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Muslim Weddings: Reception Rituals Explained

Photo: Jamee Photography

The festivities following a Muslim wedding can last for days and include lavish rituals, dancing, and food. Here are a few customs to get the party started.

Walima

After the wedding contract is signed, the celebration begins with the walima -- a wedding feast that may last for two whole days. Fish, chicken, and rice, ancient symbols of fertility and plenty, are usually served, along with candy-covered almonds that are considered aphrodisiacs. (Where did you think Jordan almonds came from?) Guests often arrive in a procession with gifts to be displayed during the walima.

Imam Zamin

In India, the groom's mother and her family and friends present the bride with sweets. If the bride is veiled, she may show her face (possibly for the first time) to the groom and his family. Then, the groom's mother ties an imam zamin -- a gold coin wrapped in silk -- around the bride's right arm as a wish for the couple's prosperity.

Mala Badol

After the wedding feast, the ritual of mala badol is performed in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. A thin cloth is placed over both bride and groom. They feed each other and share sips of borhani (a spicy yogurt drink) beneath the cloth. While looking at their reflection in a mirror, the bride and groom are asked, "What do you see?" They each answer with a romantic declaration such as, "I see the rest of my life." The newlyweds then exchange flower garlands. Recently, a new custom of exchanging rings has been added to the ritual.

The Regal Bride

After the wedding ceremony, the bride may change into an elaborate gown adorned with jewels, pearls, and gold. Toward the end of the reception, she is held aloft like royalty while friends and family watch. She may be paraded around for as long as two hours, until her bearers' strength finally wanes. When she is returned to the ground, she is placed in the groom's arms, signaling the end of the party.

Symbolic Gestures

Congratulating the bride with a kiss is not allowed in some Muslim weddings (although it is becoming more common in Western cultures). However, guests at Muslim weddings congratulate the couple in many other ways. Eggs, which represent fertility and righteousness in Islam, are often given to the couple as symbolic gifts. The bride and groom may be showered with rice, candy, and dried fruit as they exit the reception. In Indonesia, the groom steps on an egg to indicate his approval of the marriage. In Morocco, an egg is broken during the reception because its white color signifies light and luck for the couple.

-- Robin Beth Schaer

See More: Wedding Customs