Mohammed Al Mashrah and Rana Al Kamal spent more than two months preparing a grand celebration for their wedding, only to give it up because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The couple from Hadda, in Yemen’s Saana province, had booked the biggest wedding hall in the city and sent out hundreds of invitations to family and friends for the event on March 27.
"Everything was ready – everybody was waiting for the golden day to celebrate together. Our families, our relatives and our colleagues, even friends from outside Sanaa were coming," Mr Al Mashrah, 29, told The National.
But two days before the wedding, the couple called off the party, alarmed by reports of dozens of infections last week after a wedding party in Irbid, Jordan, which led to the entire city being quarantined.
“The news from Irbid was an alert for us,” Mr Al Mashrah said.
Cancelling was a painful decision, but the couple felt they had to set an example.
“Despite being a waste of money and effort, we decided to celebrate with just me and my bride – without even our families – to avoid spreading coronavirus and to raise awareness among the people in the country to be serious about avoiding gatherings,” he said.
Yemen has not yet reported any coronavirus infections, but the country’s healthcare system is already under strain after five years of a civil war that has destroyed much of its infrastructure and left millions dependent on foreign aid for food and medicines.
“It was a feeling of responsibility. Both Rana and I were highly concerned for the lives of our guests, we didn’t want to be a reason for others’ pain in case the virus spread or some of our guests got infected,” Mr Al Mashrah said.
His new wife agreed.
"Like any other bride I was looking forward to having a big wedding but the coronavirus outbreak was on my mind. I didn't want to see anybody feeling sad because of me," she told The National.
Unexpectedly, their low-key wedding ended up becoming the talk of Yemen after they decided to share the occasion with their relatives and friends by live streaming it on Facebook.
The couple's decision drew widespread praise on social media for raising awareness about the need to take precautions against coronavirus infection.
“The newlywed couple felt responsible for their people. They cancelled their wedding party at the last moment, conveying a message that the safety of the others was much more important than their own happiness,” said Ala Hanash, a journalist in Aden.
"I really appreciate their initiative, and hope all people feel as responsible as them," he told The National.
Along with the buzz generated on social media, both in Yemen and outside the country, came offers of gifts from a range of businesses, including travel agencies, money exchanges, medical centres and media agencies, all praising the couple for showing responsibility towards the community.
But Mr Al Mashrah said he found the offers, most of them posted on his Facebook page a day after his marriage, embarrassing.
“I decided to share a nice moment in my life with my friends because firstly, many of them had waited patiently for a long time for my wedding party and secondly, I wanted to send a message to the community to be serious regarding the coronavirus spread so that they stay away from any gatherings,” he said.
“In fact, neither I nor my bride expected such overreaction."