Life, Middle East

Getting Married in Jordan, Part II

Well, after a marathon of bureaucracy resulting in the best marriage contract-signing photo ever, we got married on February 17, 2016.

Our day started with picking up our witnesses, two of Layth’s friends, and all meeting at Sharia court in Wadi al-Seer, which is in an extremely nondescript building that I only managed to find again because I recognized a guy selling bananas one street over.

The day before, Layth’s mom went to court with all our papers and asked if we needed anything else. No we didn’t. Of course we did. When we got to court, we had to go to the copy shop and get a form saying we were applying to get married, make photo copies of everything we had so far, copies of Layth’s national ID, go back up to court, get a couple more forms, get them stamped by a few different people, and then we were told to go to the Interior Ministry in Shmeisani.

I wanted to keep a detailed record of everything that transpired that day, but even if all of this had happened in my native language or country, I don’t know that I could have kept track. The Interior Ministry sent us on a goose chase for a couple more papers and stamps, and generally couldn’t be bothered to tell us which office or which floor to look for the right person. Then we went back to the first window downstairs to get our last stamp on everything (we thought) and were told to wait for two hours. At that point, neither of us thought it would get done that day. Layth went up to the window and hassled them every ten minutes and we managed to get out of there in about 45 minutes.

We went to get our witnesses again (since it was taking so long they both went back to work for a bit) and on the way back to court Ahmed started playing “Requiem for a Dream” followed by Adele and shouting over the music that it was my last chance to run away and not marry his idiot friend.

Back at court, there were more stamps to get, so we were running between the different offices, all about 5 meters from each other, trying to get stamped before another person went out for lunch or went home for the day. Karam was sent down for more photocopies. More forms were printed out, signed by all of us, and stamped by various people. By the end of the day, our paperwork had at least tripled, and my last name had changed spellings in Arabic at least three times.

Then we were finally permitted to go see the sheikh in his office across the hall. He asked how much (in money or gold) Layth would pay me before the marriage, and how much he would pay me if we got divorced. And then there were any other conditions I wanted to put on the marriage. In some ways it seemed more like signing a business contract, but I think there’s a benefit to having it all out in the open, and the financial arrangements come from the days before most women could earn their own living – the money is there so that she can start her life over if the marriage ends.

The whole day felt like a surreal movie and by the end of it we were all exhausted. I think the sheikh thought we were a bunch of kids messing around getting married. Ahmed was sitting there flicking at the laminate on his ID card, not noticing the sheikh glaring at him. I kept mispronouncing things in Arabic when reciting the equivalent of a marriage vow, and Layth was trying not to laugh at me. Any time we looked at each other we would start laughing. But it was finally done.

By this time I was also already 30 minutes late for my work shift, and for some stupid reason, rather than going out to celebrate with the guys, I rushed off back to work.

Despite weeks of preparing – logistically – for this, and years of slowly rearranging our lives to be together, I feel like we never really planned for this day. I knew it would happen when it would happen, and the fact that everything came together three days before my birthday, about a week before my visa ran out (not such a big issue in Jordan, but still another hurdle I would have to deal with), and going through all of this with a couple friends and family just made it all the more special. I think things happen when they do for a reason. If it’s written, it’ll happen. And when it did, it felt right. Not a big change in how we saw each other, or how our daily lives would work, just a sense of knowing you’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right person – and for all of those things to line up feels kind of cosmic.

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