As a young girl, I remember talking with my friends about what we wanted our weddings to be like. Most of us young women still do this today with friends. We talk about where we want to hold the ceremony such as a church or the beach, what our dress will look like and where we would go for the honeymoon. I have always been interested in what customs go along with Arab weddings. Does the groom still propose? Does the bride still get to wear a gorgeous dress and walk down the isle? To my surprise, Arab weddings can be a week long event.
The engagement celebration is when the bride’s family holds a party at their house where the groom formally asks the bride to marry him. Instead of the groom just popping the question like they do in America, the bride and grooms family must condone the wedding first. The mothers and fathers meet to see if their children are a good match for each other and if both of their families would get along. If they agree, then the engagement celebration is held where it is formally recognized that the couple is planning to get married. At the ceremony the father of the bride again must agree. If he agrees to the engagement, the families read the Fatiha, or the first Sura in the Qur’an.
After the engagement celebration there is a party held for the couple. It is similar to what Americans would do when a couple gets engaged. The bride can wear whatever dress she chooses but most of the time they bride and groom wear the same color. At this party the bride and groom exchange rings. However, they put their rings on the right hand ring finger. In the United States, we put it on the left ring finger.
After the engagement party the bride and groom and their families meet to sign a marriage contract. It usually begins with a sheikh or an imam give a short speech about the prophet Muhammad and how he treated his wives. They also talk about how the bride and groom should treat each other. Again the father must accept the proposal. The legal documents or the marriage contract can include how much money the bride will receive if they get divorced, her duties as a wife and his duties as a husband, if he is allowed to take a second wife and what will happen if the wife was given a dowry. Two witnesses are usually present when this contract is being written and signed. They are usually the two eldest men from each family. Once they sign their names, the couple is officially married. In more traditional households, the marriage isn’t seen as official until it is consummated.
However, many times the bride and groom will hold a big celebration with friends and family. Sometimes the wedding celebration is separated by sex, meaning that women are in one room and men are in the other. The brides have also been known to have henna nights, which is the equivalent to a bachelorette party here in the United States.
Middle Eastern weddings are a lot like weddings in the United States but with some more strict traditional customs. The celebrations last for a week and the whole family participates. Weddings are taken very seriously and are not legally recognized until the couple signs the marriage contract. Unlike in the United States, the couple does not sit down and outline their duties in the marriage. I thought this was very interesting since 50% of marriages will end in divorce in America.
References: “Arab Marriage Customs.” Arab Marriage Customs. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2014.