Although similar in many aspects, the institution of marriage varies across the many cultures of the Middle East. Several factors contribute to the diversity in the area, ranging from one's immediate family, or tribe in some regions, to the country one might have been raised in. Religiously speaking, marriage is a fundamental aspect of Islam, the dominant religion in the region. "(Marriage) is a social necessity because through marriage, families are established and the family is the fundamental unit of our society. Furthermore, marriage is the only legitimate or halal way to indulge in intimacy between a woman and a man," this according to (http://www.jannah.org/sisters/marr.html).
A vital component of Islamic law, which is often misunderstood, is consent of parties, the man's and the woman's families. Other traditions include "mahr," a gift from the groom to his bride which can be money or gold in the most cases, witnesses, and publicity of the ceremony. According to cross-cultural tradition in the Middle East, marriage should never be kept secret as it leads to suspicion and troubles within the community.
Personally, I grew up in one of the more liberal societies in the region, that of Lebanon, with my parents. Often, when people think of marriage in Islamic cultures, they tend to generalize their ideas around the concept of the arranged marriage. After reading the article from Everyday Life in the Muslims Middle East, I had to compare my country's marriage style to Arabia's marriage style or traditions. My parents met when my dad's family moved from Palestine to Lebanon in the 1948. Both of my grandfathers were best friends, but my mom and dad started seeing each other in the 1973 where my mom was 13 and my dad was 18. They knew each other for three years, which gave them time to get to know each other well, and both families knew each other as well. On the other hand in Arabia, at the same time, and still in some countries, it was very important for the family to choose the wife for their son.