A typical Islamic wedding is a glorious and momentous occasion for any Muslim couple and their families. You may have so many questions about such a religious ceremony, whether you are getting married or attending as a first-time guest. You may want to familiarize yourself with a few details to feel like part of this beautiful celebration.
So, what should you expect at a Muslim wedding? At an ordinary Islamic wedding, you can expect the infusion of modern and traditional customs. However, it depends on the couple and how religious they are. The most common rituals are the mahr, Nikah, vows and blessings, Surah Fatiha, Mehndi, Rukhsat, and Walima. There may be more rituals among more religious couples, while some liberal Muslims may do away with some of these practices.
This article is your guide in matters of Muslim weddings and all that they entail. We highlight the days of a Muslim wedding, what rituals happen during the ceremony, and what to expect. Let’s take a look at some vital details of a Muslim marriage.
How Long Do Muslim Weddings Last?
A typical Muslim wedding consists of two major parts, the Nikah ceremony, which takes up to thirty minutes, and the Walima, roughly three to four hours. At the Nikah ceremony, the couple takes their vows and signs the marriage certificate that validates their union. After this, there is the Walima ceremony, which is the reception part of the wedding. The two, together with their friends and family, eat, dance, and celebrate.
There are many factors to consider when deciding how long a Muslim wedding will take, so we may not clearly state the entire process’s duration. Some may go up to weeks, days, or even a few minutes.
First, it depends on the bride and groom’s culture and religious standing. The Islamic sect they belong to will dictate the wedding’s length since some groups are more stricter about following the wedding traditions.
Similarly, their religiousness and leniency in matters of tradition are also very important. Some people will insist that the ceremony’s most vital activity is to sign the documents that legalize the marriage. In contrast, others will state that they have to follow through with all Islamic ceremonies’ rituals.
Next, the wedding’s length depends on how elaborate the couple and their families would wish the wedding. If they are modern and liberal, they may want a simple and straightforward affair; this means that the ceremony will be short, only comprising the Nikah ceremony. However, if they are more religious and wish for a traditional elaborate wedding, it may be longer.
Given that a Muslim wedding is mostly a family affair, it may take other forms before and after the main ceremony to allow all the family and guests to enjoy together with the newly-weds. There may be pre-wedding and post-wedding celebrations.
These activities are an excellent way for the two families and the guests to bond and celebrate with the couple. Therefore, it is common to find an Islamic wedding taking place for a minimum of three days.
What Happens in a Muslim Wedding?
An Islam wedding is a beehive of activities from the start to the end, comprising of pre-wedding events, actual marriage, and finally, post-marital celebrations. The wedding ceremony has different rituals, each at particular stages of the event.
These rituals are what make the Islamic religious wedding stand out from any other. Their practices and cultures also differ depending on their country, their ethnicity, and the Islamic sect that they belong. However, some of these traditions still cut across the Islamic faith. Therefore, we uncover the rituals that you are likely to find at any Islamic marriage.
First, Islamic weddings are not necessarily officiated by an official clergy because Islam marriage laws allow anyone who understands Islamic traditions to oversee a Muslim wedding successfully. Muslims have designated marriage officers (Madhun or qazi) who can minister your wedding ceremony since they regard marriage as a religious and a social function.
Similarly, Muslims don’t have specific days for a wedding; the event can occur on any day of the calendar unless it is during major holidays like the Ramadhan, Eid, and the Holy day of Pilgrimage, not forgetting the Ashura Days. Besides, a Muslim wedding can occur anywhere other than the mosque as long as it is convenient for the couples. Hence, you can be spoilt of choices when picking a venue.
Additionally, it is an Islamic tradition that the opposite gender should not mingle. Therefore, you should expect the same at the wedding ceremony. The seating arrangement will be separate; one side for men and the other for women, and eventually, during the reception, men and women will be at different tables.
Now, let’s get down to the primary and most common rituals that characterize a Muslim wedding.
The Nikah is the marriage celebration where the bride and groom sign a marriage contract with two witnesses present. The groom or his representatives can propose this marriage contract, and the agreement must contain the details of the bride’s dowry.
The Nikah ceremony symbolizes that the bride and groom are exercising their undying love and marrying at their free will. They recite a phrase in Arabic then sign the marriage agreement with the witnesses, thus making the relationship binding and legal before the Islamic and civil law.
Once the contract is complete, the man and woman may share a sweet fruit according to the traditional Islamic faith. Also, if the females and males were separate during this event, a wali will represent the women. There are three essential components of the ceremony; a dedicated and willing spouse, two male witnesses, and a mahr or any other gift for the bride.
A mahr is part of the contract signed during the Nikah. It is a formal agreement that outlines the dowry amount that the groom has to pay for the bride in monetary value or any other gift. In Islam, the mahr is in two parts; a portion that is payable promptly before the marriage is complete and payable after the marriage ceremony.
In the past, the groom could give the bride a small gift like jewelry and then pay the substantial part of the mahr on a later date. In modern-day Islam, the groom uses a ring as the immediate mahr.
The deferred balance can be a sum of money, land, or another valuable gift that the groom can offer. Whatever the woman receives from her husband as a dowry is at her disposal, and she has the free will to use and spend as she pleases. However, this freedom is subject to marriage consummation. It is also worth noting that the mahr serves as security and guarantee for the bride in the union.
Also known as the Valimah, the Walima is a feasting ceremony at the reception customarily hosted by the groom. This event is essential to introduce the bride to her new family and society publicly. It is also necessary to announce to everyone that the couple is now officially married and out of the market.
Friends, family, and relatives join in ushering the couples into a new life. The event is full of fun and dances, and it usually lavishes and may require the family to dig deeper into their pockets.
The Rukhsat is when the bride bids farewell to her family and guests at the ceremony as she leaves to start anew with her husband. The bride’s father gives the groom his daughter’s hand asking for him to protect her since he’s the man with whom she will spend the rest of her life. The Rukhsat marks the end of the wedding ceremony, after which the honeymoon may follow.
The Mehndi is the henna tradition where women decorate the bride using henna on the hands as they perform particular dances. It is usually an all-women affair for both the young and old. More liberal Muslims may consider having men for this ceremony, unlike conservative Muslims who are quite strict (they only allow women).
It is also a tradition for the bride to hide her intended spouse’s initials inside the henna, and he will have the task to find it on their first night as a couple. This ritual occurs on the evening before the big day. Entrusted with this duty is the most artistic woman in the family or a hired professional artist. Other women members of the family can also have fun painting their hands and feet.
Vows and Blessing
Once the bride accepts the dowry extended to her by the groom, the marriage officiant, possibly an Imam, will ask the couple to read their vows. The bride and the groom recite an Arabic phrase to each other three times. It seals the marriage terms and validates the union. Lastly, the officiant reads out the marriage agreement, after which the spouses and the witnesses sign.
The Muslims believe that marriage is a sacred commitment between Allah and the marrying couples. Thus, it is vital to bless the newlyweds (durud ritual) and pray for them in a tradition known as Surah Fatiha.
The Imam does this by reading a verse from the Holy Quran during the Nikah; he can do it alone or with the guests’ assistance, and at the end of it, the minister and the attendees will pray for the couple.
In many instances, the Muslim couple will either read the vows or listen to the wedding minister read them out. These vows entail their responsibilities and duties to each other and Allah. Those who recite the vows pledge to be faithful, honest, loving, and obedient to each other as they live together as husband and wife.
With his family and relatives and in the company of his closest friends, the groom sets out for the bride’s home, this is known as the Baarat. The groom may ride on a fancy white donkey or horse in a more traditional Islamic fashion.
Nowadays, the grooms prefer using a nicely decorated luxurious/vintage car. It is typical for the bride’s family to send the means of transport to carry the groom to the venue. The groom’s escort with his party, family, relatives, and acquaintances is known as the baarat.
After the grand entrance, the groom’s brother-in-law and the bride’s family welcome him together with his accompaniment. The bride’s brother then serves the groom a drink that they share.
The beverage usually is sweet to signify the sweet marriage that the groom is yet to begin. The wedding attendants then spray the groom’s family with rose- water as they enter the wedding venue full of drinks, fun, and dance. Note that the beverages must be alcohol-free.
Chauthi is the final ritual in an ordinary Islam wedding ceremony. After the ceremony, when the bride has stayed with the groom for at least four days, she visits her parents accompanied by her husband. The guests receive a warm welcome, and they receive plenty of food and drinks. At the end of this event, the newlyweds receive gifts and prayers from the bride’s parents, concluding the whole wedding affair.
The Arsi Mushraf
During the Arsi Mushraf ritual, the bride and groom can sit together for the first time facing a mirror, with a Quran in their possession. The newlyweds are free to see a reflection of one another through the mirror. After this, men and women separate, and all the guests partake in the initial meal.
The Mangni is when the bride and the groom are officially engaged in their families’ presence. They set a date and welcome the relatives and close friends to witness it. Both families traditionally shower each other with gifts such as clothes, food, money, and fruits.
The Manjha-Haldi ritual, is where a turmeric paste with rose-water is then sent by the groom’s family to the bride; this happens a few days before Nikah. The bride applies this paste on her face, hands, and feet; the other women also do the same.
The same event also happens at the groom’s place, for this ritual is purposely for the bride and groom’s purification before they get married. After the practice, the bride and the groom remain indoors until the wedding day.
The 3 Days of a Muslim Wedding
Some various practices and rituals occur in an Islamic wedding ceremony, depending on the belief system of the couple and their families. These practices also rely on their country, their government’s laws, and the Islamic practices outlined by the Quran.
Most importantly, over a billion Muslims are present globally, so there is a remarkable difference in how they conduct their marriages. The conduct varies across regions and cultures. However, there is a distinctive outline that most Islamic weddings take. We highlight one that comprises the pre-wedding, the wedding, and the post-wedding ceremony; activities that may span up to three days.
The Pre-wedding Ceremony
These ceremonies take place before the wedding. They may be several days before or a day before the Nikah ceremony; these activities unite the couple with their guests and purifies them before they marry. First, most Muslim brides and their female family members and close friends participate in the henna ceremony.
They invite henna artists to decorate the bride with long-lasting henna paste on her feet and hands; this paste may last up to weeks. This ceremony is essential for the females to bond before the big day. It mostly occurs a day before the wedding, after which the bride remains isolated at her home until the actual wedding ceremony.
Most Muslim women also cleanse themselves in water as a preparation for the wedding. In other countries, the close family members attend to her, which is often in a joyous procession. There is also a vital officiation of the Turkish engagement, done over sherbet drinking (a soft drink).
This ritual marks the espousal and symbolizes the couple’s engagement. Similarly, in most countries, between the engagement and the wedding, the family’s male members meet at the mosque for thanksgiving.
Another familiar ritual before the wedding is the Haldi ceremony, where the groom’s family anoints the bride’s head with turmeric paste, a ceremony comprising a lot of merrymaking. They believe that this paste gives the bride a perfect glow. Afterward, a friend (married) remains with the bride until Nikah.
The Wedding Ceremony
The wedding day begins with the groom’s arrival at the venue alongside his procession (baraat); he arrives in style on a horse or a car. They play traditional songs and dance to accompany him as he makes his entry. He then shares a drink with the bride’s family. The bride’s close family members may also welcome the attendees by sprinkling rosewater to signify purity.
The next and most crucial part of the day is the Nikah ceremony. However, this ceremony varies among many Muslims. Sometimes, the bride and groom sit in separate rooms, while in other cases, they sit together but with a curtain between them. The celebrant first asks whether they are marrying out of their free will, and once they agree, the ceremony can kick-off.
On this day, the groom and his family give the bride the mahr. The elders from both parties agree on how much the groom is obliged to pay. This amount is due either on the material day or another agreed day.
Next, they sign the document, after which he may also gift the bride’s close female family members. The two and their witnesses also sign the marriage contract to make their union official.
Usually, especially when the wedding venue is the mosque, the Muslim celebrant may address the ceremony’s attendees. This official may also be a Muslim judge (Qadi) who officiates the union and keeps the contract’s record. The ceremony ends with a prayer (Dua) for the newly-weds, their families, and the entire Muslim fraternity.
The last part of the Nikah is the reception, where everybody in attendance joins the couple in singing, dancing, and feasting as they all celebrate the union. Here is where there are traditional dances and traditional meals.
The Post-Wedding Ceremony
Once all the ceremony’s pomp is over, the Rukhsat ritual occurs, which is a tearful event for the bride and her family. They all bid her a final farewell before she joins her husband to be his legally wedded wife. Her father hands her over to the groom asking him to protect and care for her.
There is also the Walima ceremony prepared by the groom’s side that is vital in bringing both families and guests. The next step is the bride’s welcoming into the new home by her mother-in-law by placing a Quran over her head as she first steps into her matrimonial home. We may also have the Chauthi ceremony where the bride visits her parent’s house in a joyous celebration.
Frequently Asked Questions About a Muslim Wedding
Most Islamic weddings contain important traditional aspects that the believers religiously follow. If you are having a Muslim marriage or are attending as a first-time guest, the idea of such a religious wedding may be a challenge to comprehend. Therefore, we compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions about Muslim marriages.
1. Where Does the Nikah Take Place?
Most couples would go for the traditional mosque wedding, but others would prefer a different venue. It may happen at a functional hall or a hotel that the partners and their families deem fit. You may expect a few readings from the Quran and a short sermon, especially if the wedding is at the mosque.
2. Who Is the Celebrant at a Muslim Wedding?
A Muslim wedding does not need an official clergy member; anyone with knowledge of Islamic wedding traditions can be the celebrant at the wedding. If the ceremony is at the mosque, the Madhun or the qazi is the official in charge.
3. How Do I Dress for a Muslim Wedding?
The dress code for a Muslim wedding is conservative and modest. Generally, the Muslims observe a strict regulation in the way they dress, so you should expect that they translate that into their ceremonies too. The most acceptable attires have to cover the bare skin; no exposed arms and legs for both men and women.
Given that some weddings take place at the mosque, which is a holy place, anyone in attendance needs to be well dressed. Similarly, you should also dress appropriately even if the wedding is at a different venue.
Also, the women may need to have a head covering to cover their hair; thus, it would help if you brought along a headscarf. These rules apply to both the Nikah and the reception. Note that if the wedding spans a couple of days, you may want to have different sets of clothes to change.
4. Do I Have To Take off My Shoes at the Mosque?
It is a requirement that you do not enter the mosque with your shoes on. They will probably provide a rack for you to easily place your shoes to access them at the end of the ceremony; since the believers pray on the mats and carpets, they advise that you don’t enter with shoes, which may make the carpets dirty. On the contrary, you don’t need to take them off if the wedding or the reception is at another venue.
5. What Is the Seating Arrangement at a Muslim Wedding?
Usually, the Muslims observe gender separation while at the mosque, so they are likely to do the same at the wedding ceremony. They do so since the men and women do not mingle freely at any Islamic social gathering. You can expect the men and women to sit in separate rooms or tables while at the reception. It is also common to find partitions such as curtains at the reception.
However, it depends on how traditional the couple is; others may have a table set aside for Non-Muslims, where both men and women can mingle freely. If they are more liberal, they may only practice this separation at the wedding ceremony but allow interaction at the reception.
6. Do They Serve Alcohol at a Muslim Wedding?
The religion frowns upon taking drinks such as alcohol. Even the liberal Islamic groups will not allow alcoholic beverages at the reception. So, you can only expect soft drinks at this wedding.
7. What Is the Best Gift for the Wedding?
You may need to present the couple with a gift. Some weddings have a no boxed gift policy, which means the best option is cash. They do not expect a gift at every ceremony; hence, you may have one present.
Your choice will depend on how close you are to them and how much you can afford. However, if the couple allows you to bring any form of a gift, it is upon you to find a befitting one for them or find one at the gift registry if they have signed up for it.
Whenever there is an Islamic wedding, you are sure to have the ultimate celebration of love and family ties. The Muslim marriage is a lavish, elaborate, tradition infused ceremony that transcends history. There is color, music, and delicious food for all to enjoy. However, these traditions may vary according to cultures, regions, and Islamic sects that the couple belongs.
We have established that these specific factors are the determinants of the wedding’s duration and the rituals that will take place. Whether it’s an Arab, African, Indian, or Asian ceremony, we guarantee a well laid out and intricate event with a touch of modern and traditional Islamic rituals.