My interest in wedding customs applies to every country, tradition and religion. To me, it’s all fascinating and there’s something to learn from every place and time.
That’s why I found it so interesting that Muslim weddings have few specific requirements at all, other than signing the marriage contract. This contract, called a ‘meher’ (sometimes transliterated as Mehr, Mahr, and other versions) is a statement specifying a gift, sometimes money or almost anything that the groom gives the bride. Modern couples approach it simply as a wedding gift.
The groom may use an engagement ring to symbolize the meher, or sometimes a sum of money is given, small or large, or perhaps some other useful gift, even land, or a commitment to pay for an education.
The meher is noted in the wedding certificate, called the nikkha, and the couple has witnesses sign it, like a marriage license. But the nikkha is the religious custom, like the Jewish ketubah, not to be confused with a state marriage license. The officiant, whether an Imam or other spiritual leader, should also sign the civil paperwork, but that need not be part of the ceremony. Interesting to also note that Muslim weddings do not have to be held in a mosque.
Historic note: the meher was considered the bride’s security and guarantee of freedom within the marriage. I hope that doesn’t surprise you — remember that the extremist views we hear about, are just that, extreme, and do not represent most people.
After those few requirements, the wedding simply unfolds depending on the traditions of the specific country of origin. And of course, there are many American born Muslims, too, so expect some weddings to look like any other typical American wedding.
In the United States, according to a 2016 estimate, there are 3.3 million Muslims, which is only about 1% of the total U.S. population. American Muslims come from various backgrounds and are one of the most racially diverse religious groups in the United States.
You may see a Muslim bride wear a hijab (head covering) and in a modest, although gorgeous, wedding gown… or not! Not all Muslim women wear the hijab, just as not all Jews wear a kippah (yarmulke), nor all nuns wear a habit.
If you are invited to a wedding where one or both partners are Muslim, female guests should certainly dress up, but remember to dress more modestly — so pull out that cocktail dress or gown with sleeves, it will be more appropriate. Expect lots of speeches at the reception. There will be lots of food, but probably no alcohol. Put your wedding card in its envelope and your preconceptions away, and enjoy yourself!
— Lois Heckman is a certified Celebrant. She writes about creating meaningful weddings, focusing on ceremony and ritual, diversity, sometimes with a touch of humor or focus on the unusual.
Originally published on www.poconorecord.com