TEHRAN — To get to the Emarat wedding hall, you have to drive outside Tehran and into the countryside, down a series of rural roads until you reach an entrance marked only by a number. There, a security guard checks your name off a list and directs you to a parking lot screened from the road that seems to have enough space for hundreds of cars.
Leaving the car, you walk through a series of arched walkways, covered in vines, leading to a lush garden that ends at a large wooden door. It is the entrance, at last, to the main hall that, on this day, is crowded with tables decorated with flowers and basking in the light of dozens of chandeliers.
The party, celebrating the wedding of Amir Hashemi and his bride, Melina Hashemi, is already well underway. Men in tuxedos and women in revealing dresses with costume jewelry in their immaculately coifed hair have hit the dance floor for a favorite tune, the pop classic “The Pretty Ones Have to Dance,” by the exiled Iranian singer Andy. Couples at the tables enjoy small talk as some sip from small plastic water bottles.
In short, besides the remote location, nothing out of the ordinary for an upscale Western wedding reception. But in this case, the celebrants are violating no fewer than six of the fundamental laws governing personal behavior in the Islamic Republic: mixing of the sexes; women baring flesh and failing to wear head scarves; dancing; playing pop music; and, last but not least, consuming alcohol (in the vodka-laced drinks in the water bottles).