Sunday, October 4, 2009

Traditional Wedding In Pakistan - - An Eventful Ceremony Full of Enjoyment

Marriage in Pakistan is seen as the most standard and stable living form for adults. A marriage is seen not only as a link between man and a women but it is also considered a union between their parents' families.

Most marriages in Pakistan are therefore arranged. Arranged marriages have been an integral part of Pakistani society for centuries and it is quite normal for people to have their marriages planned by their parents and other respected family-members. Arranged matches are made after taking into account factors such as the backgrounds of their families (wealth, social standing, caste). Often a marriage is made within the extended family, such as between cousins.

Polygamy is permitted under Pakistani civil law as well as under family act, however, it is now the exception rather than the norm and is very uncommon in the major cities. A husband is more likely to get himself a second wife, or recommended by family members to have a second marriage, if he remains childless with the first wife.

Marriage Process

Arranged marriages in Pakistan often take much time. from starting till the day of marriage it may take more than a year. when the marriage is near to come almost all the close relatives are invited therefore a typical Pakistani marriage requires huge budgets. In some cases marriage is postponed until the important relatives do not plan to arrive in Pakistan from abroad.

Arranged marriages

Arranged marriages are still prevalent in Pakistan. Marriages are often arranged within the family or within the same tribe/caste or ethnicity. However, love marriages are slowly becoming more common and acceptable in Pakistan.

Proposal party

Is a reception made in the bride's house, where the Groom parents and family elders asks for the Bride's hands from her parents. In religious families once the wedding proposal is accepted the families recite Surah Al-Fatihah, which is the first Surah in the QuraƔn Kareem, and then tea and refreshments are served. Depending on individual family tradition, the bride to be may also be presented with an item of jewelery and the guests (family elders) may present the groom with gifts in cash.


Mangni is a formal ceremony to mark the engagement of the couple. It is usually a small ceremony that takes place in the presence of a few close members of would-be bride's & groom’s families. Rings are exchanged between the would be bride and groom and other items of jewellery amongst affluent families. Traditionally the bride and the groom were not seated together and the rings were placed on the bride's finger by the groom's mother or sister and vice versa. In recent years however, segregated functions have become a rarity and rings are usually exchanged between the couple. Prayer and blessings for the couple are recited and the wedding date is usually decided.

Mayoon or Mayun

Mayoon is celebrated at the bride's house. Usually the bride's friends and close relatives get together at her house and they dance and sing, often accompanied by drum music. Generally the bride's family give bangles and sometimes clothes to her friends, depending on what the family can afford. The evening also usually includes a henna where the women put designs in henna on each others' hands. The mayoon can last up to late night. The bride usually wears a simple yellow Shalwar Kameez. Mayun is a custom of the bride entering into the state of seclusion eight to fifteen days before the wedding. She is made free of all the chores and errands during this time. The bride and groom are not allowed to see each other after the Mayun. The beautification rituals begin during this time.

Ubtan is a paste made from turmeric, sandalwood powder, herbs and aromatic oils, which groom's mother brings for bride. She blesses bride and applies “ubtan’ to the bride's hands and face. Groom's sister also does the same, and a thick string called a “gana( Bangles made of Flowers)” is tied to the bride’s arm. “Ubtan” is applied to the bride's skin each day leading up to the wedding. Similar ceremony is held for the groom, where bride's mother, sisters, cousins and friends bring “ubtan” for groom and rub it on his skin.


Dholki is a popular ceremony of singing traditional wedding & popular songs accompanied by two or three percussion instruments Dholki being the main. The girl is officially treated as bride (dulhan). She wears traditional Pakistani yellow outfit. Her brothers, sisters, and cousins bring her (bride) in the dholki party.


Mehndi, or the Rasm-e-henna ceremony, typically takes place one or two days prior to the main wedding day. The event is traditionally held separately for the bride and the groom, and henna is symbolically placed on the couple's hands. The groom's friends and family bring along sweets and henna for the bride, and the bride's family does the same for the groom. On the bride's ceremony the groom normally does not participate and similarly, on the groom's event the bride stays at home. Female guests are sometimes offered mehndi at the host's discretion.

Traditionally since there were separate functions for both the bride and the groom, the groom's function was called 'Tael' (oil) where female guests put some oil into the groom's hair. With the ceremony now held simultanously for both the groom and the bride, the use of the term 'tael' has diminished greatly.

The bride normally wears a green dress or yellows/oranges for mehndi and uses only light, or no, make up. The groom will typically wear a casual shalwar kameez. The bride and/or the groom are brought forward in the ceremony under a decorative dupatta by their close relatives. A recent trend that has been gaining popularity is to announce a colour 'theme' for the mehendi whereby guests are supposed to dress up in a particular colour. Favourite mehendi colours are bright reds, oranges and yellows.


Baraat is procession of family, relatives, and friends of groom that accompany the groom to bride’s home for official wedding ceremony. Groom makes his way to the bride's home on a richly decked horse or in a car and “baraat” follows in different vehicles. Usually they are also accompanied by a band playing wedding songs. Groom is given warm welcome by the bride’s family with flower garlands and rose petals thrown upon the procession by the bride's sisters, cousins and friends.


Nikah is purely Islamic official wedding ceremony that usually takes place at the bride’s home. Nikah is attended by close family members, relatives, and friends of groom and bride. Usually, the men and women are made to sit separately, in different rooms, or have a purdah (curtain) separating them.

The nikah-naama (marriage contract) is registered during the nikah. The nikah-naama contains several terms and conditions that are to be respected by both parties (bride & groom). It includes bride’s right to divorce her husband. nikah-naama specifies meher, the monetary amount the groom will give the bride. Meher includes two amounts in Pakistani culture, but in Islamic belief is one total amount; one that is due before the marriage is consummated and the other that is a deferred amount given to the bride at a time to be determined. The meher guarantees the bride's freedom within the marriage, and acts as the bride's safety net.

The fathers of groom and bride (walis) act as witnesses to the wedding. If father is not available, the senior male, brother or uncle performs the ceremony. An Islamic imam (called maulana or maulvi in Urdu) reads selected verses from the Quran and waits for the Ijab-e-Qubul (proposal and acceptance) of wedding. Usually, the groom's side makes proposal and the bride's side conveys her assent. Maulvi and witnesses (gavah) take the nikah-naama to the bride and read it aloud to her. She accepts the nikah-naama saying "qabool kiya," ("I accept") and signs it. The nikah-naama is then taken to the groom and read aloud to him. He accepts saying "qabool kiya" and signs the document. The maulvi and witnesses also sign the nikah-naama contract and the wedding becomes legal. The maulvi recites the Fatihah (first chapter of the Quran), and various durud (blessings) to mark the closing of nikah ceremony.

After the wedding is legally announced, dishes of dates and misri (unrefined sugar) are served to the groom's family. The groom is then escorted to his bride where he's allowed to sit beside his wife. This is the time when sisters-in-law of groom play pranks and tease the groom.


The main day of the wedding is called shaadi, which is the bride's reception. The event takes place at the bride's house, where large wedding tents may be set up in the garden or a nearby place. It has also become very common to hold the event in a marriage hall or hotel. The bride's family is responsible for the reception and arrangements on this day.

The barat or grooms procession indicates the arrival of the groom's family and friends to the bride's house. The barat is often accompanied by the rhythms of a dhol (drum) as it arrives and is greeted with flowers garland and rose petals by the brides family. It is customary for the bride's sisters and friends to stop the barat from entering the arena until a sufficient amount of cash is given to them. This can lead to banter, usually harmless and just for fun, between the bride's sisters and friends on one side and the groom's brothers and friends on the other side.

The bride traditionally wears a red/pink/purple gharara, lehenga or shalwar kameez which is heavily embroidered; other bright colors may also be seen. The dress is always accompanied with heavy gold jewellery. The groom may wear a traditional dress such as sherwani with a sehra or turban though some may prefer to wear a western inspired suit.

The nikah is the Islamic marriage contract ceremony. It either takes place at the Shaadi itself or on a separate day at the bride's house, before the shaadi event.

It is performed by an imam which formally indicates signing of the marriage contract. The bride and groom must both have two witnesses present to ensure that the marriage is consensual.

A dinner is served which consists of several dishes alongside pullao,biryani , chaap , dal gosht , kebabs , tandoori chicken and naan.


Finally, the Rukhsati takes place, when the groom and his family will leave together with the bride. The Qur'an is normally held over the brides head as she walks from the stage to the exit in order to bless her. This is a somber occasion for the bride's parents as it marks the departure of their daughter from their home. The departure of the bride becomes a very emotional scene as she says farewell to the home of her parents and siblings to start a new married life.

Traditionally, the groom traveled by a decorated horse to the bride's house and after the wedding ceremony took his wife in a doli (palanquin) to his parents' house to live. The horse and the carts have nowadays been replaced by cars, and one will, in sharp contrast to western weddings, typically see a quiet bride with wet eyes as she sits in the car beside her husband leaving for her new home.

Mooh Dikhai/ Arsi Masshaf

Mooh Dikhai is the ceremony of first time “showing of the face” after the Nikah. The couple is made to see each other in the mirror and the bride unveils her face that she keeps hidden during the Nikah. The custom of Mooh Dikhai is also called “Aarsi Musshaf.” The bride and groom share a piece of sweet fruit, such as a date and family and friends congratulate the couple and offer gifts. Dinner is served to the guests. The sisters, friends, and female cousins of bride take this opportunity to steal the groom's shoes and demand a sum of money for shoes. This is very popular custom and groom usually carries a lot of cash, due to the popularity of this custom. He pays money to get back his shoes and girls divide the money among themselves.

Ruksati is the ceremony to bid farewell to the bride before her departure to the groom's house. She says goodbye to her parents, close friends and family. The Quran is held over her head as a blessing. Although this practice is un-Islamic, a lot of Pakistani families have come to adopt it.


This is the final day of the wedding held by couple as they host their first dinner as husband and wife. The groom's family invites all of the bride's family and their guests to their home for a feast at their place or a marriage hall. The walima is typically the most festive event of the wedding ceremony and intends to publicize the marriage.

The bride wears a heavily decorated dress with gold jewelry provided by the groom's family. Typical colour palettes are pastel shades. The groom normally opts for a formal Western suit or tuxedo.

The Western equivalent to the walima would be the wedding reception, though walima's are held the day after the shaadi or wedding.

Religious and ethnic

Wedding ceremonies and customs often differ significantly between Deobandis , Barelwis , Shias and Sunnis and also among the different sub-groups of the Barelwis. The above mentioned marriage customs are typical of a fairly liberal-minded Pakistani family. More orthodox families have more sober ceremonies , especially no music is allowed , and the bride wears a Hijab. Customs are also variety among Punjabis , Pakhtuns , Sindhis , Memons, Balochis , Muhajirs , Biharis , and Kashmiri Muslims.

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