Manama: The high cost of ceremonies and dowries has been cited among six major reasons for delayed marriages in Saudi Arabia.

A study said that the choice of a spouse based on the family criteria and not on personal standards, low tolerance about the social status of the potential spouse’s family and the impact of failed marriages of other couples were also among the major reasons around two million Saudi men and women did not get married.

The uncompromising insistence on specific conditions and the misleading information about the concept of marriages were the other reasons for late or no marriages at all, the study by the Scientific Endowment at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) said, local daily Al Sharq reported.

“There are at least 45 major misconceptions about the notion of marriages in Saudi Arabia,” Isam Kawthar, the Scientific Endowment executive director, said. “The study concluded that six topped the list of delayed marriages. Other reasons cited by some of the participants were the focus on a professional career, the weakness of social relations, the concern about some physical and psychological issues, the fear from commitment to new responsibilities and concern about domestic violence,” he said.

According to figures released by the planning ministry, around 1.4 million Saudi women and 600,000 men were late in getting married. The marrying age in such studies is usually set at 30.

Several Saudis reacted to the report by insisting that the lack of financial resources was the major reason for the late marriages, followed the non-readiness of several women for a married life.

“Many Saudi men now prefer to take a foreign wife because of the high costs for marriages,” Hima said. “It is much less complicated and less costly.”

For Salem, several women are not ready for a change in their lives.

“A girl who lives with her family is truly pampered. She has her own room and a domestic helper, and most importantly, she has no real responsibility.  This lack of self-reliance becomes a problem when she moves in with a husband and she has to assume the responsibility of the household,” he said.

With the phenomenon of unmarried women in the country seemingly inexorably growing, Saudis have been calling for radical solutions to help address it.

The latest alarm was sounded in January by Mohammad Al Abdul Qadir, the head of Wiam Family Care Society, who said that around 1.5 million Saudi women above 30 were not married.

The figure represents 33.4 per cent of the number of women in the kingdom, he said.

“We need to work on a new vision for Saudi families for the next ten years,” he said. “We need solutions that are based on the consolidation of the values of family solidarity and cohesion in order to confront several phenomena, particularly spinsterhood,” he added.

Some Saudi female activists put the figure of unmarried women in the kingdom at around two million.

“This is a huge and scary figure that indicates an ominous social catastrophe could happen if no radical solutions are found for this phenomenon,” the activists said.

However, several Saudi women have refused to categorise spinsterhood as a dangerous phenomenon, explaining that many women preferred to remain unmarried by choice.

“There are those who have refused to get married for one reason or the other and there are those who have opted to succeed in their lives over getting into marriage,” they said.

According to a report in a local daily, many of the men who did not get married said that they did not have a steady source of income to allow them to start a family.

Social experts said the issue and causes of spinsterhood differed from one country to the other.

“In Saudi Arabia, the main problem is that some families ask for high dowries,” they said. “There is also the problem of the onerous costs of the marriage ceremonies. Such problems often push young men to seek foreign wives,” they said.

Even though Saudi and other Gulf men overwhelmingly prefer to marry their countrywomen, thousands of them take foreign wives.

The inability to pay large sums of money for dowry, exorbitant marriage ceremonies and high living costs have often been cited as the major reasons for Gulf men to marry non-Gulf women.

The phenomenon has pushed the Gulf countries to look for ways to address it.

One option was to encourage the concept of mass marriages in a bid to help needy grooms and brides with the high costs of ceremonies.

In 2010, Kuwait set up a committee to limit marriages between Kuwaiti men and foreign women in a bid to encourage local marriages.