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Sanaa – As guests arrived at the strikingly decorated wedding hall, the atmosphere was euphoric.
It was a happy day for 26-year-old Amer Almontasir as he embarked on a long-awaited new chapter in his life. In spite of the war that has ravaged Yemen and his hometown of Ibb, Almontasir was marrying his college sweetheart.
“I feel love is stronger than war, and I should not surrender to the consequences of war and destruction,” he told Al Jazeera. “I cannot change the situation. I can adapt to it.”
Yemen has been engulfed in a civil war since March 2015, when fighting erupted between Houthi rebels loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and an Arab coalition fighting for President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
According to the United Nations, more than 10,000 people have died in the two years of conflict. But although the ongoing tragedy has shattered the dreams of many Yemeni youths, for others, love has triumphed.
Newlywed Ahmed Mokaiber, 25, graduated from Sanaa University with a communications degree in late 2014, hoping to marry a few months later. But then the war broke out, delaying his dream.
“I was longing to begin my married life. Unfortunately, war came to delay the sweet days,” Mokaiber told Al Jazeera.
Earlier this year, however, he finally celebrated his marriage after overcoming a number of difficulties – including the fact that his wedding was scheduled in Taiz, one of Yemen’s hardest-hit cities. He managed to save up $3,000 to pay for the ceremony, working for a private company despite the ongoing fighting.
“My wedding was a beautiful day. It rid me of loneliness and stress. I am happy now, and our life is full of love, respect and understanding,” he said. “My happiness will grow when the war comes to an end.”
He worries, however, about the toll the war could still take on his wife’s future goals: “Like me, she has a plan to pursue higher studies, a Master’s degree and PhD. I do not know if we can do this because the war is a dream killer.”
Although he rejoiced in his own wedding ceremony, Almontasir felt that the special day was incomplete.
“Not all my friends and relatives were with me on my wedding day. Some died because of the war and others were abroad and were unable to come back. That’s why I had mixed feelings,” he said. “Recently, married couples like me are worried about the future. They do not know what lies in store for them.”
Samar Qaed, a Sanaa-based journalist who covers social issues, noted that some engaged couples had postponed their marriages while awaiting an end to the war. He also observed that the number of guests invited to wedding halls these days is smaller than in the past: “Some families don’t bother to book a hall for wedding ceremonies. They just celebrate in their homes. They struggle with financial restrictions, and they are also worried because halls can be shelled.”
Last October, air strikes hit a funeral hall in Sanaa, killing more than 140 people and wounding more than 500.
Qaed also cited other differences between today’s wedding traditions and those prior to the war.
“Before the war, the couple used to spend a lot of money on wedding halls and furnishing their apartments,” he said. “This is no longer done; war has made them less able to spend.”
As in other countries, weddings in Yemen can be quite costly, with the groom’s family expected to pay a bride price and all other ceremonial expenses. Almontasir said that he spent more than $5,000 on his wedding.
“It is fascinating that marriage rituals continue despite the deteriorating economic situation of families in the country. People are keen to smile in the face of poverty and war,” Yemeni sociologist Hanan Ali told Al Jazeera. “The bride price is a big burden. Some families struggle to pay even part of it. War has cost the people a lot, yet it has not stolen the spirit of joy from all of them.”