Some traditional Arabic weddings are still observed by what we call the dessert dwellers or Bedouin, however, many young urban couples of today are opting to incorporate some modern touch to their marriage. The preparations for getting married are taken care of by the parents, and the formality of the process still remains; but today’s generation would like to have their own decision on who to marry and how their wedding should go. However, they respect and follow the sharia (Islamic laws) very carefully especially when it concerns alcohol and gender mixing at Arabic wedding celebrations.
Before The Wedding
The night before an Arabic wedding takes place, the bride will have a henna night, her last party as a single woman. This will be attended by her friends and women family members. A woman who is happily married will paint her hands and feet with henna, to symbolize good luck. This party is an opportunity for the bride to finish all the last minute preparations for the wedding.
The groom, who will also come to the party, will have his hands painted, but often with only the name of the bride and nothing else. He will be come with a gift to give to his bride, called mahr. Usually, the gift is gold. Some areas have grooms who also organize a party. This will be attended by male friends and relatives and held on the home garden or on the streets. The women will not be attending this party.
The Bride’s Attire
The wedding dress of the bride may vary according to the Islamic law in the area, but many young brides are now wearing the white, western style gowns and are also having western wedding ceremonies. There are still many areas, however, where Islamic laws about modesty are observed very strictly. In these areas, veils that are also part of the western weddings and used to symbolize protection from harm, are very common. In the strictest areas, the bride is expected to cover her entire body. Her accent includes a beaded crown and she wears many bracelets as a manner of showing wealth and also for good luck.
The Arabic Wedding Ceremony
During the simple wedding ceremony, the priest or imam will deliver the text of the marriage, giving advice about marriage while reciting verses from the Quran (bible). The wedding party will also recite the first sura of the Quran called the Fatija. This is a statement of faith. On the contract signing portion of the wedding, the fathers of each family or in their absence, the eldest men will act as witnesses and sign the marriage contract as such.
After the ceremony, the couple will announce their marriage to the world, by having a zaffa, a procession to celebrate the wedding. As they make their way to the celebration, they will be accompanied by the revelers and there will be playing of musical instruments, dancing, and singing. Different dances, according to the location, will be performed. Some of the wealthy Arab families may also hire entertainers especially for the occasion.
At the reception of an Arabic wedding, the newlyweds will be sitting in a kosha. It is a dais which indicates that for the night, the couple will be treated as royalties – a king and a queen. They will have a toast and switching of rings from the right to the left hand. The couple will dance first, then followed by everyone. Cutting of the cake and tossing of the bouquet will also follow.
The meal, consisting of a mix of Arabic and western food, is served not at the start of the reception, but near the end of the party.
Not many banquet halls can accommodate small Arabic weddings. The Boulevard Room was designed to accommodate small weddings. In house catering can create menus to suit budget and taste