My brother was 26 years old when he met his wife. He’d finished his bachelor’s degree and gotten a job working in our family’s province of Bamiyan and he had been working for one year to earn money for his family’s future. During that time, he met a beautiful girl who was 23.
My brother told me about her and asked my opinion. I learned she had been my classmate and was attending teacher training. I was very happy that my brother wanted to marry her because she is a very nice and intelligent girl.
Soon my brother spoke with my father and mother about his love. My parents decided they would meet the girl’s family and make a wedding proposal. The girl’s family accepted. This was a big development for my brother and his wife, because in most rural families,marriage is arranged and the bride and groom have no choice. My brother is lucky because he and his wife really love each other.
They became engaged and the wedding was set for three months later, on the third day of the spring holiday Nowruz.
All of our relatives gathered the night before the wedding for the pre-wedding ceremony called Shabi Henna, when we put henna on the hands of the groom and bride. The women and girls celebrated in separate rooms from the men and boys. Both groups were very happy; we played loud music and danced. We all laughed until midnight.
Early the next morning, we went to the bride’s house and made preparations to bring her to the groom’s house. The bride’s dress looked beautiful—it was long and white, designed in the shape of a flower. In that dress, the bride looked as though she’d become a fairy. All of the women wore special dresses of bright colors; some wore short dresses and others wore long, formal gowns. Everyone chose her own dress according to her own style. I think this has a positive effect on the brain. If Afghan women are free to make their own choices, we feel more comfortable and relaxed. When our minds are more relaxed, we are happier.
Later that day, we ate lunch and then the dancing started until the groom arrived with his close friends and our father. The father of the bride gave his daughter’s hand to my brother and prayed for them to have a lovely life and be happy forever with each other.
We all returned to our house with the bride and her relatives, our faces filled with laughter. After a special wedding dinner of meat and rice with all of our relatives, we danced throughout the night. Everyone asked for the groom and bride to dance together and they did. It was a beautiful time.
It is now three years later and my brother’s wedding continues to make me and others very happy, because they are very happy and this is a good omen for others. They now have two children: a lovely girl and a handsome boy and my sister in law teaches at the local high school.
In rural areas of Afghanistan, many families don’t allow their sons and daughters to choose their own spouses. Fathers and mothers only meet with other potential in-laws to determine the day of the wedding ceremony. Afghan parents think this is the best thing for their children, but unfortunately it is not. Many boys and girls marry without really knowing one another and some do not meet until the day of the wedding. There is a strong likelihood that the couple will not like one another, or their new families. This leads to fighting, abuse, divorce, and even suicide.
I am grateful for my family’s attitude because they will allow my sisters and me the freedom to choose our own husbands. My mother and father did not have an arranged marriage and they tell us that if we are happy with the choice of our husbands, then they are also happy. If we aren’t happy, they aren’t satisfied either. We are a happier family because of this.
Photo by Nasir Najwa
1 in 4 Best Men are also a brother of the groom. If you're one of them, congratulations on being chosen to support your sibling. Your special place in their life and affections can help to male your wedding day speech even more impactful and engaging. Here's how...
The brother's advantage.
- The scope of your speech is so much greater than a friend, however close, could hope for. Having grown up with the groom, you'll have a lifetime of funny moments and shared experiences to draw on. Dig back into your childhood as your audience will love hearing tales of you as boys. You'll find you can push the envelope with childhood tales, too. That story about breaking the groom's nose with a snow shovel? Hilarious if you were 4; horrific if you were 24.
- Brotherhood is a license to poke fun. People expect a little light-hearted teasing from a brother, so don't disappoint them. Wisecracks and humourous recollections about your brother's childhood, schooling or personality will be taken in good spirit by an audience that understands a brother's underlying bond of love and loyalty. A word of warning, though; you will know best how far to push things in your own family dynamic. Don't go too far if you think it might put the cat among the pigeons.
- While researching and writing your speech, your family connections mean siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins can all be drafted in to dig up the best annecdotes for your speech. Reach out to them before the wedding. They'll all feel proud and happy to have leant a hand. All that family in the room means you'll have plenty of friendly faces in the crowd when it comes to delivering your speech, too. Most, if not all, of your family will be in the room, and they'll all be rooting for you.
- With the jokes and stories out of the way, talking on the subject of family will give you the perfect opportunity to welcome your new sister-in-law and her parents to your immediate family and the wider clan.
Of course, as the groom's brother, you'll be well known to many people in the room, but not to everyone. Be sure to introduce yourself properly and establish the relationship between you and the groom at the outset of your speech.
Pulling his leg
Your brother knows what he's letting himself in for. He's expecting to be the butt of your jokes, so don't waste this golden opportunity to have fun at his expense.
Delve into your shared history to find something funny to say about him or your exploits together - remembering, of course, to keep the focus firmly on him. You've got a lifetime of material to draw on. Run through the list below and something is bound to come to mind:
- Birth - including notable world events from the day.
- Infancy - first teeth, words, even illnesses and accidents if the tone is light.
- Christening or First Communion.
- Baby-sitters and pre-school memories.
- Starting school.
- Birthdays, Christmases and family celebrations.
- Sibling relations and visiting wider family.
- Vacations and trips.
- Family pets.
- Cub Scouts, clubs, bike rides, hobbies, sports and interests.
- Music, books, films and favourite celebrities.
- Haircuts and fashions.
- The transition to teenage, first girlfriends and awkward memories.
- Highschool, favourite (and least favourite) subjects, homework and exams.
- Part-time jobs, volunteering and gap years.
- Learning to drive and passing (or failing) driving tests.
- College or university.
- Starting a career, first jobs, work triumphs and funny mistakes.
The list could go on and on, but do note, there's nothing to be gained from talking about ex-girlfriends, except an angry bride, and an unconfortable audience.
Feel free to weave the occasional joke - as opposed to a true story - into your speech, when you're talking the early years. Your audience will understand that you're only playing.
Everybody expects a little competition between brothers. Don't be afraid to big yourself up at his expense. Do it well and you won't come across as arrogant. Try to be a little self-effacing even as you roast the groom...
Meet the parents
Of course, the single biggest thing you have in common with your brother is your parents. Anecdotes about Mum and Dad wil always go down well, provided there's no underlying bitterness there. Keep them short and upbeat, and don't be afraid to ditch the jokes altogether, for a little family love.
You have a sister now
Make a point of praising your brother's bride. If you can combine the compliment with humour, all the better, but never have fun at her expense. It's better to gently poke fun at him by pointing out how lucky he is, or how his bride has improved him.
You've had your fun, now be nice
This isn't a straightforward roast, so while you're busy pulling your brother's leg, make sure to leave room to say something genuinely affectionate about him, if only for your mother's sake. You are brothers. That's a very special bond, and now is your opportunity to celebrate it.
Try to leave your audience on an optimistic note, with a warm thought or two about what the future might hold. As with most subjects, your best man role gives you the license to add a little cheeky twist...
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