Weddings ceremonies vary between different religious groups, with each group having different views on the essence of marriage. In the case of Muslims and Christians, there are some glaring differences and some similarities as well. We aim to highlight these aspects to help bring out the essential differences between the two.
So, what are the differences between an Islamic and a Christian wedding? There are specific differences between Christian and Islamic weddings; 9 glaring differences. Christians and Muslims have differing views on marriage, acceptance of divorce, polygamy, wedding rituals to the engagement practices. They also differ in the wedding venue choice, the number of witnesses, the dress code to gender separation during the ceremony.
With the wide gap in ideologies between Christians and Muslims, we dig deeper to determine whether the gap still exists regarding how they conduct their weddings. We look at the individual aspects of Islamic and Christian weddings, their similarities, and their differences. Read on as we help you further understand how Muslims and Christians view marriage.
Islam is a widely practiced religion in many countries all over the world. Let’s have a brief overview of how they view marriage and how they conduct their weddings. Regarding marriage, Islam deems a union as a contractual obligation between the couple and Allah in both families’ presence and approval. However, the practices at Islamic weddings vary according to the couple’s cultures and beliefs in question.
For Muslims, the most vital part of the union is the Islamic ceremony and not the civil one; as soon as the couple signs the marriage contract under Islamic laws, the union is official. Once they sign, the couple is bound together for a lifetime union, as seen in other religions.
Moreover, in case of some circumstances such as irreconcilable differences, Islamic law allows the couple to separate, and either party can initiate the divorce. As much as they frown upon divorce, Islamic law can still grant a divorce where it is due.
One prominent feature of Islamic unions is that the groom can have up to four wives; as long as they agree to it, and the man is sure to provide for all of them and love them all equally.
An Islamic wedding can occur anywhere that the couple decides as long as the place is not sinful in Allah’s eyes. Although an Islamic wedding does not have to occur at the mosque, some couples decide to marry at their religious center with the qazi/ Madhun/ Imam as the official celebrant.
Similarly, all the guests must take off their shoes if they are attending a mosque wedding. The ceremony is always colorful with a lot of festivities, especially at the reception.
One outstanding aspect of an Islamic wedding is the meher. This practice is common at most weddings before the couple can legalize their union. It is a declaration in monetary terms of the amount of money that the groom will give to the bride.
It may be in two installments; one before the marriage and another paid by the groom to the bride throughout their married life. This gift is specifically for the bride, and she can use it; however, she sees fit. The Muslims deem this a sound practice that acts as a security and freedom guarantee for the bride.
There are various Christian denominations all over the world, each with unique wedding traditions. The main similarity is that they view God as the center of any marital union and the guiding force in marriage matters. It is essential, however, that we get a general clear picture of what these weddings entail.
A Christian union is a sacred union between a man and a woman as God intended. The two are bound in holy matrimony, and through their vows, they solemnly swear to love each other until death do them part. When they say these vows, they enter an irrevocable covenant between them and God, and with the church as the witness.
For this, the wedding is a serious commitment between man and wife. Therefore, the church expects the couple to remain faithful to each other and have children and raise them in the ways of the Lord.
Since most Christian weddings are lifetime commitments, the church strongly opposes divorce. During the taking of the vows’, the partners swore to remain committed to each other unless torn apart by death; hence, one is only free to remarry if the other is deceased. Similarly, the church also has reservations concerning polygamy, that a man can only marry one woman.
Each church has rules regarding where the wedding can take place, and for the case of the Catholic Church, the union must be on the church premises. The argument is that the partners are getting married in God’s presence, so the union should be at His dwelling.
However, with the church’s permission, some couples can marry at a different venue, as long as the church leader is present. It may be a garden, a functional hall, or even at the beach. It all depends on how strict your particular church is.
Lastly, a typical Christian wedding follows a particular order, depending on the denomination, from start to finish. All the activities that take place are well organized, from the processional to the recessional. In most cases, the ceremony takes place as an ordinary church mass.
This feature is one of the most outstanding characteristics of Christian weddings. It is because God is a God of orders, so everything must follow an orderly process.
Differences Between Islamic and Christian Weddings
Marriage is an integral part of any religion, especially in Islamic and Christian setups. So, what are the main differences in their view and conduct of weddings?
1. The View on Marriage
The Christians view marriage as a sacrament and one of God’s gifts to humankind. Whenever two baptized Christians get married, they take an oath before God and man that they will remain married unless separated by death.
Any marital union is a meaningful religious ceremony that the believers should always take seriously. With marriage, the two can procreate and build a family, which is one of God’s religious directives; to go forth and multiply.
In contrast, an Islamic union is not necessarily a sacramental union. Instead, it is a binding contract between a man, woman, and Allah that remains intact as long as both parties respect and love each other.
However, this does not take away from the fact that Islamic laws still value the institution of marriage. Both religions value weddings, but the Muslims do not regard it as a sacramental union.
2. The Wedding Venue
Islamic marriages can occur anywhere; in fact, most Muslims prefer having their weddings outside the mosque. Similarly, anyone conversant with Islamic traditions or an Imam can officiate a wedding ceremony, and if the imam conducts the wedding, there may be a short sermon.
In some instances, the bride is not a part of the wedding ceremony. She only needs to send representatives to the venue to arrange the contract and sign it on her behalf.
For Christian weddings, especially a Catholic wedding, the most preferred venue is the church. Given that the union has to take place in the presence of God, it is only diligent for the ceremony to occur within the church’s walls. Moreover, the official church leader is responsible for the officiation of the union, and in most cases, the ceremony occurs within an ordinary church mass.
3. The Engagement
Before a Christian marriage occurs, there must be a period of engagement between the couple to know each other more as they plan for their wedding. It is an essential pre-wedding directive that is good for the couple as well as the union.
This period may last for up to two years, and this is where the church leader may engage the two in marriage life lessons to prepare them for their forthcoming wedding better.
However, Islamic law does not attach any importance to an engagement, and there is no specific timeline for the couples’ engagement before the wedding. The only factor to consider is that the parties must consent to the union. The wedding can take place at any time regardless of how long the two have known each other, especially if it is an arranged marriage.
4. Religious Rituals
There are certain religious rituals that a Christian couple must perform during their wedding ceremony. First, if the ceremony takes a nuptial mass or church service, it incorporates all the mass aspects.
For instance, there may be bible readings from the two bible books, songs/ hymns, prayers, and a sermon that befits the occasion. The wedding will also entail the bride walking down the aisle and the recitation of vows.
On the other hand, Islamic weddings are quite direct. For the union to be legal according to Islamic laws, the most crucial aspect is the Nikah ceremony, unlike the series of events that precede a typical Christian wedding.
This ceremony involves asking for the bride’s hand in marriage and the declaration of the Meher terms. Once the bride or her representative agrees, they sign the contract, and the union is religiously legal.
5. The Number of Witnesses
A typical Muslim wedding requires two witnesses from either side to act as witnesses (a total of four witnesses). These witnesses sign the contract with or without the bride’s presence; they act as the bride and groom’s representatives.
However, two witnesses are enough for a Christian wedding ceremony, one from each side. It is mostly the chief bridesmaid or the best man who acts in the capacity, but the couple may choose anyone else for the task. Also, note that the bride’s presence is necessary during the signing of the legal documents, being that the signing takes place during the wedding ceremony. Thus the bride must be part of the entire process.
The Islamic law allows men to marry up to four wives, but on the condition that he treats each of them equally, he shouldn’t favor anyone over the others. In case he cannot love them equally, then the law advises that he remains married to only one. However, the bride can only have one husband.
For Christians, the rules only allow one man to one woman; the man can only marry another in the case of divorce or death, same to the woman. They believe that the institution is sacred, and based on the creation story, God created one woman for the man.
So if the man proceeds to marry another wife without dissolving the first marriage, the second marriage will be null and void, and the church considers it adultery. The man may also be committing bigotry according to the civil laws.
A marriage is a sacred institution in the Christian’s lives; hence, the vows stipulate that only death can do part the couples. Thus, the church highly discourages divorce, and it is not allowed in some stringent denominations.
According to the church, divorce is a grave sin, and once the couple marries, they are married for life. However, some dire circumstances force the church to grant a divorce to a couple, if it is for their well being or a matter of life and death.
On the other hand, Islamic laws are quite relaxed in matters of divorce between spouses. The laws dictate that they can decide to divorce if they deem it fit. In religion, they are aware that there are so many circumstances that validate divorce as the couple’s last resort; hence, they allow them to terminate their marriage contract.
8. The Dress Code
Islam is very strict with the dressing code, especially for women. Therefore, a guest attending an Islamic wedding needs to be extra cautious to be modest. In some cases, the families may have reservations about the dress code, so it would be proper not to offend them. Mostly, everyone wears clothes covering their arms and legs, and for the women, the head remains covered.
Generally, the laws on dress codes are lenient for Christian weddings. There is no specific guideline on what the guests or the bride should wear during the ceremony. However, these rules vary respectively on the particular denomination.
9. Gender Separation
Another strict tradition of Muslim weddings is the aspect of gender separation. It is common to find men and women sitting separately at the ceremony, especially at very traditional weddings.
Since the law discourages close interaction between unmarried people of the opposite sex, they see it fit to have them sit separately. Even during merrymaking at the reception, you may notice the men and women celebrating in separate rooms or at different tables.
Contrary to this, Christians do not discourage the mingling of guests of different genders. Anybody can sit wherever they wish at the church or the reception. Generally, the church has no qualms with this issue unless the denomination is very strict on modesty.
Similarities Between Christian and Islamic Weddings
In all religions, marriages and weddings are a fundamental part of society. Through marriages, the community and family dynamics can grow through children’s birth and gaining a new family. So, are there any similarities between Christian and Muslim weddings?
As much as there are many differences between Islamic and Christian weddings, there are still some similarities. First, they both hold marriage in high regard and consider it a contractual agreement. Although it is more of a sacrament in Christianity, both groups agree that it is a serious decision made by the spouses.
Secondly, while Christianity frowns upon divorce, it is agreed that it can be an option when it is the last resort. If the situation is dire that a partner’s well-being or life is at risk, the church may grant a divorce. This aspect is the same in Islamic marriages, where they are very lenient in matters of divorce. The law also grants it whenever they deem it as a viable last resort.
We noted that Islamic celebrations do not have to occur at the mosque; however, when the union takes place at the mosque, the leader leads the celebration with verses from the Quran and Islamic prayers.
This case is similar in Christian weddings, where the celebration involves sermons from the bible and the reading of bible verses. This aspect shows that both religions conduct their wedding ceremonies within the ordinary religious proceedings if the union takes place at the mosque or church.
There are many essential differences between Islamic and Christian weddings, from their view on marriage to how they conduct their ceremonies.
It is mostly a challenge for inter-religious weddings or when a Christian wishes to attend a Muslim wedding and vice versa. Once you establish the essence of weddings in both religions, it will be easy to differentiate their notable differences.
As much as there are more differences than similarities, one factor remains; a union is only fully valid if the couple fulfills their civil obligations.
The wedding could be valid according to Christian and Islamic laws, but for the respective country or state to recognize that the couple is legally married, they have to sign with the civil registry.