Tajik Government Cracks Down on Wedding Size

Tajik girls dance to the music as a government monitor watches. i i

Tajik girls dance to the music of a clarinet and drum in front of the newlyweds, while a government wedding monitor (in the leather coat and lavender shawl) makes sure the party doesn't get too big. Ivan Watson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ivan Watson, NPR
Tajik girls dance to the music as a government monitor watches.

Tajik girls dance to the music of a clarinet and drum in front of the newlyweds, while a government wedding monitor (in the leather coat and lavender shawl) makes sure the party doesn't get too big.

Ivan Watson, NPR
The cook prepares "plov" for the wedding. i i

Wedding guests wait to be served plov, a traditional Central Asian dish. Under new Tajik rules, hosts who serve more than one pot of plov can be fined. Ivan Watson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ivan Watson, NPR
The cook prepares "plov" for the wedding.

Wedding guests wait to be served plov, a traditional Central Asian dish. Under new Tajik rules, hosts who serve more than one pot of plov can be fined.

Ivan Watson, NPR
Food sits on a table in the room into which the newlyweds will move. i i

Food sits on a table in the room into which the newlyweds will move. Wedding gifts, consisting of cushions and mattresses, are stacked against the back wall. Ivan Watson, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Ivan Watson, NPR
Food sits on a table in the room into which the newlyweds will move.

Food sits on a table in the room into which the newlyweds will move. Wedding gifts, consisting of cushions and mattresses, are stacked against the back wall.

Ivan Watson, NPR

In the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan, weddings are traditionally long, loud and expensive. But recently the wedding parties have gotten a lot smaller.

The Tajik government has imposed a law limiting the number of guests and food prepared at weddings in an effort to stop poor Tajiks from bankrupting themselves throwing big parties.

At a village wedding in Chertak, the bride and groom haven't arrived yet, but the cooks are hard at work carving roast lamb for the guests and stirring an enormous cauldron full of plov over a fire.

Plov is a hearty Central Asian dish that is traditionally served at Tajik celebrations. A cook named Ruslan, dressed in a heavy purple Kaftan, describes the ingredients: 60 pounds of rice, 20 pounds of meat, 10 pounds of vegetable oil and 90 pounds of carrots.

In between forcing vodka shots on a foreign visitor, Ruslan fires a verbal shot at the Tajik government and its new law downsizing weddings.

Ruslan explains that he used to prepare two or three pots of plov for weddings, but that now he can make only one. The new law forces people to spend less, he says, so now people eat less.

In recent years, Tajikistan's president, Imomali Rahmon, has issued a number of decrees that regulate the daily life of his citizens, including bans on gold teeth, the use of cell phones in universities and big birthday parties.

He has also restricted people from holding extravagant weddings in an effort to stop Tajiks, 60 percent of whom live below the poverty line, from bankrupting themselves.

According to the new rules, weddings can't have more then 150 guests and can't last more than three hours. And, of course, the cooks are now allowed to make only one pot of plov.

But here in Chertak, the groom's brother, Ilyas Kholov, says he likes the new law. The two brothers saved up for today's party by working on construction crews in Russia.

Kholov says he doesn't want to go into debt throwing a big wedding — that he would rather save money and spend it on a house.

The bride and groom finally arrive in a white car decorated with plastic flowers. The music starts as the 18-year-old bride, Sangina Mohruz, emerges dressed in an all-concealing veil that's decorated with embroidered flowers and gold trim.

Guests dance with their hands in the air, and a drummer and clarinetist lead the way, as the couple slowly walks to their new home.

Maulida Mustafobekova watches and nods in approval. She's part of a government commission that monitors weddings and fines the hosts as much as $300 if they break the rules.

Mustafobekova says she has to keep an eye on how many guests attend and how much plov is prepared. Before, she says, it was considered shameful not to invite the entire village and the weddings used to go on for days.

But this wedding is over within a matter of minutes.

Before leaving, an uncle wishes the newlyweds a beautiful life together — and many, many children.

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