I am expected to spend a lot of money. I am expected to buy the finest clothes from Turkey, or Japan, and dress like a princess. My neighbor bought her clothes from India and Turkey. I have to show that I am just as rich, so I’ll have to wear three or four outfits on that perfect night.

I am taught that this is the most important day of my life and it should be extravagant. I should not be troubled by the prospect of spending 1 million Afghani or more because this day will not be repeated. The party should be in a hotel and should include many guests. If I invite hundreds of people, my value as a bride increases. The groom will be proud and he will love me a lot.

How much gold jewelry should I buy? Which brand? Where should it come from? Singapore, maybe? It should be over 300,000 grams!

My menu at the hotel should be the best: grade-A rice, kebabs, drinks, salad, sweets, soup—the whole works.

This is how girls in my country think about their wedding parties. They do not think about where all the money will come from.

When two people perform the Nikah ceremony and decide to start their life together, they commit to being together for the rest of their lives. They agree to be life partners. But the groom pays all the expenses of the engagement and wedding parties. So already, they are not partners.

Some men in Afghanistan cannot afford such an expensive wedding. So they are compelled to borrow. After the wedding, they must work all the time to pay off the debt. It is not easy for a man who is working all the time to come home and live peacefully in love with his new wife. The arguing begins and soon they will fight every day. This leads to violence. Their life will not be blessed. This is how women make their lives bad.

But some girls with bright minds are beginning to reject this tradition. They want to be their husbands’ life partners, but they don’t want to begin their marriages with an extravagantly expensive wedding.

One example is social activist Shaharzad Akbar. She earned her bachelor’s degree in America and now works in Afghanistan where she has her own organization. She became engaged some months ago to Timor Sharan. They have decided to have a simple wedding party at their home, not in a five-star hotel. They are not inviting 1,000 people and they are not going to spend 1 million Afghanis or wear clothes that cost 50,000 Afghanis. Instead, they want to use the money to give scholarships to help up to ten Afghan students to continue their education.

Shaharzad says a wedding day is important, but there are other days that are just as important. She is grateful to the people who sponsored her studies. Their hope was that she would then help others in her country.

This gives me hope that there are others who feel the same way. Day by day, ideas are changing and Afghan girls can make decisions for themselves. It gives me hope to know that not all girls are thinking about how to increase their value by spending a fortune on a wedding.

My fiancé and I are trying to persuade our families to agree to a small wedding so we can save money for our master’s degrees. It will not be easy. There are those who cannot accept the idea of a simple party. But we are trying, because to us, education is more important.

By Arifa H.

Photographer unknown.