Muslim Wedding Traditions
A marriage is a contract between two parties, a man and a woman, made in the presence of witnesses as well as the woman’s guardian. It also involves the payment of a dower, the amount of which is agreed between the two parties and become payable by the husband at the time when the contract is made (though the payment may be deferred by mutual consent).
A marriage contract does not need to be written down in order to be valid. But the documentation is important, particularly these days in order to ensure that all future formalities are properly made.
In many Muslim marriages, the wife may not be present when the actual contract is made. However, her father or guardian comes to her with two witnesses and asks her whether she gives him the [verbal] power of attorney [in presence of the two witnesses] to act for her in marrying her to the man concerned and whether she agrees to the amount of dower to be paid to her. When she has given him the power of attorney, he proceeds to complete the marriage contract.
An offer of marriage is made by the woman’s father or guardian. Secondly, an acceptance made by the man in the presence of two Muslim witnesses. The witnesses may be required to confirm the actual marriage in front of a judge. In order that their testimony be binding on a Muslim party, they must be Muslims.
The bride is entitled to receive a dower. The dower, a sum of money, in cash or kind, must be specified as being given by the bridegroom to his bride.
Among Muslims, it is the family of the Groom who searches for a suitable Bride.
There are many ceremonies which comprise the marriage process.
The Mangni or engagement ceremony is an exchange of rings. The outfit for the Bride is provided by the Groom’s family.
The Manjha Ceremony
The Manjha ceremony is where the Bride is anointed with turmeric paste. This takes place at the Bride’s house one or two days before the wedding day. The paste of turmeric, sandalwood and chameli oil are provided by the Groom’s family.
Only unmarried women apply this to the bride to be. Henna is applied on her hands and feet. A symbolic token in the form of a spot is also applied to the groom. After this ceremony, the Bride does not leave her house until the wedding. On her wedding day, she is provided her clothing by the Groom’s family.
The Groom’s Procession
On the wedding day, a procession of friends and relatives accompany the groom from his place to the wedding venue. This is done whether the groom rides on a horse or in a car.
If no concrete covered area is available, a shamiana (large decorated tent) is erected.
The Arrival of the Groom and Guests
The arrival of the groom is accompanied by the beating of drums and playing of musical instruments.
On this arrival, the groom and the brother of the bride exchange a glass of sharbet (a sweetened drink) and money. The sisters of the bride welcome the guests by playfully hitting them with a stick wrapped around flowers.
The wedding Ceremony
Traditionally, the men and women are seated in separate rooms or have a curtain to separate them. The meher, (a compulsory amount of money given to the bride by the groom) is decided upon by elders of both families.
Before reading a selected piece from the Koran (the holy book of the Muslims), witnessed by two male persons and a lawyer or eminent person, the officiating priest will ask the bride if she is happy with the arrangement and whether she agrees to marry the groom. The boy is asked the same.
The marriage is registered (nikaahnama). It is first signed by the groom and then two witnesses. The bride will sign later. The groom is then taken to the women’s section. He gives money and gifts to the sisters of the bride. He receives the blessings of the elder woman and offers his salutations. Dinner is served separately to the women and men. The groom’s family feasts separately.
After their first meal, the groom and bride are seated together and a long scarf is used to cover their heads while the priest makes them read prayers. The Holy Koran is kept between them and they are allowed to see each other through reflection by mirrors. Dried dates and a sweet dish are served to the guests. The dates have religious significance.
The Rukhsat Ceremony
The farewell by the father of the bride is performed by the father giving her hand to her husband and asking him to protect her always. Final farewells are offered and the couple leaves.
Upon the bride entering her new home, her mother-in-law holds the Koran over her and the groom follows.