Happiest Couple in Iran Contest
Festival organizer Mohammad-Reza Taghvaie: "The aim of this festival is to encourage and promote marriage and family. We anticipate 100,000 Iranian married couples to attend this festival.
"Foreign guests have also been invited to this festival in order to see the warm Iranian culture on marriage-related customs and traditions. We have arranged for couples from all Iranian provinces to come to this celebration and introduce their unique customs and traditions as relates to marriage."
This contest seems a bit of a stretch for it to be more of an educational opportunity. Prizes include one billion rials (about $111,000), an apartment, Mercedes Benz automobiles, and more. That's a lot of money in Iran, where the median household income is about $600/month.
Eight couples will win from the following categories: happiest 'sacrificing' couple; happiest 'laborer' couple; happiest 'working' couple; happiest 'farmer' couple; happiest 'stunt' couple; happiest 'artist' couple; happiest 'retired' couple; and happiest 'oldest' couple.
I find the categories amusing, as well as the overall premise of the contest. But then I've heard lately from friends and family members who are in college that the divorce rate is extremely high in Iran. Even more unusual is that an increasing number of university students are marrying and divorcing each other before graduation! Apparently, this trend has significantly contributed to the near 50% divorce rate among married couples.
Maybe this festival is an attempt to reinforce the tenants of marriage, and instill greater responsibility among citizens. It doesn't make any sense that in this culture, where marriage, if pursued, comes after graduation, displays statistics like these. The customs associated with marriage are so complex here (especially with the exchange of dowries), and families so deeply involved on both sides, that divorce so quickly after marriage (and at such alarming rates) is a big deal.
I plan to talk to more people and find out why a) college-aged kids are jumping so fast into marriage, only to jump right out, and b) why kids, which tend to be the center of the Iranian household, are nonexistent in these haphazard unions.