Setting the “Price” Straight: Katb Kteb

As I attempt to write this post, I’m listening to my mother make a list and count and recount it a million times. My head is going to explode and I’m venturing into scary panic mode because there’s plenty of math involved.

Similar to the guest list for the wedding, she’s trying to figure out who to invite to our katb kteb next week and who gets the souvenir boxes that are handed out to family members, as tradition dictates.

When it comes to the katb kteb, I haven’t been immersed in the process as much as I have with the wedding. I feel like there’s so much that I don’t understand about it, so I only involved myself in how I will look on the day, choosing the main item that will go into the box, and actually going to the laboratory to get the blood test done.

These, to me, are the things that are within my control.

9278798cd7d521ea4782a45e17d602a6What isn’t in my control or scope of understanding are the concepts on “mutakadem” and “mutaakher,” or what may be known as a dowry for those not familiar with the Arabic terms.

Wikipedia helps here in explaining the two terms:

 With prior mutual agreement, the mahr may also be paid in parts to the bride with an amount given by the groom to the bride at the signing of the marriage contract, also called a mu’qadamm (in Arabic: ‎; مقدم, literally translated as forepart presented), and the later portion postponed to a date during the marriage, also called amu’akhaar (in Arabic: ‎ مؤخر, literally translated as delayed)

These are paid to the bride at the time of her marriage by the groom (and/or his family). There is no set limit to how much this amount should be as long as the amount is sufficient in the case of a divorce or the death of the spouse.

Culturally though, we’ve heard plenty of stories about the disputes that have risen about this subject. We were warned that the parents should discuss and come to a decision about what to ask for as early as when the proposal happened. It is that sensitive of a subject and many engagements have been known to come to an end because the two parties could not agree.

You really do not want that to happen… Especially not when you’re in the midst of planning your wedding and spending the rest of your lives together.

Marriage is a big deal in Lebanon and it’s not uncommon for families to think that their son or daughter are the most amazing thing ever and that the sun shines out of their you-know-where. You can then understand why we’ve heard of people asking thousands of dollars, property, or specific pieces of diamonds for the katb katb to go through.

I think they fail to understand that this isn’t an assessment of the family’s worth or their social standing but a part of religious protocol. Appearances should not really matter, but of course they do here. No woman should have to marry beneath her so that must be reflected in the marital contract.

Side note: I wonder if women who love to gossip gather around in cafes and compare their “mutakadem” and “mutaakhers,” ranking who got the best deal out of them all.

Going into this, I was really scared there would be disputes. After all, when you have heard all the stories we have heard, it becomes all you can think about.

But we also know our parents and the values they believe in, so it turned out, we truly had nothing to worry about. I think the conversation they had should go down in history as the fastest one to agree upon the mahr. 

A piece of advice to those getting married? Don’t let other people’s stories deter you or worry you too much. Definitely let the parents agree from the get-go so that there are no surprises down the line but don’t butt in and let them take care of this.


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