Traditional Libyan wedding outfit
A few months ago, I was approached to photograph two very interesting weddings. Both were Middle Eastern weddings and required an all-female photography and videography team here in Kuala Lumpur. Since I love a challenge (despite not speaking Arabic) and have always been fascinated with Middle Eastern culture (I’ve read lots of biographies especially of women living in this region), I decided it would be wonderful if I could photograph these weddings! Somehow, I gained favour in the eyes of the couples, and my team was engaged to cover their events.
The first couple was from Yemen. They were originally meant to be wed in their home country, but because of the civil war that is still ongoing, they had to move their wedding to Malaysia. Up to one week before the wedding, they weren’t sure if their family could come for the wedding as the Yemen airport was closed due to unrest. Thankfully, the couple had already left Yemen by then, and were sure that at least they would be there to attend their own wedding! This couple have known each other for a few months before getting married.
The second couple was from Libya. I really had a tough time communicating in English for this wedding but thankfully, even though I couldn’t understand their verbal language, I understood universal body language! I found out that this couple have only known each other for 2 months and that the groom worked with the bride’s father.
One common theme during the two weddings were the separation of gender during the parties. I knew that it would happen, but I never understood how it would unfold on the wedding day. Interestingly, both cultures had different standings on how strict they were on allowing men to view them unveiled. I am not sure if it was specific to these families, or it was a cultural thing. The Yemeni family I photographed was particularly strict about this, so there were two grand entrances (one with the bride only to a roomful of unveiled women), and then the bride and groom to the same room of women who covered themselves again before the groom entered the room. There was a lot of cheering, clapping and singing as the couple made their entrance. Many of the women who were at the Yemeni party specifically told us not to photograph or film them, so it felt a little strange for me to mainly focus on the couple during the wedding. Naturally, I had to respect their wishes but it was not possible to completely ignore all guests! (one lady specifically made me delete her photo from my camera when she saw that I had photographed her). I found it challenging knowing who I could photograph and who I couldn’t.
However, at the Libyan wedding, the guests kept on asking for photos (repeatedly and in many different poses)! It was quite entertaining, really!
Traditional Yemeni wedding dress and a beautiful white wedding gown.
During dinner, I managed to take a short break and chatted with one of the family members who was at the Yemeni wedding. I asked her (she was in her early 20s) about how they meet people of the opposite gender since there weren’t any social interactions where they could meet men. She said that at parties like these, the older women would look out for potential partners for their sons. So the parties are also matchmaking sessions where future mother-in-laws would suss out future daughter-in-laws.
Under their black garments, were lots of pretty glittery dresses, lovely long locks of hair and faces glowing with make up. They were just so joyful and full of life. We too enjoyed ourselves, dancing to their music and savouring the delicious Middle Eastern cuisine. I felt as if I was given a glimpse into a different life. This is just one of the many reasons why I love photographing weddings. It makes my life colourful.
Photographer & Videographers: Grace, Chi Yin & Felicia