Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Muslim Wedding Custom

We thought it would be a good idea to create a section on world wedding customs. The wedding union between a husband and wife is a universal event, but we all celebrate the union in different and colorful ways. That is what makes the world an interesting place. The first in our series is the Muslim wedding. Muslims are not a monolithic group. Although the Islamic aspect of the wedding ritual is similar, the cultural aspect differs in Muslim weddings. There is diversity between the different kinds of Arab Muslims from Gulf Arabs to the North African Arabs, and diversity between the various ethnities of Indian Muslims too, not to mention the Indonesians and the Malays,and the Central Asians!

For the first part of our series in the Muslim wedding custom, we have focused on the Indian Muslim wedding. The Islamic marriage ritual is simple. The marriage itself is called the Nikah in Arabic, which involves the signing of the marriage contract between the husband and wife. This is followed by colorful and multi-day festivities to celebrate the union.

The steps to the Nikah is as follows:

At the wedding, which can take place pretty much anywhere, the bride and groom are separated in different rooms. They may or may not be able to see each other, depending on how conservative the families are.

An officiant, who can be any man familiar with Islamic law, heads to each room separately. There he asks the spouses-to-be if they consent to the marriage and if they are marrying of their own free will (a representative called a wali, usually the bride's father, answers the officiant's questions on the bride's behalf). This is equivalent of the father of the bride walking the bride down the aisle, and giving away his daughter, in Western cultures.

The couple signs the marriage contract or license, with witnesses observing.

The officiant brings the pair together and pronounces them husband and wife.

It is that simple!

An Indian Muslim Wedding Celebration

Days of eventful and lively parties often surround the days before and after the nikah. The typical Indian Muslim wedding, features the following events. The more conservative families avoid the excessive singing and dancing, or if doing so, does it in segregated fashion.

Dholki: The wedding celebrations begin with the dholki (named after the dholk, or drum) one to two weeks before the actual three-day wedding ceremony. During this event, young guests sing and dance while beating on the dholk.

The bride and groom traditionally hold their separate dholki. Friends and family gather at their respective houses to practice songs and dances for the upcoming mehendi ceremony during the week of the wedding. The women closest to either the bride or groom usually choreograph the dances, and it's mostly women who perform. The couple's families prepare dinner for the revelers, and the party goes late.

Mehendi: The mehendi (henna) ceremony takes place on the first night of the three-day wedding. Usually the most festive part of the event, it's filled with noise and color, with women dressed in bright formal shalwar kameez outfits and saris, and with unmarried girls sporting long skirts and blouse outfits called lehengas. The bride traditionally wears a formal yellow outfit, and, as the name of the ceremony implies, has wet mehendi (henna paint) applied on her hands that day. The bride, along with all the women on both sides of the family, has henna designs put on her hands and sometimes her feet. This is equivalent of a bridal shower, but a lot more colorful.

It's customary for the bride to be escorted onto the stage under a yellow color dupata, or large scarf, held up by six female relatives or friends. Her head is covered and bowed, and she doesn't have much makeup or jewelry on at this event. In joint mehendi ceremonies the groom arrives at the ceremony after the bride with his entourage of guests, called the baraat. The baraat typically plays loud songs while entering the ceremony hall and is greeted by two parallel lines of the bride's family and friends.

Nikah: The main wedding day is less eventful than the preceding days. The bride typically wears a bright-red ghaagra, a heavily pleated skirt with a long blouse embroidered in gold. The dupata is hung low over her bowed head and wrapped around her shoulders in such a way that her heavy gold jewelry is not hidden. This outfit is the most elaborate of all the ones the bride will wear. With all the gold the bride wears on her wedding day, she looks and feels like a queen.

Grooms either wear a traditional sherwani with a turban or a Western-style suit. Some grooms wear a veil of roses on their head before the bride enters. As a game, sometimes the bride's young female relatives and friends will steal the groom's shoes, returning them only when the groom pays a bargained amount of money. At the end of the night, a procession escorts the couple to the wedding car and throws flower petals on the couple.

Valima: The groom's family hosts the valima, or the feast, the night after the wedding. The feast signifies the consummation of the wedding, and is roughly equivalent to an American wedding reception.


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Blogger LogicGirl said...

The world wedding custom series is a cool idea! Looking forward to more, gals :)

May 20, 2008 at 6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


May 22, 2008 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger Indian Proposal Team said...

Thanks for the comments. Please keep visiting - we will post other interesting articles.

May 27, 2008 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger cristian said...

I have a suggestion for your next article: you could try to describe wedding customs from a western-eastern perpective. It would be interesting and I guess that many people would be interested in actually reading such an article.
Wedding Flowers

December 10, 2009 at 6:40 AM  
Blogger Muslim Women Fashion said...

I would also be interested in reading about Muslim weddings in different cultures. I imagine a Muslim wedding in Africa, Middle East and South-east Asia may have some different aspects that might be interesting to read about! :)


Muslim Women Fashions

October 31, 2010 at 6:18 AM  

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