Pakistan, an Islamic country located in South Asia and the Greater Middle East, has a great culture with rich customs. A Pakistani wedding is a great feast of fun, merriment's, and celebrations. It is celebrated with great fervor. A Pakistani wedding is followed by several per-wedding customs and rituals.
It is important to note that some of the customs followed in Pakistani weddings have no foundation in Islam. However, the Pakistani culture has adopted those ceremonies and traditions from the Hindu culture.
Mangni is the engagement ceremony that marks the formal engagement of couple. The small ceremony takes place in the presence of a few important members of would-be bride & groom’s family. Prayer and blessings for the couple are recited and the wedding date is decided in Mangni.
Mayun is custom of the bride entering into the state of seclusion eight to fifteen days before the wedding. She’s made free of all the chores and errands around the house. The bride and groom are not allowed to see each other after the Mayun; bride is not allowed to leave her house. The beautification rituals begin during this time.
Uptan is a paste made from turmeric, sandalwood powder, herbs and aromatic oils, which groom's mother brings for bride. She blesses bride and applies “uptan’ to the bride's hands and face. Groom's sister also does the same, and a thick string called a “gana” is tied to the bride’s arm. “Uptan” 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 uptan for groom and rub it on his skin.
Dolki is a popular ceremony of singing traditional wedding & popular songs accompanied by two or three percussion instruments Dolki 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.
Rasm E Mehndi (Henna Party) takes place a day before the wedding. It’s a ceremony mainly of women. They apply Mehndi (Henna) to the bride's hands and feet, sing, dance, and bless the bride. Sadka (warding off evil) is performed on the bride i.e. donating money circling three times on the bride’s head. Traditionally mehndi was brought by groom's parents. Mehndi (Henna) is applied in beautiful floral designs and sometimes groom's name is written in designs. After the ceremony dinner is organized for the guests. Traditionally, the bride is not allowed to take part in the celebrations and keeps her face hidden in veil. Rasm E Mehndi is organized for grooms also in some parts of Pakistan.
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. Groom is given warm welcome by the bride’s family with flower garlands and rose petals. Family and relatives of the groom and the bride exchange glasses of juice or sherbet along with money. Guests are welcomed by the bride’s sisters by playfully hitting them with a stick wrapped and decorated with flowers.
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, or curtain, separating them.
Nikah-naama (document of marriage contract) is registered in Nikah. The Nikahnaama contains several terms and conditions that are to be respected by both parties (bride & groom). It includes bride’s right to divorce her husband. Nikahnaama specifies Meher the monetary amount the groom will give the bride. Meher includes two amounts; 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. 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 Nikahnaama to the bride and read it aloud to her. She accepts the Nikahnaama saying 'qabool kiya,' meaning 'I accept and signs it. The Nikahnaama is then taken to the groom and read aloud to him. He accepts saying 'qabool kiya and signs the document. The Maulvi and witnesses (gavah) also do sign the Nikahnaama contract and the wedding becomes legal. The Maulvi recites the Fatihah, the first chapter of the Quran, and various durud, or 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. Groom is then escorted to his bride where he’s allowed to site beside his wife. This is the time when sisters-in-law of groom play pranks and tease the groom.
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. It’s a pretty touching moment. Although this practice is un-Islamic but a lot of Pakistani families have come to adopt it.
Several traditional games are played at groom’s house. A tray full of a mixture of water and milk is placed before the couple and a ring is thrown into the mixture and husband and wife are asked to find the ring. The one who finds the ring is considered winner and dominant partner in the relationship. The couple is asked to untie the “ganas” (thick strings) that were tied on their writs before wedding. The one who unties it first is considered the dominant partner in the relationship. Bride eats kheer (sweet, pudding-type desert) out of the groom’s hand. This customs are designed to make the couple more intimate before the physical relationship. Groom washes the feet of the bride in a basin of water that is sprinkled into the four corners of the house. It’s believed that this brings wealth, prosperity and luck into the home.
Chauthi is the custom of bringing the bride back to her parents' home the next day, or on the fourth day after the wedding (depending on family tradition). Usually bride's brothers perform the Chauthi and goes to fetch their sister home.
Walima is ceremony to announce the wedding to community and friends. It’s a grand reception hosted by the groom's parents. Relatives, friends and community people are invited to the reception and wedding is celebrated with great fun and festivities.