August 19, 2008


Until this weekend, I never really thought much about how bride-centric a Western wedding is. The Seinfeld joke -- "A wedding is like the joining together of a beautiful, glowing bride and some guy. The tuxedo is a wedding safety device, created by women because they know that men are undependable. So in case the groom chickens out, everybody just takes one step over, and the ceremony continues." -- is basically pretty true. The groom just stands there and all eyes are on the bride.

My first thought was that this Muslim wedding was going to be overly groom-centric. But it ended up being pretty egalitarian.

To kick off the ceremony, there's a groom entrance. I think I rate this as one of the all-time most awesome things I've ever seen. My friend came in to so much fanfare and jubilation, you'd think the King of Zamunda just showed up. There was great triumphant music, there was a man leading the procession playing the drum, there was clapping and ululating, and every family member and male friend invitee esorted my friend down the aisle.


Once he got to the stage, it was time for the bride's entrance. Her procession was beautiful and solemn, with sweet bridal music. She was escorted by her female relatives with rose petals and candles. You could tell the immensity of it all was getting to her, for she trembled as she walked. It was so emotional.

And she looked so beautiful I can't even do her justice. She wore a dress of deep purples and magenta with gold embroidery. She was covered head to toe with flowers, in a bouquet and leis and such, and had henna decorations from her elbows to her fingertips. And she's a beautiful girl on a regular day, so she was breathtaking on the most beautiful day of her life.

The ceremony began, and the officiant was the same man who married my friend's parents so many years ago. He spoke at length about marriage, "for the benefit of those attendees who are at their first Muslim wedding." My friend whispered, "Table 13," and we giggled; we were the non-Muslim table: friends from school and the Army.

I was frankly surprised by the short "sermon" he gave about marriage. The whole thing was about equality, about how men and women are equal in the marriage and how important this is. I tried very hard to remember what was said so I could look it up later. I almost wish I'd taken notes! But I know these ayah were quoted:

  • Fear Allah regarding women. Verily you have married them with the trust of Allah, and made their bodies lawful with the word of Allah. You have got (rights) over them, and they have got (rights) over you in respect of their food and clothing according to your means.
  • They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.

And he also explained the mahr, the monetary gift my friend has to give to his new wife. Table 13 was again giggling that she's a doctor and he's a new law student right out of the Army, so she caught him at a poor time in his life for giving her money.

The officiant then recited the oath with my friend and then with his new wife, and they were pronounced married. And I cried, of course.

Then they broke for evening prayer, at which point I bought batteries, and returned to cut the cake and serve dinner. I was again surprised that there was dancing after dinner; I didn't expect booty-shaking at a Muslim wedding. But there was, and my friend is a huge ham, so he was out there dragging everyone on to the dance floor.

Around midnight, the couple proceeded to their limo. My friend's new wife ceremoniously and tearily said goodbye to her parents, and then my grinning friend picked her up, tossed her into the back of the car, and whisked her away.


I already mentioned that I was surprised at how egalitarian the ceremony was. I guess I expected the bride to be "given" to the groom, but I didn't feel that's what happened. And, no joke, the bride is a doctor, for heaven's sake, so it's not like she's expected to be barefoot and pregnant. Shoot, my own marriage is probably more chauvinistic than theirs will be. So that was something I noted.

Another thing that struck me, that I'm not sure how to put into words, was the concept of chastity. Both my friend and his new wife are devoted Muslims. They never dated as teens, I am certain they'd never kissed anyone before, and when the DJ announced "their first dance," it was literally their first dance. There's no kissing at a Muslim wedding, so when they were pronounced man and wife, they just stood and smiled. But when they left the stage, my friend took his new wife's hand, probably for the first time. It was such a loving and sweet entwining of the fingers.

I've always thought the concept of chastity to be outdated and overrated. But at this wedding, I definitely developed an appreciation for what that means. What it means to give yourself entirely to your spouse. How electric their first dance must've been. And how, when the officiant spoke of marital fidelity, I know that there is not a chance on this green earth that my friend will ever disrespect his new wife.

A few days before the wedding when I stopped by their house to pick up my clothes, my friend's father asked what advice I would give as a seasoned wife of six years. My friend griped, "Dad, you're making it sound like we need advice, like we're going to have problems." I laughed and said that I have no doubts that my friend will be as happily married as I am. I said my only advice is to love your spouse more than you love yourself. If you put her feelings first, and she does the same for you, you'll never have problems. It's worked for my marriage. But my friend doesn't really need that advice; he's the type of man who is such a kind and caring friend that I am sure he will blow us all out of the water with the kind of husband he will be.

His wife is a very lucky girl. And I couldn't be happier for both of them.

(See also the Mehndi and the Walima posts.)

Posted by Sarah at August 19, 2008 11:12 AM | TrackBack

Sarah - This is very interesting. What did you wear? Will you post pictures?

Posted by: Keri at August 19, 2008 01:21 PM

Keri, I don't have permission from anyone at the wedding to post pictures, so I don't feel comfortable doing it. And I didn't take a single picture of just me alone! So I will have to wait until I can crop one or something.

I wore one of his mother's outfits, a blue, maroon, and gold get-up. Gosh, I wish I could put pics of the bride up; her dresses were phenomenal.

Posted by: Sarah at August 19, 2008 01:44 PM

Sarah - That makes sense that you cant post the pics. I was really curious what you were wearing and whether the guests also needed to wear more traditional clothing etc. It sounds like it was a very interesting experience and a great day for the happy couple.

you will have to crop yourself so we can see!

Posted by: keri at August 19, 2008 09:52 PM

Yes, men and women are so equal in a Muslim marriage that they don't even pray together.

Posted by: tim at August 20, 2008 09:23 AM

I'm glad you enjoyed the wedding. It sounds beautiful. It's too bad that all Muslims don't follow a similar kind of Islam to the moderate and respectful kind that your friend and his family obviously adhere to. We would have a lot fewer problems in the world if this were the case. Congratulations to them.

Posted by: Emily at August 20, 2008 11:36 AM

What an elegant thing you could experience!

Posted by: Darla at August 20, 2008 10:37 PM

Thank you for posting these events and thank you for taking the heat in the comments section. I've also known the groom since I was 10 years old and couldn't agree more heartily with your description of his character. It's a sad day when any of us chooses not to love and respect our neighbor due to his way of seeing faith and spirituality. Tim, I hope you branch out and embrace people for their heart and not your interpretation of their beliefs. Stop passing judgment, you only are harming yourself and those around you.

Posted by: Lane at August 25, 2008 12:19 AM