Marriage in Algeria: Focus on Religion (Part 1)

One of the most famous rituals in Algeria is the ceremony of marriage. An Algerian wedding not only celebrates the union of the couple and the families but also the richness of the Algerian traditions, rituals and culture. The ceremony of marriage in Algeria is the fusion of many rituals where the bride is the centre of attention. It is a dream full of mystery that accompanies little girls especially and their families.

Like in all Arab and Muslim countries, marriage in Algeria is seen above all as a religious event in Algeria. The Koran, the holy book of Muslims, states that marriage should be based on love and mercy. Muslims speak of marriage as “half the religion”, that is, one’s religion is complete once he or she gets married.

The first step of marriage in Algeria is the engagement. Getting engaged in Algeria, like in other parts of North Africa and Muslim countries, goes beyond an agreement between the couple. It is above all a matter of family and religion. A man can go to see the parents of the woman he would like to marry without ever talking to the latter. This is the traditional way. Nowadays, although more and more couples get to know each other before they inform their families and get engaged, the rituals of this first step stay irreversible. Before the couple can make their engagement public, the groom has to go with his family to ask the hand of the bride. Women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent. However, the parents’ opinion stays very important and has its influence.

During this first step of marriage, the two families agree on the date of marriage and the other details of the wedding. Two main ceremonies are usually organized after the engagement. The bride’s family organizes the first – the signing of the contract of marriage. On the other hand, the groom’s family organizes the wedding after which the couple leaves for their own home. During the engagement, the main themes of discussions are the dowry, the costs of the two events, the guests and so on and so forth.

The Koran is usually recited when the two families accept the union of their respective children. After the engagement, the next ceremony is the actual signing of the contract of marriage, called “lehlal” in Algeria. A religious man prepares the contract and it is necessary that twelve men play the role of witnesses that the marriage has been legal and has the consent of both parties.