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Islamic Wedding Traditions

Background

Known as the Al-Nikah, the Islamic wedding ceremony is practiced across the world, in countries such as North America, Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey (among others).

Dress

Islamic brides generally wear a bridal gharara. A gharara is a traditional garment consisting of a kurti (a short, mid-thigh length tunic), a dupatta (veil), and most importantly, a pair of wide-legged pants, ruched at the knee so they flare out dramatically. The knee area, called the goat in Urdu, is often elaborately embroidered in zari and zardozi work. Each leg of a traditional gharara is made from over 12 meters of fabric, often silk brocade.

The Ceremony

The ceremony varies based on the country and culture, but there are a few elements to the ceremony that are generally practiced during every Islamic marriage ceremony, including the Islamic Marriage Contract.

Baraat

Traditionally, the groom, dressed in his wedding attire, is seated on a white decorated mare when he heads towards the wedding venue along with the baraati - a procession of the groom's friends and family. The groom is adorned with a saafa (turban, preferably pink or saffron colored) along with a sehara (floral veil), which is tied around his forehead, by his mother. In some regions, a sword is also provided to the groom. The baraatis are often accompanied by music band, which provides them with entertainment, while on their way to the venue. The baraatis dance to the tune played by the band. A vivid display of fireworks contributes to the festive spirit of the marriage procession.

Nikah

The nikah is attended by close family members, relatives, and friends of groom and bride. Usually, the men and women are made to sit separately, in different rooms, or have a purdah, or curtain, separating them. At this time the wedding contract is signed. The contract, or nikah nama, is signed when entering the marriage, however, it is not a requirement that the contract be in writing, it may be also oral. The marriage contract includes a meher - a formal statement specifying the monetary amount the groom will give the bride. There are two parts to the meher: a prompt due before the marriage is consummated and a deferred amount given to the bride throughout her life.

Following traditional Islamic customs, the bride and groom may share a piece of sweet fruit, such as a date. If the men and women are separated for the ceremony, a male representative called a wali acts in the bride's behalf during the nikah.

Walima

The walima is performed after the nikah. Walima is a ceremony to announce the wedding to community and friends. It's a grand reception hosted by the groom's parents. Relatives, friends and community people are invited to the reception and the wedding is celebrated with great fun and festivities. A walima can also held to celebrate the birth of a newborn and the purchase of a new home.

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