad and the abrupt halt in international aid that followed have led the country into a serious financial and humanitarian crisis.
“I have no job. We lacked money,” Esmatullah Bashardost, 22, a member of the Shiite Hazara community, told AFP, one of the bride and groom at this ceremony, one of the largest of the kind observed recently in the country.
“Today, no young man wants to carry the burden of an expensive marriage (…) It is difficult to manage these expenses”, abounds Ebadullah Niazai, who waited eight years to get married.
The organizers did not wish to reveal the cost of the ceremony. Several charities provided the couples with essential household items.
All the bride and groom were dressed in a white shalwar kameez – the traditional Afghan tunic -, under a blue sleeveless vest, the head covered with a small white flat hat split above the forehead.
The brides all wore a long white dress under a large shiny green shawl, which entirely covered the head and part of the body.
The future husbands and wives remained separated throughout the ceremony, as did the hundreds of male and female guests, kept at bay by a dozen armed Taliban fighters.
Invited to cover the ceremony, journalists were allowed to photograph and film the brides-to-be, but not speak to them.
Since their return to power, the Taliban have largely excluded women from public employment, restricted their right to travel, and barred girls from middle and high school.
In early May, the supreme leader of the Taliban also issued an edict that women must cover themselves fully in public, including the face, ideally with the burqa, a full veil with a fabric grid at eye level.
Before the arrival of the Taliban, weddings were often the occasion for festive and colorful ceremonies, with dances, traditional songs and music, and a certain degree of mixing between men and women in this deeply conservative nation.
Since the return of the Islamic fundamentalists, large weddings are still authorized, but music is prohibited.
During their first regime, between 1996 and 2001, the Taliban banned ostentatious marriages.
On Monday, guests were treated only to poetry recitations and speeches from the charities hosting the ceremony.
A red and white wedding cake was prepared for each couple, and placed in front of the male bride and groom.
Despite this austerity, Esmatullah Bashardost said her wedding would likely be the “happiest day” of her life.
At the end of the ceremony, the newlyweds, who each wore a plastic badge with their name, left the scene with their wives in cars decorated with flowers and ribbons.