Friday, August 15, 2008

Muslim Weddings - Customs and Traditions

A wedding is always a happy time for families to celebrate. In the Muslim world, wedding traditions maintain some similarities based on faith. However, there are also colorful, cultural variations from place to place. The various wedding traditions reflect the diversity of the Muslim world. Where I live there is a large Muslim community and several Mosques throughout the city so these ceremonies and celebrations are part of the community.

Like all weddings, the purpose of a Muslim wedding is to join a man and woman in a new life together. The honoring of the Islamic faith during the ceremony is central to this new union. The associated traditions vary according to where the Islamic wedding takes place.

As with any faith, some Muslim weddings are deeply conservative, where the men and women who are invited to attend are separated during the ceremony, and the wedding reception. Other Muslim weddings are more modern and intermingle genders during the wedding reception, which is reflective of any other wedding.

There are certain elements that are basic to all Muslim weddings, no matter what the ethnic traditions are, that enhance the happy event.

All couples must sign a marriage contract or "nikkah" and the groom presents the bride with a "mahr" or wedding gift at the time of the vows.

At the wedding ceremony, the Imam (officiant) delivers a sermon during the vows. Usually, this sermon is addressed to the bride and groom and concerns their responsibilities toward one another. It also serves as a reminder to those who are already married.

After the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom receive friends and family at a Muslim wedding reception called by some the "walima."

No matter where the Muslim wedding takes place (in the US, Singapore, or the Middle East, for instance) each culture adds it stamp on to these basic traditions.

During the sungkem ceremony in a Sudanese wedding, the bride and groom bend forward to kiss the knees of their parents, promising to continue to serve them and asking for their forgiveness and blessings from them.

Moroccan brides change dresses and matching jewelry several times during their wedding celebration. Sometime during the wedding reception, the groom makes his way in a noisy procession to collect his bride. Once there, he is hoisted onto the shoulders of his friends or onto a horse; his bride is carried on a table or cushion. The procession continues until the couple reaches the nuptial chamber.

For couples of Malay descent, costumed children form a festive procession to hand-deliver gifts from the groom to the bride. Wedding guests might receive beautifully decorated hard-boiled eggs, representing fertility.

Turkish wedding customs
include a procession where wedding guests, accompanied by drums and pipes, "fetch" the bride from her parents' home and escort her to the groom's house. There, her mother-in-law greets her with a gift and the groom leads her inside.

No matter what the custom though, the guests, and the families gather together for only one reason - to wish the wedding couple a world of prosperity and happiness in their life to come.

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