The wedding itself doesn’t need to take place in a mosque, and any Muslim who understands Islamic tradition can officiate. There are two aspects to a Muslim wedding – the ceremony and the legal contract, which legitimises the marriage and must be witnessed by two men. The marriage traditions differ depending on culture, but during most ceremonies, men and women remain separate.
Marriages must be declared public – they should never be clandestine – and the publicity is usually demonstrated by having a large feast.
Once the groom has accepted the offer of marriage, he gives the bride a mahar (meher, mahr) or gift. This is a financial deal that the groom must agree with the bride, which is then given to her for her use as she wishes. The mahar is a formal statement specifying the amount and it is usually given in two amounts – a prompt before the marriage is consummated and another amount either later or throughout the bride’s life. Many couples today use the ring as the prompt, presented to the bride during the wedding ceremony, whilst the other amount can take the form of land, money, jewellery or even education. Mahar is a form of security for the bride and gives her a certain amount of freedom in the marriage.
The actual ceremony is called a nikah. It is usually a fairly simple ceremony and includes reading from the Qur’an and the exchange of vows in front of a minimum of two witnesses. Both bride and groom express their free will by repeating the word qabul (I accept) three times. Often the Imam is present for a short sermon.
Traditionally, the bride and groom share a piece of sweet fruit after the traditional customs.