These elaborate and beautiful weddings are a feast of colorful décor, delicious food, and plenty of entertainment as the families go to great lengths to ensure the bride and groom are treated as royalty during the various ceremonies – as well as into the next couple of weeks.
What does the bride wear?
The bride gets to choose various outfits for each of the ceremonies. Often yellow, green and orange are chosen for the events leading up to the Nikah or formal wedding ceremony. For the preliminary ceremonies the outfits are kept simple, with the most elaborate outfit reserved for the Nikah. Muslim brides do not keep to only one traditional color as is often the case with western weddings.
They may choose red as this is a vibrant color and makes them stand out, or they may opt for softer shades like cream, baby blue, a blush pink, or even white. Whatever color is chosen the dress will be elaborately embroidered with beads or decorated with lace, and the bride will have a full veil.
The ring exchange
The prospective groom will meet with the bride’s family regarding his intentions and if he is found acceptable they will give their word that the proceedings may continue – this is to make sure that they don’t change their minds in case a more wealthy or suitable candidate shows up in the meantime – this has happened in the past! The festivities then start with the engagement ceremony where rings are exchanged between the bride and groom and the actual date for the wedding is set during the party attended by close family members and friends. In western tradition only the bride-to-be is given an engagement ring, but for Muslim Pakistani weddings she will also give her prospective groom a ring. Prayers are recited for the couple and a cake is cut and shared after the ceremony. The groom will have also arranged a dowry with the bride’s family to provide his new wife with financial security.
The rasm-e-heena is one of the first ceremonies held a few days before the actual wedding. In the past, two separate ceremonies were held for men and women but nowadays both ceremonies are usually combined in one large hall, and the bride and her attendants will have intricate henna designs applied to their hands. Incidentally, the bride is not supposed to do any housework until the henna designs have faded from her hands. For this ceremony the groom will usually be dressed in black or white and may choose a traditional shalwar kameez – the shalwar being the trousers and a long tunic called the kameez or a sherwani – a knee length coat that fits to the body.
A scarf packed with gifts and sweetmeats for the bride and her family is handed over by the groom’s family, and they return the favour by packing the scarf with their return gifts to take back to the groom’s family.
This ceremony is held at the groom’s house where guests sing and dance in celebration of the groom’s good fortune in securing his bride. The bride’s parents however do not usually attend as they will be somewhat sad at seeing their little princess leave the family ‘castle’. For this ceremony the bride usually wear a yellow veil.
The final day of the formal wedding celebration is marked by a dinner – the first formal event that the couple host as man and wife. The celebrations don’t quite end there – during the next week the couple will be taken out to dinner by various guests as a ‘present’…. remember the bride doesn’t do any work until the henna designs on her hands fade. It is a time to be remembered for the couple as they live the life of royalty and it provides a beautiful introduction to married life.
Sometimes the groom will arrive in style on a horse decked out for the occasion with a fancy bridle and jewelled decorations, rather than by car. During this formal part of the ceremony performed by the Mullah or Imam who is licensed to perform the ritual will pledge their love and commitment to the marriage. A formal contract is signed and must be witnessed by two members from the bride’ family and two from the groom’s family.
At the Nikah the bride’s face is veiled and it is only during the Aarsi Mushaf Dikhana or the unveiling where the groom is first to see his bride as a beautiful shawl is held over both their heads and the bride unveils her face. They will share a piece of fruit or dates as they symbolically eat together for the first time. After this the guests will be eager to congratulate the couple and present their gifts which often take the form of money. Wedding gifts can be presented at any stage of the various ceremonies however. At this event the men and women are seated separately. After this the couple is considered married in the eyes of God and is no longer the responsibility of her father.
At the Shaadi, or reception, an elaborate dinner is served and there is entertainment and dancing. Guests at this ceremony who may not be used to Muslim traditions will find themselves pressed with food and beverages as the hosts strive to be the epitome of hospitality. Favors for guests are packed into exquisite boxes and will often contain methai -traditional sweets.
When it is time for the bridal couple to depart the bride’s family will play tricks to delay the departure. In the past a doli or palanquin was used to carry the couple but these days they depart by car.
Guests may put up a barrier and ask for a token or ‘toll fee’ to pass. Sometimes they will hide something the groom needs. This is done to lighten the somewhat sad moment for the bride’s parents who are letting their daughter go to begin her new life. You can see some of our beautiful Muslim wedding photos here: Florida Muslim Wedding Photography
You can learn more about Indian wedding traditions here:
Significance of Indian Bridal Choora
Indian wedding baraat photos, history and significance
Indian Bridal Mehndi
Planning an Indian Wedding – What makes an Indian Wedding different?
8 Tips to Photograph an Indian Wedding
Muslim wedding traditions: Muslim wedding traditions, inspiration, ideas
Miami Wedding Photographers