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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
Syria holds mass wedding
Newly married Christian and Muslim couples wave to relatives
Marriage ceremonies are very expensive in Syria
Fifty Syrian couples have married at a mass wedding held in a lavish hotel in Damascus and paid for by the Syrian Government.

Couple participates in wedding ceremony
The government said the event symbolised national unity
The group wedding, for both Christian and Muslim couples, is part of a government drive to encourage young people to marry despite the high cost of living in the country.

After the ceremony, the couples were treated to a free three-day stay at two five-star hotels in Damascus, the Associated Press reported.

"This wedding...embodies our national unity," said Syrian Minister of Labour Ghada al-Jabi.

Costly event

It is the second such wedding to occur in Damascus and the fourth in total in Syria.

It was organised by the Association of the Charitable Musical Institute in conjunction with the Syrian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

The ceremony - presided over by a Muslim cleric and a Greek Catholic archbishop - cost the Syrian Government about $280,000.

The government's decision to hold more mass weddings came as recent statistics showed that more than 50% of young Syrians could not afford to get married.

Weddings in the country can prove to be a costly event, with some wealthy families spending up to $20,000 on the ceremony in a country where the average wage is less than $120 a month.

"It's a very nice idea," one young bride said.

"My fiance, a young man of 26 years, couldn't have made me such a party."

See also:

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