A Wedding is a contract between two parties, a man and a woman, made in the presence of witnesses as well as the woman’s guardian. It also involves the payment of a dower, the amount of which is agreed between the two parties and become payable by the husband at the time when the contract is made (though the payment may be deferred by mutual consent).
A marriage contract does not need to be written down in order to be valid. But the documentation is important, particularly these days in order to ensure that all future formalities are properly made.
In many Muslim marriages, the wife may not be present when the actual contract is made. However, her father or guardian comes to her with two witnesses and asks her whether she gives him the [verbal] power of attorney [in presence of the two witnesses] to act for her in marrying her to the man concerned and whether she agrees to the amount of dower to be paid to her. When she has given him the power of attorney, he proceeds to complete the marriage contract.
An offer of marriage is made by the woman’s father or guardian. Secondly, an acceptance made by the man in the presence of two Muslim witnesses. The witnesses may be required to confirm the actual marriage in front of a judge. In order that their testimony be binding on a Muslim party, they must be Muslims.
The bride is entitled to receive a dower. The dower, a sum of money, in cash or kind, must be specified as being given by the bridegroom to his bride.
Among Muslims, it is the family of the Groom who searches for a suitable Bride.
There are many ceremonies which comprise the marriage process.
The Mangni or engagement ceremony is an exchange of rings. The outfit for the Bride is provided by the Groom’s family.
The Manjha Ceremony
The Manjha ceremony is where the Bride is anointed with turmeric paste. This takes place at the Bride’s house one or two days before the wedding day. The paste of turmeric, sandalwood and chameli oil are provided by the Groom’s family.
Only unmarried women apply this to the bride to be. Henna is applied on her hands and feet. A symbolic token in the form of a spot is also applied to the groom. After this ceremony, the Bride does not leave her house until the wedding. On her wedding day, she is provided her clothing by the Groom’s family.
The Groom’s Procession
On the wedding day, a procession of friends and relatives accompany the groom from his place to the wedding venue. This is done whether the groom rides on a horse or in a car.
If no concrete covered area is available, a shamiana (large decorated tent) is erected.
The Arrival of the Groom and Guests
The arrival of the groom is accompanied by the beating of drums and playing of musical instruments.
On this arrival, the groom and the brother of the bride exchange a glass of sharbet (a sweetened drink) and money. The sisters of the bride welcome the guests by playfully hitting them with a stick wrapped around flowers.
The Wedding Ceremony
For some Muslim ceremonies, particularly those rooted in Islam more traditionally found in South-Asia, the men and women are seated in separate rooms or have a curtain to separate them. This is not the case for all Muslim ceremonies though. The meher, (a compulsory amount of money given to the bride’s family by the groom’s family) is decided upon by elders of both families.
Before reading a selected piece from the Koran (the holy book of the Muslims), witnessed by two male persons and a lawyer or eminent person, the officiating priest will ask the bride if she is happy with the arrangement and whether she agrees to marry the groom. The boy is asked the same.
The marriage is registered (nikaahnama). It is first signed by the groom and then two witnesses. The bride will sign later. The groom is then taken to the women’s section. He gives money and gifts to the sisters of the bride. He receives the blessings of the elder woman and offers his salutations. Dinner is served separately to the women and men. The groom’s family feasts separately.
After their first meal, the groom and bride are seated together and a long scarf is used to cover their heads while the priest makes them read prayers. The Holy Koran is kept between them and they are allowed to see each other through reflection by mirrors. Dried dates and a sweet dish are served to the guests. The dates have religious significance.
The groom spends the night in a separate room at the girl’s house with a younger brother. In the morning he is given clothes, money and gifts by the bride’s parents. That afternoon his relatives come to accompany the bridal couple to their home.
The Rukhsat Ceremony
The farewell by the father of the bride is performed by the father giving her hand to her husband and asking him to protect her always. Final farewells are offered and the couple leaves.
Another tradition from the Muslims of South Asia is that when the bride enters her new home, her mother-in-law holds the Koran over her and the groom follows. It is believed this may have its roots in the Hindu faith. Four days after the wedding she is taken back to her parent’s place. The wedding reception is held when the husband brings his wife and her family back to a reception hosted by his family
Gifts are exchanged between the bride’s family and the groom’s family before and after the wedding.
Throughout the Muslim world, a cherry red shade is chosen for bridal robes.The following descriptions are very typical of those worn in South Asia, and by those who practice the Islam of this region.
Covering the head during a wedding is a mark of respect. The ghunghat, which is equivalent to the veil of the Christian bride, is worn by the bride. It may vary in length, covering not only the head but the shoulders, back and almost down to the waistline.
The draping may be done is several ways. The chunri, worn with a ghaghra choli, is tucked in at the waist on one end, pleated beautifully around the body and draped delicately over one shoulder. An odhnis is usually made of silk with a tie dye pattern. The center of the veil is used as a head covering the ends taken carefully under the arms and tucked inside the neck of the abho or chorio (the upper garment).
The groom may sport a safa with its flowing tail-end. Others may wear a nattily wound pagdi, or a topi. White flowers can be tied in suspended strings ove rthe forehead, called sehra.
In northern, central and western India, a golden kalgi studded with precious stones is tied over the right side of the groom’s safa. In the center of the forehead sandalwood is applied and further decorated with gold, red and white dots. This decoration may also be done over the eyebrows.
The groom may wear a white silk brocade suit, sword and turban as his wedding outfit.
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