The different Middle Eastern cultures all have different customs and traditions for marriages, but still there are some elements that are quite common between them. Maybe some of them are not new to you others, however, may surprise you. Here are some of most important traditions accompanying the wedding ceremony in the Arab world.
Let’s start with arranged marriages which are still very common in the middle East. Contrary to the popular belief, these marriages are not forced. They are just arranged by the parents, in which the children give their willing consent. Moreover, it is often the case that arranged marriages are simply a matter of formalizing the situation for a couple that already knows each other.
The marriage contract is another very popular tradition in the Arab world. It must be signed in front of witnesses, and its aim is to point out the specific responsibilities of each party. It also usually outlines several monetary conditions – for example, the dowry and what happens in case of a divorce. The signing of the contract is considered to be an important step of the wedding preparations and is often followed by a large celebration, which is just one of the multiple celebrations preceding the actual wedding ceremony.
The party after the marriage contract is signed should happen before Henna night and only women are invited to this event. A woman draws the Mehndi (a kind of a temporary tattoo in some very intricate and beautiful designs) on the bride’s and guests’ feet and hands.
The engagement celebration is also very important. The family of the bride usually hosts a reception in their home, where the groom formally asks for the bride hand in marriage from her father or the eldest man in the family. After the father agrees, the families read the Fatiha (the first sura in the Quran) and drink sharbat a sweet cordial prepared from flowers or fruit.
As far as the Arab wedding reception is concerned, in some areas traditions are not so different from what happens in the West – there are speeches, dances, and singing, and the bride and groom may even cut the layered wedding cake and throw a bouquet of flowers. However, in more rural areas you may come across more reserved events, or ceremonies that have a little more traditional setting. Observing a traditional Arab wedding ceremony could be a great way to learn more about the Arab culture as a whole!