Grandeur, pomp, splendor and sumptuous spreads mark most Indian Muslim weddings. Muslim weddings are usually held over a period of three to five days before the signing of the marriage document or the 'nikaahnamah'. Muslim weddings are less ritualistic and they strictly abide by Islamic marriage requirements. Yet, certain region specific traditions that are within the purview of Islamic marriage customs are included.
'Mangni or Nizbat': Traditionally, the groom's family approaches the bride's family conveying their interests. As a mark of confirming the proposal, a formal engagement ceremony takes place at the bride's place. Select family members from both sides take part in the ceremony. The groom's mother and sisters gift the engagement outfit, gold, silver, precious stones jewelry, rich costumes and other accessories such as handbags, perfumes, shoes and slippers, make-up kits etc. Platters of fruits, sweets and dry fruits are given to bride's parents.
High tea, refreshments or a lavish feast is served to mark the happy occasion. Conservative Muslim families do not encourage the meeting of bride and groom. Hence, the participation of the groom is restricted. Only the female members of both the families meet the bride. But with changing times, families take a deviation and let the bride or bridegroom to meet each other and exchange engagement rings. The elder members of the family agree upon a mutually convenient time and fix the date for the wedding.
Pre-wedding ceremony - Mehendi or Henna ceremony:
This is a pre-wedding party filled with color, music, dance and exotic food. Just a few days before the wedding or on the eve of the wedding, female friends, family members and close relatives visit the bride's house to participate in the mehendi ceremony. The bride-to-be is usually clad in traditional lehanga or sharara, garara or lancha dress. Relatives apply a paste of turmeric, sandalwood and aromatic oil to the bride so as to enhance her beauty and charm. A professional mehendiwali is invited to decorate and beautify the bride's hands and feet with fine designs. All the guests have an opportunity to decorate their hands and feet painted with henna paste.
All the while, the sangeet session wherein women get together play the dolak and sing traditional songs is in progress. Young girls dressed in vibrant festive clothes and fine jewelry dance. The elaborate buffet for the day will include exotic food items like Lagan Ka Murg, Zafrani Paneer, Dum Gosht Biryani, all time favorite deserts such as Gulab Jamun and Gajar Ka Halwa.
'Nikah', the wedding ceremony:
The actual wedding ceremony takes place at the bride's place or the masjid followed by a wedding reception at a pre-determined venue like a banquet hall. On the other hand, the 'nikah' can also take place at 'Shadikhaanas', a traditional venue for Muslim weddings.
The bride's in-laws provide her the wedding outfit, which includes the 'ghunghat'. For the 'nikah', she wears the wedding outfit and her face will be completely covered by the ghunghat. Indian muslim brides usually wear a ghagra choli also known as lehenga choli and chaniya choli along with exquisite gold and silver jewelry. The outfits usually in red color are usually decorated with kundan stone, real gold threads, mirrors, zari, crystals, pearls or katori. A garland completes her ensemble.
Sehra (a flower veil) is tied to the groom's forehead by the brother-in-law. A garland, same as the bride's completes his ensemble. The groom clad in a sherwani or the traditional salwar and kurta or even a western suit arrives in a baraat to the accompaniment of music.
Guests are welcomed and seated in spacious rooms separately, the Mardana for men and Zenana for women. The officiating Imam will ask the bride if she is happy with the proposal and whether she consents to marry the groom. She accepts by saying 'qabool kiya' (I accept) and signs the contract. The 'nikaahnamah' makes a mention of the 'mehr' (cash or jewelry) that is given to the bride. The 'mehr' symbolizes the fact that the bridegroom is willing and capable of shouldering the responsibility arising out of marriage. After obtaining the bride's consent, the bridegroom is requested to convey his confirmation. The Maulvi or muslim priest will conduct the 'nikah'. Selected versed from the Holy Quran will be recited. The Nikaah is complete after the Ijab-e-Qubul (proposal and acceptance). At this point, the 'nikah' is complete and the bride and bridegroom are given religious sanction thus formally becoming husband and wife.
To celebrate, a lavish dinner or lunch party is organized for the guests and relatives comprising mutton and chicken biryanis, salad, pickle, dessert, ghee rice, bread and kheer. The bride and bridegroom are made to sit together for the first time. It is time for all those present to extend their greetings and offer gifts to the newly wed couple.
Post wedding ceremony, the Valima Generally, valima takes place the day after the wedding. The bridegroom's family host Valima and extend invitation for members of both sides to attend the ceremony. Dinner is served to all guests and it provides an opportunity for both the families to celebrate the joyous occasion