It may seem unthinkable to plan a Muslim wedding especially if you know nothing about the practices, beliefs, rituals, and other unspoken rules of the Islamic religion. But as a wedding planner who is always up for challenge, you have to make this a remarkable project that is quite different from the usual bond of love that you help organize.
Cherry Leigh who owns a halal catering services company shared how many professional wedding planners have formed a partnership with her every time someone from the Islamic community in their area is set to tie the knot, “Muslims follow a strict diet so when you handle a Muslim wedding, the food has got to be something that the guests are permitted to consume. ‘Halal’ dishes are meals that are deemed to be accepted by Muslim law as fit for eating. So, whenever an inexperienced wedding planner tells me she is going to put a pork dish on the menu, I immediately say, ah-ah, pork is out of the question. Unless you want your clients to walk out. Definitely, we are very cautious of the food in the wedding buffet, and that is one of the reasons why we lasted more than a decade in this catering business.”
Of course, food is just one of the things that should be present of your Muslim wedding checklist. Choosing who will be part of the entourage is equally important, and you need to decide on this months and months ahead. “Three to four months before, decide who will be part of the ceremony. You need two male witnesses to sign the marriage contract. If the wedding will be held in a mosque, you may need a wali (a male representative) to act on the bride’s behalf during the ceremony. Start planning prewedding celebrations — many rituals serve to prepare and purify the to-be-weds and their families,” wrote Robin Beth Schaer for theknot.com on the article Muslim Wedding Ceremony Planning. Schaer added how it is significant too to pick a time and date preference way ahead, as Muslims have specific days in the calendar that is way too important to miss, “Pick wedding date and time preferences. Muslims favor weddings during the month of Shawwal and avoid weddings during the sacred months of Muharram and Ramadan. Sunday is favored for weddings because it’s the start of the week. The Islamic year follows a lunar calendar, so corresponding Gregorian dates vary from year to year — consult your local mosque to determine when dates will fall.” This should be decided upon at least 12 months before the wedding according to Schaer.
As a wedding planner, you need to know something about the ‘dowry’ too, although, in essence, the couple and their families are the ones involved with this.“Cut the dowry (mahar). By that we don’t mean eliminate it; it is a requirement for the nikah. However, the trend these days is for the bride’s family to set large dowries. The Prophetic way is to make it meaningful, but affordable for the groom. Not something he has to save for life or go into debt for.Similarly in Desi cultures (India/Pakistan, etc.) the bride’s family has to provide a large dowry to the groom’s side. This can be furniture, a car, and other expensive items. This is a cultural custom that Muslims have adopted from their surroundings. You are giving the greatest gift: your daughter. Ditch the bride’s dowry,” advised an unnamed contributing writer of perfectmuslimwedding.com who penned the clever article 33 Ideas for a Simple Inexpensive Muslim Wedding .
What is nikah, you ask? A quick google search would show you a wikipedia entry stating some interesting details about Muslim marriages, “The marriage contract is signed in a nikah ceremony, in which the groom or his representative proposes to the bride in front of at least two witnesses, stating the details of the meher. The bride and groom demonstrate their free will by repeating the word qabul (“I accept,” in Arabic) three times.”
Of course, the one who will marry the couple and the place where the oath of love will be done should be on top of your list, and this should be decided upon at least 9 months before the wedding according to Robin Beth Schaer ,“Meet with your officiant to discuss ceremony structure and marriage requirements. Talk about the different elements of Muslim weddings and decide what you want to include. Will you observe gender separation rules requiring men and women to remain separate during the ceremony and reception?If the wedding will be held in a mosque, find out about dress requirements, such as removal of shoes and veiling for women. Make arrangements if you plan to have any prewedding ceremonies held in a mosque, such as fatha, an engagement ritual that honors the to-be-weds’ fathers.”