Most people know the traditional wedding vow couples take, but for many of the millions of Muslims in the United States, that’s not the case at all. In fact, the whole Muslim wedding experience is completely unconventional.
More than 1 million Muslims live in the U.S., 65 percent of which are immigrants from various Muslim regions of the world such as the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Pew Research Center. Regardless of the diverse population, aspects of an Islamic wedding are fairly consistent.
The only requirements for Muslim weddings are the mehr, a formal statement specifying the monetary amount the groom gives the bride, and the nikah, the marriage contract. In the nikah ceremony, the groom or his representative proposes to the bride in front of at least two witnesses, stating the details of the mehr. The bride and groom repeat the word “qabul” (“I accept” in Arabic) three times to demonstrate their free will.
The officiant may add an additional religious ceremony, which usually includes a recitation of the Quran, and blessings and praising of Prophet Muhammad. Most Muslim couples don’t recite vows but rather listen as their officiant speaks about the meaning of marriage and their responsibilities to each other and to Allah.
The couple and two male witnesses sign the contract making the marriage civilly and religiously legal. The bride and groom may then share a piece of sweet fruit, such as a date.
Most Muslim marriages are not held in mosques. Men and women remain separate during the ceremony and reception. If a wedding takes place in a mosque, marriage officers called qazi or madhun oversee the marriage.
Muslim brides have a variety of wedding dresses to choose from – even the strapless variety. However, brides wearing the hijab incorporate long sleeves and high necklines to polish off the idealized wedding look. Even the veils draw over the hair, ears and neck. A Muslim groom has nothing to stress about when pursuing a top-notch suit or tuxedo as long as he’s not wearing pure silk or gold, prohibited adornments for men in Islam.
Muslim Wedding Traditions
Not many Muslims have a purely Islamic wedding; traditions vary from one country to the other depending on culture and Islamic sect. Palestinians are one of the largest Muslim communities in the U.S., and many have their wedding stateside.
At most Palestinian wedding celebrations, the bride and groom would already be married, having already done the mehr and nikah. Wedding celebrations usually take place at large reception halls or hotels during the evening.
“Since large families and strong kinship is very much a part of the culture, anyone even remotely related to the bride or groom is invited, rendering a guest list of anywhere from 300 to 600 people,” says Aida Hasan, a writer who covers Arab culture.
Being a continent away from home, Muslim couples have a great deal of leeway to put together an eccentric wedding. Some might even incorporate American wedding traditions like the bride walking down the aisle with her father or the bouquet toss with their own Middle Eastern, African or Asian weddings.
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