Every culture follows a different set of wedding traditions. Today, we explore the mix of different rituals at Pakistani weddings, from engagement festivities to the Walima – all bearing their own Islamic and traditional importance.
Did you know – In Pakistan, the system of arranged marriage is mostly followed, wherein the entire family is involved in the wedding preparations.
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The Mangni is a formal gathering held on a rather large scale, to announce the engagement between the couple. According to ancient traditions, the bride and the groom are supposed to get engaged separately, where the bride is given the ring by the groom’s mother on a separate day and the groom is given the ring by the bride’s mother on a separate day. However, nowadays, the bride and groom exchange rings on the same day, as two engagement parties are too much of a hassle for both the families. This is followed by an exchange of family heirlooms and gifts, and religious quotes from the Holy Quran are recited while the date for the wedding is decided (the Mangni highlight). A formal dinner is arranged for the guests.
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Mayun is a custom wherein the bride enters into a state of seclusion for eight to fifteen days before the wedding, and is not supposed to do any chores or errands around the house. After the Mayun, the future couple can’t see each other and the bride is not allowed to leave the house. The truth is though, she’s likely to be too busy with the pre-nuptial pampering, as this seclusion marks the onset of the traditional bridal ‘cleansing’ routine: Uptan & Dholki.
Uptan & Dholki
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Uptan is a paste that is made from turmeric, sandalwood powder, herbs and aromatic oils, which the groom’s mother brings for the bride. In a female-only ceremony, she anoints the bride with Uptan as a blessing, followed by the sisters of the groom, if any.
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Dholki is a ceremony that consists of women preparing dance routines for the following Henna function, and the playing of the instrument called Dholak, along with old traditional wedding melodies which are sung along with the members of the family. Nowadays, this ceremony is often combined with the Mehndi/ Henna ceremony.
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The henna ceremony usually takes place two to three days before the Nikah and it traditionally consists of two events, each one for the bride and the groom. The bride does not accompany the groom at his henna ceremony and vice versa.
Groom’s Henna Ceremony
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Traditionally, the groom’s henna ceremony consists of the bride’s family and the relatives bringing oil and sweets, wherein the oil is applied to the groom’s hair and the groom wears a casual shalwaar/kurta on this day. It’s also a custom to put a leaf on his hand, upon which his relatives put a bit of mehndi.
Bride’s Henna Ceremony
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The bride wears bright yellow, orange or green clothes and usually does not apply makeup or wear any jewelry. She is customary led to the stage, under the shade of a yellow or green scarf, which is held up by her cousins or female relatives.
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The groom’s family then brings henna and sweets to the stage and applies a bit of henna on her palms. In order to prevent her hands from being stained, a napkin or leaf is placed on the palm, upon which henna is squeezed from a tube. A tinge of oil is also dabbed into her hair, after which she is fed Asian sweets. Relatives present her with money soon after, which symbolizes the warding off of the evil eye. Henna is then applied to the bride’s hands and feet by a professional henna artist, in floral and geometric designs which often incorporates the groom’s name. The women folk get henna applied to their palms too. Dance routines and skits are performed so as to make the occasion more happening.
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Nowadays the bride’s and groom’s henna ceremony is held together and all the traditions are performed by the respective families.
Baraat & Nikah
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Baraat is principally the arrival of the groom at the Nikah ceremony on a horse carriage or in a lavish car, followed with a procession of family, relatives and friends in a parade of cars, with a band playing songs or dhol in the background. In rural areas, this procession usually takes place on foot, with lots of flower decorations paving the way to the bride’s house.
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Nikah is an Islamic act, where the bride and groom sign a marriage contract followed by the recital of Quranic Surahs and Dua for the married couple’s future. In accordance with Islamic tradition, males and females have to sit in separate rooms, or in the same room but with a curtain to separate them. The act of Nikah is observed by close relatives and family in the presence of an official ‘Imam’ licensed by the government. Nikah-naama is the document of the marriage contract and lays down several terms and conditions that are to be respected by both parties. This marriage contract also states the ‘Mahr’ (gift) that the groom will give the bride. It acts as a safe-guard for the bride, as it guarantees her rights within the marriage. The marriage is only consensual when both the bride and the groom have two witnesses present, mostly including both the fathers. After both the bride and groom have accepted the proposal and said ‘Qubool hai’ (I accept) three times, the Nikah-naama is signed and the wedding becomes legal. The Imam then holds a special prayer for the newly married couple, closing the marriage ceremony. Food is served after the Nikah is done and the groom is taken to sit beside his wife.
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The bride then shows her face for the first time to her new husband after their marriage, especially since it’s hidden from him before Nikah. A green, embroidered shawl is generally held over the couple’s head and they are made to see each other in the mirror for the Munh Dikhai (unveiling of the face). The bride and groom share a piece of date and both families present each other gifts.
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Meanwhile, the bride’s sisters and cousins steal the groom’s shoes and demand money in return. This ritual is called ‘Joota Chupai’ and the groom has to pay a sum of money to get his shoe back, which is then divided amongst the girls.
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The Nikah either takes place a day before the Reception or at the same venue before the Reception ceremony begins. The relatives arrive at the bride’s residence or at the hall booked by the bride’s family, wherever the Wedding Reception is supposed to take place. The baraat is welcomed with a shower of roses by various members of the bride’s family. Sisters and cousins of the bride sometimes demand cash in order to allow the groom to enter the hall.
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Rukhsati is a tradition in which the bride and the groom, followed by the groom’s family, leave the Reception ceremony towards the groom’s residence.
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The Holy Quran is held at the top of the bride’s head to shower Allah’s blessings and in order to protect her. This indicates that the bride is now supposed to lead a new life with her husband and new family, which usually results in tears shed by the bride and her family.
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Walima or the marriage banquet, is the second of the two traditional parts of an Islamic wedding. The word ‘walima’ is derived from ‘awlam’, meaning to gather or assemble. It designates a feast in Arabic. Walima is used as a symbol to show domestic happiness in the household (post-marriage). It is a ceremony to announce the wedding to the community, usually organized by the groom’s family.
Love & Positive Vibes,
Namrata The Scriptwriter