The Saudi Arabian bride shopping experience
Eulanda A. Sanders
In Saudi Arabia, a wedding is a significant occasion requiring extensive preparation. However, researchers have not yet explored how bride-to-be consumption patterns might be shaped in a tradition-oriented culture like Saudi Arabia. Prior literature illustrates that planning a wedding in Western societies is a personal, deeply emotional experience in which tradition and cultural values are strongly emphasized (Carter & Duncan, 2017; Nelson & Deshpande, 2004; McEnally, 2002; Thomas & Peters, 2011). The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of Saudi brides-to-be as they prepared for the wedding process – including the multiple social events planned around their weddings as well as their new lives after the wedding.
Qualitative data were collected via one to three semi-structured interviews with 14 Saudi brides-to-be who were engaged to be married. Both narrative inquiry and grounded theory were used for the analysis stage. The narrative inquiry focused on individual perspectives and how themes were integrated within a personal experience. Summary across all the participants’ stories presented a larger picture of the content of the stories and the use of the new purchases during the transition process. The grounded theory approach involved discovery of emergent themes within the data. For grounded theory, data were analyzed using constant comparison processes and revealed three major overarching themes: (1) Readiness for the new life after marriage, (2) New purchase reflection of the bride-to-be’s struggle between individuality and culturally conforming bride, and (3) Others’ influence on bride-to-be’s purchase decisions. Several social psychological theories and concepts fit the data well and facilitated understanding of the phenomenon studied. Two conceptual models were developed to (1) illustrate how theories fit with grounded themes and (2) map the process of the Saudi bride-to-be shopping experience as they prepare for the wedding and their lives after the wedding and shape new identities during the transition process.
Findings revealed that the Saudi bride-to-be’s shopping experience to prepare for multiple marriage celebrations and life after marriage is a complex and demanding process. During their transition into marriage, they engaged in an identity construction process that involved making changes in their appearance to feel and reflect the symbolic differences between single and married life. In managing this evolving identity, participants were largely focused on the cultural and ideal bridal appearance within Saudi culture. When making decisions on what to wear and how to present herself in marriage celebrations and life after marriage, a bride-to-be navigated and negotiated among many factors. These factors included social forces and marriage traditions, reflected appraisal from significant others, her individuality, and her new identity construction. The consumption of many new products facilitates transition into marriage but also may lead to conflicts with self and others about symbolic meanings of products and celebration practices.