By Nicole Aliya Rahim
Weddings are fun, festive and joyful. They mark the contract between two people in the name of Allah (SWT). While a Nikah and Valima are simple, there are a multitude of rich traditions that stem from cultural upbringings that make the occasion more colourful and festive for all. Some of the most common wedding traditions among the various cultures in the Muslim world.
Used particularly in desert climates due to its cooling effects, the use of henna can be documented as far back as 9000 years ago. Wedding henna can be applied using different motifs that reflect particular regions of the world. Furthermore, the ceremonies surrounding the henna application also differ. The henna night is called ‘hana-bandan’ in Iran and ‘beberiska’ in Morocco.
In Somalia, it is common to see flowery motifs, triangular patterns, as well as the tips of the fingers dipped in henna. In Pakistan, the groom’s family may have a hand in deciding the henna patterns that the bride wears. In Saudi Arabia, a happily married female relative may be the one to apply the henna to the bride.
In Turkey, the henna ceremony is called ‘kina gecesi’ and is celebrated by placing dry henna into a silver or copper vessel. In Malaysia, henna is also considered a blessed plant and is used as protection from unwanted evil influences. Lastly, in Tunisia, it is customary for the henna fun to last about seven days!
Turmeric for ‘glow’
Turmeric is a yellow aromatic substance that comes from the rhizome of the ginger plant. Applying turmeric onto the bride and groom during the days leading up to the wedding is typical in many cultures. Often mixed with milk, sandalwood powder, oils or other substances, turmeric is known for its exfoliating properties resulting in a glowing complexion.
In Guyana, the bride’s mother, grandmother and closest friends dab it onto the bride a few days before the wedding. A Mayun, in South Asian traditions is the start of seclusion of the bride for seven days. During this time, her female relatives apply turmeric, sandalwood powder, and aromatic oils to her skin. The mixture is applied first by her mother, followed by seven married ladies, then by the rest of her relatives and friends.
Gaye haloud or ‘yellowing of the body’ as it is known in Bangladesh is the night when turmeric, mixed with water and milk is rubbed on the bride. At this time she receives gifts and her wedding outfit from the groom’s family. Better than your most fabulous spa day, the turmeric ritual brings families and friends together, surrounded by drums and folklore songs.
Drumming up a Baraat
Drums, accepted in Islamic traditions, normally accompany wedding festivities. Often with drums is the baraat that carries different spelling in various countries. For example, in Guyanese weddings, tassa players welcome the baraat (grooms family to the bride’s side). There may be a bit of a friendly battle between the drummers, which presents itself as a source of entertainment for the guests.
In Malaysia, the bride sends a signal to the bridegroom known as a sirih latlat, to let the bridegroom know that the bride awaits him. The bridegroom and his party proceeds slowly towards the house of the bride, led by the women. This is the ceremony of berarak, or walking in procession. Behind them come the group of musicians beating the various types of drums used, especially the hand-held drum known as the kompang, as well as bearers of decorative flowers (bunga manggar).
In South Asian cultures, ‘baraati‘ refers to the groom and his procession, his relatives, friends and guests. The groom typically rides in on a white horse embellished with decorations along with a Shahbala (young child similar to a ring boy) who is dressed identical to the groom. Often, this baraat is led by dhol (drum) players.
New furnishings for a new life
Another interesting custom is the tradition of decorating or buying furniture for the newlyweds’ home. Such is the case in Somali and some Turkish traditions. In Morocco, this is called a ‘furnishing party’ and happens five days before the wedding. By tradition, if the groom’s family is wealthy enough, they pay for most of the furnishings purchased.
This list is by no means exhaustive and it provides a small glimpse into common wedding traditions across cultures. These customs are what families look forward to during the wedding time; they provide laughter, lighthearted-ness, and a sense of community and joy. For more resources on wedding traditions, customs and wedding planning visit Nikah.ca.
About the author:
Nicole Aliya Rahim is proud mommy to a 9 month old daughter and practices as a Board Certified Behavioural Analyst in Downtown Toronto. As a behaviour analyst, Nicole consults, assess and treats individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health complexities.
In addition to this, Nicole is the CEO and founder of Nikah.ca where you can find planning tools, real wedding stories and Islamic inspired wedding trends. Also in the works is the second annual Nikah wedding event (October 3rd 2015) and Nikah.ca magazine for Muslims planning their wedding.