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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Will You Marry Me

If this is your first time to travel across the pond with us, then you read about the guidelines HERE.

Since wedding season is coming to a close here, it seems only appropriate to tell you about the weddings here. I had heard much about them, but my first real experience was last October when my second to youngest brother in law married. My wedding was NOT typical or traditional so his was the first time I had witnessed one of these events first hand. 

There are certain times during the year when people don't get married and this is due to a variety of reasons. Some have to do with religion others have to do with the heat. I mean seriously who wants to get married when it's 50 (122 F) outside, and that is without humidity. Weddings officially are 3 days, but guests usually start arriving a few days before and stay a few days after so at the very least people are in your home for about 7 days. 

The first day of the wedding is known as the "Mehndi" ceremony. The bride will have a mehndi ceremony in her home hosted by her family and the groom has one in his home hosted by his family. This is basically a big "reception". For those who are not religious, there will be music and dancing. For those who are, then there will be qasidas and clapping. The bride/groom sits on a "stage" in front of the guests. The guests will come and sit with the bride/groom to have their pictures taken and to give a monetary gift. The bride traditionally wears yellow for this day. 

This is also the day where the "mehndi" (aka henna) will be applied to the hands, arms, and feet of the bride. Before the designs were done only up to the wrists, but today it is often applied as far as just above the elbow, on the tops and bottoms of the hands, and tops of both feet. Designs are intricate and extremely elaborate. 

The second day is when the actual marriage ceremony takes place known as the "Nikah". This was the only part of the wedding traditions that my husband and I allowed to take place. He and I both do not particularly like to participate in cultural aspects of things so our wedding was very different than the "normal" wedding ceremony. 

Traditionally,  on this day the groom's family, (mother, father, bros/sis, aunts/uncles, cousins etc) will travel to the brides' home where the marriage ceremony will take place.When the groom's family leaves to go to the bride's home, it is known as "Barat". Usually the groom's family will rent a special car for this occasion as well. This will be the car the bride and groom will ride in after the ceremony when the groom brings his bride back to his family home. 

After the bride and groom have been officially married, the bride's family will provide a dinner for the guests while the sounds of the dohl can be heard for miles around. 


The bride typically wears red on this day. Red is considered a symbol of fertility and happiness and this is why  the brides wear red instead of white. White is (in certain traditions) considered a symbol of mourning and sadness and this is why brides do not wear white to be married in. 

traditional bridal gown

After the nikkah ceremony is completed, the bride prepares to leave her family home and travel with the groom to his home. This event is known as "Rukhsati". It is usually a very difficult time on the bride as this is most often the first time in her life that she will have left her family's home. Once the bride and groom return to his home, there will be more celebrating throughout the night. 

The third day is known as the "Walima". The first two days are often held in the family home, but the walima is almost always held in a rented wedding hall or hotel. If you compared this to a typical western wedding, then the walima would basically be the "wedding reception". The bride and groom sit on a stage and everyone comes to have their pictures taken and offer their congratulations to the newly married couple. An elaborate meal will be served to the guests at the walima as well. 

During the walima the bride often wears red, but the dress will be different than that which she wore for the nikkah. Traditionally the groom's family presents these dresses to the bride as gifts a week or so before the event takes place along with the jewellery the bride will wear during the wedding. 

traditional bridal set

If by now you hadn't realized, getting married is VERY expensive. It is something that parents start saving for years in advance. Little by little they purchase jewellery set, dresses etc and keep them in storage. This way when the event arrives, some of the major purchases have already been taken care of. Even though my husband's family is more conservative and their weddings are more religious oriented, they still follow this basic 3 day guideline. One thing about living overseas I have noticed is that while in many ways we are very different, in most ways, we are very much the same. 


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