Pakistan is an Islamic country that is located in South Asia, and most of the Pakistani weddings follow Islamic traditions. The main aim of the wedding function is to bring the bride, groom, and their families closer, and there are many pre-wedding customs that have to be observed before the actual wedding.
Some of the common customs found in Pakistani wedding are Mangni, Mayun, Uptan, Dolki, Rasm E Mehndi, Baraat, Nikah, Mooh Dikhai, Ruksati, Chauthi, and Walima. The duration of the wedding ceremony is about four days. Mangni refers to engagement, and Mayun is a custom that requires the bride to be kept in isolation for some days as the process of her beautification is carried out.
Mangni is a promise by which both the parties agree to enter into a marriage in future. This promise in itself is neither an innovation nor a sinful act. Obviously, even in the days of the Holy Prophet and the blessed Sahabah a marriage used to be preceded by a mutual understanding or a promise with the actual marriage taking place at a later stage. Nevertheless, no previous celebration or function is necessary for entering into a marriage nor was it a practice in the days of the Holy Prophet to celebrate this occasion. Therefore, if someone celebrates the occasion in the belief that it is a Sunnah or a part of religion then it would become a bid’ah or innovation. Even if it is celebrated without holding it as a part of religion it embodies many evil practices, therefore, celebration of mangni should be avoided.
Mehndi is performed on the second day of marriage. During mehndi, the relatives of bride gather at her home and apply traditional henna on her hands and feet. Only the female members of the families join the function, and in some parts of Pakistan, mehndi custom also takes place at the groom’s house. The bride wears a yellow costume, and she is not allowed to put on any makeup.
Mehndi ceremony of henna (rasm-e-henna), usually takes place one or two days prior to the main wedding day. The event is traditionally held separately for the bride and the groom. The 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 offering application of Mehndi and Bangles sets distributed.
In Punjab 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 simultaneously for both the groom and the bride, the use of the term ‘Tael’ has diminished greatly. In some cases, the entire ceremony is instead referred to as “Tael Mehndi” (Oil and Henna) ceremony.
The bride normally wears a green dress or yellows/orange for the Henna celebration and uses only shade of light yellow with no make-up. The groom will typically wear a casual Shalwar Kameez In this ceremony many traditional rituals and fun activities take place, like the bride and/or the groom are brought forward in the ceremony under a decorative dupattas hold by their brothers and sisters. In the bridal ceremony, a certain number of married women who are closely related to the bride apply henna to her hands, and feed her sweets. This ritual is supposed to bring good luck and longevity to the bride’s married life. Similarly, on the groom’s side, Mehndi and oil is applied to his head and sweets are fed to the groom.
A song competition also occurs in the Rasme Henna or Mehndi celebrations between the bride and groom’s side. Young women and men will sing teasing songs about the other side (where the bride’s side pokes good natured fun at the groom’s side and vice versa) and try to compete in this ritual sing song. Sometimes elaborate musical and acting performances are part of the Mehndi celebrations. Many dance sequences and competitions between the bride and groom’s families are also quite common these days.
Traditionally, the Mehndi was considered a women’s event and men did not participate in it. The sing song etc. was left almost entirely to women. However, this has changed substantially in recent times with males featuring prominently in the Mehndi celebrations as well. A recent trend gaining popularity is to announce a colour theme for the Mehndi whereby guests are supposed to dress up in a particular colour. Commonly used colors are bright reds, oranges and yellows and, purple. So it’s a fun ceremony and both side enjoy and wish to be a happy big family.
The groom wears a sehra, and he is given gifts by his family members. A procession called baarat, which features drums and shehnai, travels to the house of the bride for the main ceremony of marriage, which is called nikah.
Nikah happens as the nikad naama, which is the document of marriage, is registered. There are many terms and conditions mentioned in the nikah naama, and they include the right of the woman to divorce and the monetary amount that will be given to the bride by the groom. Walis or witnesses must be present during nikah, and the fathers of the bride and groom act as walis. Certain Urdu verses are read by the priest, and the bride accepts the terms and conditions of the nikah naama in front of the relatives by saying “qabool kiya”, and the wedding will be announced.
Baraat ( برات) is the procession of the family, relatives, and friends of the groom and they accompany the groom to the bride’s home for the official wedding ceremony. The groom makes his way to the bride’s home on a richly decked horse or car and the “barat” follows in different vehicles. Usually they are also accompanied by a band playing wedding songs. The groom is given a 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.
If the couple are Muslim, a Nikkah is performed. Nikkahنِكاح, is an Islamic official wedding ceremony. A marriage contract is signed by both the bride and the groom in presence of their parents and close relatives. Wedding is illegal without a Nikah. The Nikah is performed by a religious person who has the license issued by the government to perform this ritual.
The Rukhsati ( رُخصتی) (sending off) takes place, when the groom and his family will leave together with the bride. The Quran is normally held over the bride’s head as she walks from the stage to the exit (or if the ceremony is being held at home, to the main entrance of the house) in order to bless and protect her. This is a sombre 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 travels by a decorated horse to the bride’s house and after the wedding ceremony takes his wife in a doli (palanquin) to his parents’ house to live. The horse and the carts have now been replaced by cars, and in sharp contrast to western weddings, it is typical to see a quiet bride with wet eyes as she sits in the car beside her husband leaving for her new home.
Walima is a function that is attended by families and friends of the bride and groom, as well as the community and friends. It is organized by the groom’s parents.
Walima ( ولِيمہ) is the final day of the wedding held by the couple as they host their first dinner as husband and wife. This is traditionally organised by the bridegroom and/or his family thus, without his parents, this ritual normally cannot be performed. So to make Walima valid, the parents’ blessing and presence is the most important factor The groom’s family, specifically his parents, invite all of the bride’s family and their guests to their home for a feast. More commonly nowadays, this is held in a marriage hall or hotel instead. 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 jewellery provided by the groom’s family. The groom normally opts for a formal Western suit or tuxedo. It is at this ceremony that they are formally and publicly show cased as a married couple.