The ‘Civil Love’ Boat: Bringing Unconditional Civil Marriage the Closest It’s Ever Been to Lebanon

12 miles (22 km) off the coast of Lebanon, a remarkable civil wedding took place in international waters, meaning that the wedding did not need to abide by Lebanese marriage law. This world-first is a symbolic move to suggest it is high time that we brought civil marriage to the Lebanese shores, so that everyone can rejoice in #CivilLove.

The civil marriage between Tarek Mallak (31) and Anastacia El Hajj (29) was part of a local campaign, ‘Civil Love’, by Absolut Lebanon. Because Lebanon has a long history of sectarian divisions and civil war, ‘Civil Love’ was a campaign that suggests the best way to heal division in Lebanon is for the youth of different faiths & backgrounds to fall in love with one another. The truth is, no matter where they are from, what their faith is, or political view, nothing really matters when a Lebanese couple falls in love. Additionally, currently civil marriage is almost impossible in Lebanon. So, the campaign brought civil marriage as close as possible to Lebanon to celebrate social union. Absolut is a brand that believes in the right for people to fall in love with whomever they choose and that we are all global citizens, no matter what our backgrounds are.

In 2013, a legal loophole allowed a few couples to marry civilly, but in order to do this, the couples had to erase all traces of their religion from their National Identities which led to a loss of civic rights. This act not only meant that the couples were criticized but it also cost them their right to vote, work in a public office, and meant that their child would be born with the same civic issues. This doesn’t seem suitable for a celebration of love and commitment and since 2013 there have been no civil marriages in Lebanon.

Civil marriages have increased amongst the Lebanese people; however, couples are still tasked with having to travel an unromantic minimum of 264km (to Cyprus) to get a civil marriage. As part of the ‘Civil Love’ campaign, Absolut has reduced 264km into 22km. Absolut has done this by holding a civil wedding in international waters, off the coast of Lebanon, to bring unconditional civil marriage the closest it has ever been to Lebanon.

Though as much as this one-of-a-kind ceremony means to this couple, it is not a solution for all the other couples aiming for a civil marriage. This celebration is a milestone in an on-going journey to make #CivilLove a reality for everyone in Lebanon.

“We don’t see civil marriage as just a problem for those who wish to get married. It is creating and supporting a bigger idea of separation. It is trickling down through generations to discourage young couples from different religious backgrounds from even dating each other.” stated Roy Diab, Marketing Manager at FAWAZ Holding sal.

This story begins with Tarek Mallak and Anastacia El Hajj, who met a few years ago in Lebanon and fell instantly in love. They are of different faiths and so their original plan was to get a civil marriage in a US court, without a wedding ceremony. They claim that even if they were of the same faith, they would choose a civil marriage due to legal and social advantages. Both their families are very accepting of their marriage despite the fact that they are born into different backgrounds. They believe that civil marriage should be a way to unite people from different faiths rather than further dividing them (as would happen in traditional, institutionalized Lebanese weddings).

Importantly for the couple, their wedding happened as close as possible to the Lebanese coast, to show their love and appreciation for their homeland. Together with Absolut, Tarek and Anastacia wanted to celebrate their love in the country they were raised in and that shaped their relationship. They did not want to be forced to travel to a foreign country to celebrate their love. We believe this creates further unity in Lebanon—all Lebanese people should feel that they belong to their country.

‘Civil Love’ is a campaign that represents Absolut’s vision for a better, more open world. A world that celebrates human unity, diversity, champions openness, and promotes selfexpression. ‘Civil Love’ suggests that the best way to heal division in Lebanon is for the youth of different backgrounds to fall in love with each other. ‘Civil Love’ is the hope for a unified tomorrow in Lebanon.

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