Stress Free is the Way to Be

Weddings, along with having a child, starting a new job and moving are among some of the most stressful events that take place in our lives. Although we cannot control the outcome of events, we can decrease the stress when “stuff” happens.

Photo courtesy of AAroneye Photography
Photo courtesy of AAroneye Photography

What are some of the things you, your fiancé, family and friends can do to limit stress or ideally have a stress-free wedding?

  1. Let go of expectations. Stop scanning the bride magazines, don’t watch reruns of the movie “The Wedding Planner” where Jennifer Lopez plans a perfect wedding, much in the way that a film director creates a big budget movie. Of course you can get ideas from many sources including bride magazines, but the images they convey of picture-perfect models in picture perfect settings are distant from reality.
  2. Stay within your budget and resources. If you get caught in the “gotta have this,” “gotta have that,” you are setting yourself up for not only a stressful time planning the wedding, but also dealing with the aftermath. Remember going into debt for a wedding day is not a great start to the most important event of your married life.
  3. Follow the Old English rhyme. “Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe.” This is not a Muslim tradition so don’t stress about following it verbatim. If incorporated in it’s spirit it can be something simple which passes on love, culture, and more from wedding to wedding.  Something old, represents continuity, e.g. a mother or grandmother passing on something from her wedding to the daughter. It could be a ring, a bracelet, a Quran etc. Something new represents hope and the future. It could be something as simple as a guestbook with advice from the guests. Something borrowed, represent happiness, again it could be a wedding dress or some jewelry. Blue represents trust, faith, love, stability, and heaven. You can accent any aspect of the wedding with blue from confetti to the brides scarf or purse. A sixpence, represents good fortune and prosperity. Sharing a valuable coin or bill from the bride or groom’s ancestor can be another great thing to pass on. The essence of something old, new, borrowed, blue, and the sixpence is to make the wedding personable. As we have emphasized before personable trumps glitzy, glamorous weddings.
  4. Remember, if you try to please everyone, you will end up pleasing no one. In life the people we know and are connected to whether through blood or choice, are a cross-section of wonderful and wacky personalities. Decide in advance who will be responsible for what. For some things there may a small group of people and for others just an individual. Some things will only be for you and/or your fiancé, e.g. honeymoon. For others, especially if a family member is paying for it, or just because of their position in the family, they may have a greater say in it.
  5. Avoid focusing too much on material aspects. This includes the dress, ring, and events e.g. dholki or mehndi (henna). Do not get lost in keeping up with the proverbial Ahmeds, Khans, or whoever. Don’t get caught up in “What will other people think?” “Did you see her dress?” “Wasn’t that food the worst?” “Did you see the look on his/her face?” Do whatever is within the confines of our faith and then within the values of your respective families and friends. Do your best and then pray to God for the rest.

As we have said in other posts, perfect does not mean flawless. Unexpected things are going to happen guaranteed. Maybe the wedding dress isn’t quite the color or the fit that you hoped for. Maybe the event didn’t run on schedule or the power went out in the reception hall. When something unexpected happens, avoid the feelings of “Why me? This is the worst thing in my life ever. How could this happen?” If something happens, brush it off and move on.

You can label the event any way you like. You can see it as a calamity or just a setback, a catastrophe or just a mishap. The more you focus or amplify the accident, the more the guests and everyone will feel it. We need prayers along with humor, coupled, it’ll go a long way.  A wedding is a day, a marriage is forever. Just keep things in perspective and you too can have a stress free Muslim wedding.

 

Reference: http://voices.yahoo.com/wedding-traditions-ideas-something-old-borrowed-364753.html   Wedding Zen: Calming Wisdom for the Bride by Susan Elia MacNeal

10 Muslim Wedding Events: From Proposal to Honeymoon

Considering that there are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world (and counting), there is no single way for all Muslim weddings to be held. There are 49 Muslim majority countries and each contain many regional and cultural differences. Additionally, many Muslims living in the West then mix family traditions with their host countries e.g. U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and you have many permutations. We can discuss some of the major regional differences. For example, Arab versus Indian-sub continent wedding customs in subsequent write-ups, but this is just meant to be a starting point. Feel free to adapt the information below to your wedding customs.

Courtesy of Xyra's Photography
Courtesy of Xyra’s Photography
  1. Marriage Proposal. Usually the groom’s parents and elders come to the bride-to-be’s house and ask for her hand in marriage. There maybe a recitation of the Quran’s first chapter, Surah Fatiha, and refreshments served. In “religious” and/or conservative families, this act may not include the groom. However, here in the West, after being given permission to ask, by say the father or brother of the groom, it may be that the groom then proposes. Depending on cultural and family tradition the groom or his family may give a gift e.g.  jewelry or some small amount of money as a token gesture that they are committed.
  2. Engagement.  Although not an Islamic requirement, with the flow of cultures, it is common certainly here in the West for there to be an engagement. This can be a simple informal event just between the families or more formal, where it turns into a prelude for a simpler, smaller wedding. It can take place in the bride’s home or in a restaurant with family and close friends. Again, customs vary. In more affluent or less conservative families, there may be an exchange of rings and gifts for the respective families, with the ring being placed by the groom’s mother or sister on the bride-to-be. For less conservative, the actual exchange may happen with the future couple under the auspices of the respective families. There may be a short prayer to bless the upcoming marriage.
  3. Dholki. This cultural celebration, more common with the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent and those that are more affluent, has started to become more common. The greater the affluence, the more the dollies that are hosted by different family friends. The dolce refers to the drum played and sung to by ladies at an all the functions. Nowadays, this also includes dancing in all-female gatherings.
  4. Mehndi or Henna. Mehndi, a skin decoration most commonly used on the Indian sub-continent and in the Middle East, custom refers to a celebration usually one or two nights before the wedding.  Traditionally, this used to be an all-ladies night event held at the bride’s home, where the  mehndi or henna is applied to the palms and feet of the bride-to-be. This was combined with the beat of the dholki (drum) and traditional songs. These days the old has been replaced with the new. More commonly now in the West and with affluent families, it is the groom’s side that brings the henna and sweets depending on cultural norms both sides participate. There may be fun and competition with the bride’s side teasing the groom’s family, but all with respect. Not only the bride-to-be, but also close family and friends also participate in the mehndi application, although not as elaborate as the bride’s. In Indian/Pakistani culture the bride wears green or yellow/orange, but this is very much cultural and personal. The event which is now more formalized can take place at the bride’s home followed by dinner (potluck or catered) or at a restaurant.
  5. Barat. This refer to the groom’s procession, which includes family and friends that go to visit the bride’s home, or home city for the nikah. In traditional affluent Indian culture, the groom may go on a white decorated horse. These days the horse has been replaced with a car. The greater the affluence the more expensive the car. Although these days it is possible to rent limousines, classic cars and Rolls Royce’s, there are so many options. The barat may be received by a band. As they enter, the bride’s side of the family and friends put a flower necklace (Lei) on the groom and some key family members. They also throw confetti or rose petals on the groom’s procession, typically done by the bride’s family and friends.
  6. Nikah. This is the actual wedding ceremony, usually officiated by a Muslim cleric, an imam. Although a nikah can be done anywhere including the bride’s home or reception hall, it is preferable and usually done these days in a mosque.  Men and women sit in segregated areas, just as they pray. The imam will ask for two witnesses from the bride’s side who will then accompany the Imam to the women’s side or just ask the witnesses to get the signed permission of the wedding registration documents. Depending on state and country the laws may be a little different. Once the witnesses return, the imam conducts the nikah by giving a short sermon (khutbah) and then asking the bride’s father (the wali or guardian) if he gives permission for his daughter to be married. The imam then turns to the groom and asks him if he will fulfill his rights and obligations and to pay the mahar. Mahar does not translate easily into English, as it is loosely related to a gift, tax or dowry.  It is usually monetary, but doesn’t have to be. The imam will finally make a dua or prayer for the new couple. There are many duas, but the most common and prophetic one is ‘barak Allahu lakum wa barak ‘aleikum wa jama’ bainakuma fi khair’ which means “May Allah bless you, surround you with blessings, and bring you both together in virtue and prosperity.” It is a sunnah to share something sweets e.g. dates, after the nikah. Depending on when/where the nikah is being held, you may choose to offer a light lunch or dinner for the guests especially those who have come from afar.
  7. Registration. Registration requirements vary by country and state. In places like the U.K., it is a formal process, which can be attended by close family. In the U.S., and specifically in California, it is a three stage process for Muslims. First the bride and groom need to fill out the paperwork at the registrars’ office and pay the fees. The bride should have decided by this point if she is going to change her last name or keep her maiden name. Islamically, it is not a requirement for a woman to change her name. The second step of the registration takes place at the nikah where the imam completes the paperwork provided by the city/county. The third and final step is that this paperwork is returned to the city/county and legally the marriage becomes valid.
  8. Reception and Valima (Walima). There are many variants on the reception and valima. It is something that you and your families will need to discuss and agree upon. In certain cultures like Pakistani, it is the bride’s parents that pay for and hold the reception. Most of the guests are from the bride’s side plus the barat that has come with the groom. Later, next day or week to allow the groom’s side to invite their guests and some from the bride’s side, a valima is held. In other cultures like Afghan or Arab, it is the groom’s side that pays for the reception. Sometimes if the number of guests on each side is similar or there are many shared guests in common in a single event, a reception and valima may be held. Both sides can split the costs (or not). There are no hard and fast rules about who pays for what, but as long as it is fair and mutually acceptable and done in good spirit, that is what counts.
  9. Rukhsti (Farewell). Rukhsti is the farewell when the bride leaves her home or home city for the groom’s home. The bride’s father and family escort their daughter to the waiting groom’s car. It is usually an emotional event, where the bride, bride’s father and mother bid farewell with lots of prayers and, yes, many times, tears. This will be the first night the couple gets to spend together. The less the families and couple know each other, the greater the anxiety. Conversely these days it is not uncommon for a lot of communication to take place and that bride and groom have some level of familiarity. The couple may head to a hotel, their apartment (which the groom has secured), or groom’s family home.
  10. Honeymoon. Although a recent cultural addition after the wedding, most Muslim couples in the West go for a honeymoon to desired destination. Some who are more religiously inclined go for Umrah and on the return journey spend time in Istanbul, Cairo or other destinations. Others chose exotic locations that have some Muslim significance, for example, the Maldives, Mauritius, Malaysia, Morocco, etc. This is a time for the new couple to get privacy especially from family and get to know each other as husband and wife.

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