Walima 101: 6 Things To Expect at the Muslim Reception

Banqueting hall set up for a Muslim wedding

Muslim celebrations, especially weddings, are the best times in the Islamic world to build family ties and strengthen the bond with close friends. Hence, the couple invites their loved ones to the nikah and the walima, the most critical aspects of an Islamic wedding. If you are a first time guest at a Muslim wedding or are planning your Muslim wedding, you may wish to know what this walima ceremony is all about.

So, what are the things can you expect at a Muslim reception? The Muslim reception, the Walima is an important part of the overall Muslim wedding. Those new to the concept of Islamic weddings, can expect to see both ancient and modern Islamic customs. With some aspects of Islamic tradition regarding the dress code, the choice of food and refreshments, gifting, entertainment, and seating arrangement. The couple could also infuse modern trends in these choices. However, all these will depend on the extent the couple is traditional and religious.

If you have pressing concerns about the walima, this is the guide you need. We take a closer look at all the most crucial aspects of the ceremony to give you a breakdown of all you need to know about it. Read on as we answer all your pressing questions.

What Is the Walima?

The walima is the second part of the traditional Islamic wedding, after the nikah. It is also the marriage banquet that the couple holds for the guest, as they celebrate their union’s consummation.

This ceremony is the perfect symbol of happiness after the union is validated. As much as it is synonymous with a wedding ceremony, it is also a way to describe other Islamic celebrations, such as marking a baby’s birth or any other milestone that the couple may wish to celebrate.

The term walima coins from the Arabic term walam/awlama, whose literal meaning is to gather/ assemble. Thus, the Arabs used it to mean the feasting when people gather to celebrate. This ceremony often occurs at the bride or groom’s residence; however, they may wish to have it at a different venue as long as they can accommodate them.

There is a beautiful history behind the walima ceremony, traceable to the Quran. First, it is a Sunnah of Allah’s messenger and is an excellent way for the newlyweds to show content and gratitude to Allah. It is also necessary to publicize the union. The Quran states that Allah’s beloved messenger advised the walima to celebrate a marriage, even if it is a small celebration.

The Timing of the Walima

Customarily, the best time to have the walima is as soon as the nikah ceremony is complete; many scholars today are also of the same opinion. Allah’s messenger pushed for this through his practices and narrations. Anas’s Hadith quotes that it is the ritual after marriage consummation. Similarly, the al-Fatawa al-Hindivya states that the ceremony is a Sunnah that carries a great reward.

However, this banquet’s timing is a highly debatable issue, with different scholars having differing suggestions for the perfect timing. For instance, some recommend that the couple conduct it during the contract’s signing, while others deem it fit between the signing and the marriage consummation.

Lastly, other religious leaders view that the best time is when the bride is on her way to her husband’s place. Ultimately, the timing will depend on the couple’s traditions and beliefs, but most believers will conduct it after marriage consummation.

How Many Days Is the Walima?

Another essential aspect to consider is the appropriate number of days for the walima. It is usual for the couple to wish to celebrate more with their friends and families, so they may wish to have the walima even after the wedding day.

This tradition is common, especially when the couple has enough to spare for the party. However, if the finances are tight, or the couple wishes to set aside some money as they start their new life, then a day of celebration may suffice.

Hanafi scholars suggest that it should not go for more than two days because it loses its essence. After two days, the union is already consummated; thus, the celebrations should tone down. Besides, Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) stated that walima on day one is confirmed, day two is good, but on day three, it is now a show-off. Therefore, only two days are enough for the walima.

Who Organizes and Pays for the Walima?

The question of who should pay for the wedding solely depends on the couple’s norms, financial capabilities, and religion. Both religiously and culturally, the ordinary principle is that the task lies on the groom’s shoulders.

Most Muslims state that when Allah’s messenger was giving instructions to Abd al-Rahmaan, he told him to “give a walima.” Therefore, according to the text, it is the man’s responsibility to conduct the walima and not the bride or her family.

Similarly, the argument is that, given that he sought a wife, he has more blessing. Another vital aspect to know is that one must accept the feast if the bride or groom has organized it. If the bride provides it, but the husband organizes another, you don’t have to accept; if you do, it will be Sunnah. Therefore, it is possible for both the bride and groom to jointly organize and pay for the walima. The same case applies to the wedding expenses; the two families may chip in and share the expenses.

Who Can Be Part of the Walima?

The walima is a time for the couple to invite their loved ones to share their love and union. Typically, they invite their families, acquaintances, and their close friends. They can also invite their neighbors if they are close. Islamic law does not suggest a specific number of guests; one can invite anyone they feel is essential in their lives, from associates to religious leaders.

However, Muslim customs frown upon inviting only the well-off people to the ceremony. Such an event should also be shared among those that the society views to be of a lower class. Hence, wealth and status should not determine who can be a guest at the walima.

Accepting a Walima Invitation

Most leaders state that one must attend the ceremony when invited, so, turning it down is sinful, and accepting it is a personal obligation (unless there is an explanation). On the other hand, other accounts refer to it as a general obligation while others strongly recommend it.

Customarily, one should always honor invitations to feasts such as wedding banquets. This rule is so strict that it even urges those who are fasting to attend.

Religious scholars base their facts on several narrations to advise that you consider it binding once you are invited to a walima, so refusing would be a law violation. Generally, the law highly recommends accepting such an invitation since it is Sunnah; unless there is an explanation, you may reject it.

By accepting, you have honored your responsibilities, even if you do not eat (if you are fasting). In this case, the law recommends that you attend and pray for the couple (make dua).

The Simplicity of the Walima

It is typical for the couple to wish to go all out for their wedding, and often, some spend thousands on entertaining their guests. If they throw a lavish party, all in the name of celebrating their marriage, then the ceremony loses its essence and becomes a show-off. The law considers this a grave sin. Thus, if one partner wants to spend unnecessarily on feasting, he/ she violates Shariah.

The point of the walima is to feed the guests with love, simplicity, and sincerity. Therefore, the ceremony should be minimalistic and should not burden the believers. Otherwise, it deviates from its essence.

They should provide food and drinks straight from their hearts, which is better than providing quality and lavish meals. It is also a severe religious violation to have alcohol as part of the refreshments and allow the men and women to dance together. These acts show a high level of moral decadence and deviation from what the religion deems as Halal.

Importance of the Walima

The walima is the English/ American equivalent of the wedding reception that occurs after the couple is legally married. Given that the ceremony is the prophet’s Sunnah, it is best to accord it the status it deserves.

First, conducting the walima means that you adhere to the Islamic teachings on marriage; it should occur after the nikah. Secondly, it is necessary to bring the spouse’s friends and family together to know each other since they will soon be one big family. The best way to enhance family ties is through such ceremonies. This way, everybody can join in sharing this special moment with the newlyweds.

What Happens at a Walima Ceremony?

Immediately after the nikah ceremony is complete, the groom’s family begins preparations for the walima. The Islam tradition requires that the groom and his family should shoulder all the reception expenses. But, in modern Islam, the bride’s family can chip in and assist in the preparations and provide support where necessary.

Once the preparations are complete, the guest’s invitation follows. In most cases, the larger population of the attendees is those that we present at the nikah. They comprise the family, relatives, and close friends; the venue can be at the man’s home or some other appropriate place.

Once the attendees are in for celebrations, the wedding attendants direct them to their respective sitting places. Men and women sit separately according to Islamic customs. During this time, entertainment is at its peak as the guests wait to indulge in the festivities. Afterward, attendants serve food and drinks. Even after the meals, the party continues with the men and women in separate rooms or secluded tables.

Finally, when the celebrations are over, there is an announcement that the bride and groom are officially man and wife. This news ends the party, and the newlyweds head to their home, where they spend their first night as a couple. As discussed, events’ procedure is the most popular among Islam believers even though you may see some variations depending on one’s customs and culture.

6 Things To Expect at a Muslim Wedding Reception

A Muslim wedding is a religious function; therefore, the believers must accord it with the dignity it deserves; it is committed to serving Allah by the couples. A ceremony is an intricate event starting with the pre-marital ceremonies, followed by the actual marriage (nikah) and post-marriage activities where we have the reception (walima). The walima is among the last activities that follow marriage consummation.

A Muslim wedding reception is a moment for the newly married couples to publicly announce their new status so that everyone can be aware and keep a distance. The walima is also a merrymaking moment that people gather to share a meal. All the guests and family from the bride’s and groom’s side join in this feast.

Islam is the second-largest religion globally, with believers from various cultures, ethnicities, countries, and Islamic sects. Therefore, these factors will determine the conduct of weddings, and each will be unique. However, you are likely to find common ground regarding the walima ceremony. Let’s look at some of the typical wedding traditions in modern-day Islam.

1.   The Venue

Before deciding to attend a Muslim wedding, you should know the venue choice and the reason behind it. Traditionally, most walimas occur at the groom’s home since this is where the bride will start a new life together with her husband. Furthermore, it is the groom’s family who organizes the ceremony.

In present-day Islam, the walima ceremony can occur at any place convenient for the couple per Islamic traditions. For instance, you may notice that they will incorporate traditions in the seating arrangement and the type of food available. Also, expect the men and women to be seated separately, and the food available will be Halal food only.

2.   The Entertainment

At any Islamic walima, guests are customarily treated to full blast entertainment for the entire ceremony. Some of these celebrations may go up to two days. The men and women will dance and have fun, although they won’t do it together. The entertainment session may also contain more activities, such as photoshoot sessions. These will give the guests ample time to create long-lasting memories together with the couple.

Apart from recorded music, the couple may decide to treat their guests to a live band; an ultimate performance by nasheeds is all your guests may need at your wedding. Also, some people’s brilliant idea may be to invite a comedian to entertain the guests further. A standup comedy from a professional or a friend of the couple may be fun, especially if he/ she can come up with some real jokes.

You may be wondering who will be babysitting your child while you are enjoying the walima ceremony. Some event organizers guarantee that employed people can take care of them and babysit for you. They may have board games and mingle with other children as you enjoy the party.

It will make you, as a parent, feel that your kid is also playing a part in the celebrations. Another way to keep your guests entertained is through drum beating sessions and traditional dances. With skilled performers, the guests will be well entertained; it may be great to ensure that you consider the audience’s traditions so that they may feel part and parcel of the celebration.

Words of wisdom and sentimental moments are not also a means of entertaining the attendees. These sessions also serve as learning opportunities for those planning to tie the knot in the future. You will be listening to marriage experts and religious elders knowledgeable in marriages and Muslim relationships. Listening to the groom or bride at the reception, giving a speech about one another, and their lives may also be a touching time to attendees.

3.   The Wedding Gifts

The attendees, including family, relatives, and close friends, find walima the best time to present gifts to the newlyweds. The gifts are various items that may include a hijab, a mosque model, perfumes (ittars), house decor materials or even Islamic branded outfits for the couples.

In contrast, if the couple expresses that they do not have a boxed gift policy, then the perfect gift may be cash. Generally, the bride and the groom do not expect expensive gifts, just something basic that is straight from your heart.

4.   Food and Drinks

The wedding guests will party a lot since there will be plenty of food and beverages. Traditionally, the food at an Islamic wedding reception must be Halal-certified. Any pork meat (considered haram in Islam) or any substance containing pork and alcoholic drinks will not be present at the wedding.

Alcohol intake may bring about misbehavior, and given that the wedding is a Holy function, the guests and everyone else must be dignified during the ceremony. 

You can expect some foods at a Muslim wedding reception, such as fish, rice, chicken, goat or lamb, and bread. In some Islam cultures, the groom and the bride receive eggs to symbolize fertility.

Some Muslims throw a grand walima party and spend more than they can afford, leaving them with huge debts. Therefore, the newlyweds should spend just enough for the ceremony and leave some to kick-start their married life.

5.   Gender Separation

Male and female Muslims cannot mingle and interact, for it is a forbidden act in the Islamic world. If you are new to Muslim wedding traditions, there are some things that you should consider.

First, you need to refrain from shaking hands, dancing, or making any body contact with a Muslim of a different gender; you may only do so if they ask you. Also, it would be best to avoid any unnecessary interactions.

At the wedding, different genders may sit separately or in the same room but at different tables; this depends on the number of guests and the reception’s size. Similarly, they may set up partitions using curtains to host the men and women separately. Sometimes, non-Muslims attendees can share a table at the reception without gender separation if the host allows.

6.   The Dress Code

Always be keen on how you dress when attending an Islamic celebration, whether at the mosque or any other venue. The religion emphasizes dignity and modesty in matters of dressing. Both men and women should wear clothes that cover their bare skin. It may be a longer dress or skirt for women or attire with covered arms. It may also be helpful if you do away with tight clothing; you can never tell how much food you will indulge in!

Planning a Walima?

Every Muslim couple wishes to have the best wedding. However, planning a wedding can be an uphill task since there is so much to do, from the main ceremony to the subsequent post-wedding celebrations. We understand that the entire process may be hectic and time-consuming, so we wish to lighten your load to help you have fun while preparing for the best walima.

This process is supposed to be personal yet straightforward for you and your partner. It should also be an excellent time for you and your guests. Therefore, it would be great to add a personal touch to it.

Let’s look at some factors to consider and the tips you need when planning for the walima.

Spouses Meeting With the Stakeholders

The couple needs to meet together with their close family members or anyone participating in the ceremony preparations. This meeting can be at the most convenient location for both parties (a home or a hotel).

It is vital to brainstorm ideas and discuss all the fundamental aspects of the entire ceremony. The aim is to include each side’s customs and do away with those that may irk any family members.

It also ensures proper planning and saves time on the preparations since you can collectively deal with any stressful part of the ceremony. Also, ascertain that you discuss details such as how big the walima will be, how many guests will be present, and the party’s form. Will it be fancy or formal? What role will everyone play at the ceremony?

Shariah Requirements

You have to consider the traditions, customs, and Islamic laws. Know beforehand the type of food that the caterers will serve because it has to be Shariah-compliant. Therefore, there should be no pork or any other non-halal food.

Secondly, check that the mahr details are well laid out, and you go through it if there are any contentious or additional issues. It is also crucial to confirm the civil laws of the state or region you are in so that your union may be civilly valid.

The Budget

It is vital to ensure that the walima is within your budget as a couple. To make sure that this is possible, some appoint a responsible, trustworthy friend or family member to handle the wedding budget. This person can help with advice and budget allocation to not go overboard with the expenses. This way, you are sure to be organized when it comes to any purchases about the walima. Remember that Islam frowns upon extravagant and over the top walimas.

The Location

The perfect celebration has to take place at the perfect venue. Thus, you need to look out for the best venue that your area has to offer. It may be a functional hall, a garden, or the traditional mosque.

All you need to do is find a venue within your budget and check that they have all the amenities you need. Also, ensure that it can accommodate all your guests. Given that there may be gender separation, it may be best to find a spacious venue.

You can book in advance and keep checking in to confirm that you still have the venue for your big day. Another factor to consider is the proximity of the venue to hotels or other facilities that your guests may need.

Sometimes, they may have traveled from distant places and may need accommodation. In contrast, you can go the traditional way and have the walima at either of your houses. It will save you time and cost when looking for an outside venue.

Final Take

Generally, an Islamic wedding is quite a religious function, so before you attend, it is worth noting the sequence of events for you not to feel left out if you are new to the religion. The walima ceremony is an essential ceremony after the nikah, which is necessary for merrymaking and bonding for the couple and their friends and family.

Most Islam couples believe that the reception ceremony should be extravagant, but this is slowly changing. People have started to envision the reality behind it rather than having a lavish walima without future financial prospects.

Spouses nowadays only provide what they can afford to the guests. As much as the walima is essential, other Muslim couples may postpone it or do away with it altogether. One may say that the most crucial part of Islamic marriage is the signing of the marriage contract, but the walima ceremony is equally important.

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