Postcard: Tehran

Despite a culture that thrives on lavish weddings, men and women are officially barred from celebrating together. How some Iranians skirt the law in order to tie the knot

Newsha Tavakolian / Polaris for TIME

A Tehran bridal shop employee checks the fit of a traditional hijab on a model which showcases a wedding dress. Southern Tehran hosts a wide variety of shops specializing in wedding-related items.

When I found out that my husband and I had been invited to a gender-segregated wedding reception in Tehran, it was too late to concoct an excuse. So for the first time in my life, I put on a chiffon gown to go hang out with 400 other women. I waved goodbye to my husband as he headed for the men's ballroom, and we agreed that if the evening grew intolerable, we would send text messages to plan our escape.

Inside, the atmosphere was more like an expensive tea party than a wedding. For an hour, the female guests just stared...

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