Yes. We had a religious marriage. A civil marriage, the option we really wanted, would have cost us 4000$ which we couldn’t afford at the time (5 years ago). Long story short, we went for the local, and cheap, religious option. That day, my then-fiance and I went to the confessional court that vets the affairs of the sect we were born into. We stood at the court’s door with so much dread and disdain in both of our hearts: we had taken a vow that we were not going to allow an employee in a religious costume to pretend to “bless” our marriage. But these were our circumstances and we had to compromise.
We stepped inside, curious to explore what we imagined to be a world of sanctity and piety – of hushed voices and mystic rose petals. Well, not to burst any bubbles, it was a very bureaucratic-looking room, bare but for the basic needs of chairs and tables and some shady carpets. We were given forms to fill out with our information, and unlike what I’d imagined, the paper work contained absolutely no reference to religion. They were just regular surveys of names and birth-dates and blood types. Where’s the mysticism and piety in that? Well, no where we looked.
The sheikh who filled up the forms was aloof and very business-like, which didn’t at all match the mood of the happy occasion he was presiding over; he made sure that all the “females” in the room had their heads covered in his holy presence. My husband was grateful he didn’t have to wear the head cover “2allouseh” because I would have dashed. Once the paper work was done, the sheikh hurriedly chanted a religious verse and dashed. Bam! That was it. Husband and I stared at each other skeptically: had we just had a “religious” marriage? We honestly couldn’t even tell.
Bottom line: there is nothing religious about religious marriages, just like there is nothing non-religious about civil marriages. They are both contracts that are filled up by the concerned parties and presided over by a uniformed employee.
Oh but wait, there is a single difference between a religious and a civil marriage and it is indeed profound: the fee for the procedure after all goes to the pockets of the confessional institutions that hold our reins. Oh, and you get a free performance thrown in at the end.