In some parts of the world, it is not uncommon to see hundreds of couples wed in a single ceremony. While many of the most popular examples of mass wedding services have come from South Korea's Unification Church, the tradition is spreading, especially in regions where the cost of a wedding is out of reach for large swathes of the population. On Oct. 31, Yemen held what is thought to be the largest mass wedding ever assembled with 4,000 brides and grooms in attendance. The charitable event, with its estimated price tag of $2.5 million, was sponsored by the Orphans Development Fund and intended for those who, in Yemen's current economic climate, would have been unable to pay for a wedding on their own.
Mass weddings have gained appeal in countries rife with poverty and unemployment, especially in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East where people cannot afford the high cost of marriage ceremonies and dowries. But there are other reasons behind these mass weddings: In Nigeria, a local bureau that implements Islamic law has spearheaded a mass-wedding campaign to coax unemployed young men away from radicalism, especially the brand espoused by local terror group Boko Haram. In India, an aid group organized a mass wedding in 2012 to help women from eight poor villages avoid prostitution, and parts of Uttar Pradesh ravaged by riots are now reportedly "awash" with mass weddings.
Whether or not mass-wedding campaigns effectively combat social strife remains to be seen, but this trend may reflect something else -- a kind of universal romantic sensibility where the belief that a union between two people can assuage a range of injustices. What follows are some beautiful images of these ceremonies. So get ready -- here come all the brides.
Above, Kyrgyz couples take part in a mass wedding ceremony in the capital Bishkek on Nov. 13, 2012. Thirty-five couples married in the mass wedding sponsored by a state company.