Islamic Wedding Traditions
The Islamic religion and its many sects often host marriages that are large celebrations, with many specific rituals that started thousands of years ago. An Islamic ceremony in Africa can be drastically different from one in India. However, even though the celebrations can differ between countries and cultures, there are many elements than can be seen in most Islamic weddings.
There are many pre-wedding rituals involved in an Islamic affair to purify and prepare both the bride and groom for their marriage ceremony. For Islamic brides in parts of the Middle East and India, a henna party is held a few days before the wedding in which the bride and any bridal attendants have their hands and feet painted with intricate designs by a special artist with a deep red Henna paste as a way to adorn the bride and her attendants for the wedding day. The designs are also said to have protective properties.
Turkish Muslims participate in a ritual known as “drinking the sherbet,” in which the local imam (the Islamic religious leader) leads the family and friends of the newly engaged couple in a toast, repeated three times, with ice and fruit. This serves as the official announcement that a marriage will take place.
An Islamic wedding processional, especially in more rural areas, involves the bride riding through the town either on a camel, horse, or other form of transportation, covered by a tent-like structure, to the home of the groom. They will then travel together to the mosque for the ceremony.
In Islamic culture, a marriage is considered more of a legal contract than a religious sacrament, and the marriage is finalized by the couple signing a marriage contract.
The wedding will take place in a mosque, and at the wedding ceremony, the husband will give a gift known as the Mahr or dowry to his wife, which can be whatever he chooses, ranging from gold to a handmade gift. If a husband has no possessions to give his future wife, he is allowed to marry based on the amount of knowledge he has about the Quran.
Days after the wedding, a bride may offer a gift of rice, sugar, and butter to her parents to show that her house is rich in resources. After the Mahr has been given, the Nikah will be read, which comprises simple vows to complement the signing of the marriage contract. An imam is often the one who officiates the wedding and will read the Nikah.
The bride and groom may sit on thrones or a platform at the altar so that they can be seen by all guests. The attendees may leave their gifts, usually money, at the altar for the couple. Most brides don a traditional white wedding gown, but other types of dresses ranging from red to gold are seen throughout the different sects of Islamic cultures.
After the marriage ceremony, the family of the groom will host a wedding reception known as Walima. During this part of the day, genders are to be kept separate if there will be singing or dancing. It is also Islamic tradition to invite the poor of the community to the wedding dinner to show respect for the hurt and suffering of others during a time of excess and celebration.
Chicken, fish, and rice are traditionally served, along with candied almonds, which are rumored to be aphrodisiacs. Mint teas and herbal drinks are served, and some wedding receptions will also include the smoking of flavored tobacco out of hookahs.
A one-string violin and a large drum known as a dalouka are often played for dancing, and in some cultures, a dance called “Al Ardha” is performed by the men, with swords and whips as props. To adhere to Muslim traditions, no pork or alcohol will be served at the Walima. The Walima can be for close friends and family or for hundreds of people. In some Egyptian sects of Islam, the wedding reception festivities can last for a week.
The many iterations of Islamic weddings can be great sources of inspiration if you are looking to add a unique flair to your wedding ceremony or reception. These different traditions can also be worked into a celebration to honor your or your betrothed’s Islamic or Muslim heritage.