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LoveHabibi Blog

Exploring Dating, Relationships & Marriage in a Changing World

Labour of Love: Pakistani Pre-Wedding Bridal Customs

Pakistan is a an Islamic country located in South Asia and the Greater Middle East and is a dazzling cultural haven. Within its borders, you’ll find a fusion of Muslim and Hindu culture in which the exotic flavors and fervor of both cultures intertwine and no more so than when it’s time to say “I do”.

Engaging Traditions

Once a Pakistani couple (and their families) have decided to marry, an intimate engagement ceremony known as mangni takes place in the presence of a few important members of the would-b-bride & grooms’ families. Prayer and blessings are recited for the couple and the wedding date is set. Weddings forming part of Pakistani marriages last 4 days and mangni is the last time a prospective groom gets to see his bride-to be’s face before the official wedding ceremony on day 3.

Mangni is followed by mayun, 8 to 15 days of seclusion for the bride-to-be, in which she stays at home but is relieved of any chores and errands so that the beautification rituals can begin. The bride and groom are not allowed to see each other during mayun. The groom’s mother brings uptan, a paste made from turmeric, sandalwood powder, herbs and aromatic oils, which she applies to the bride’s hands and face and a thick string called a gana is tied to the bride’s arm. Uptan is applied to the bride’s skin each day leading up to the wedding. A similar ceremony is held for the groom, where the bride’s mother, sisters, cousins and friends bring uptan to rub on his skin.

On the very first day of the wedding, both the family members of the bride and the groom dress in yellow and perform the wedding rituals separately in each other’s houses. A dolki party is thrown for the bride, to which she’s brought in by her brothers, sisters and cousins. Traditional wedding & popular songs are sung loudly by one and all, accompanied by two or three percussion instruments (the dolki being the main instrument.)

Tired yet? We’ve only just started!

On the second day, the groom’s family hand the wedding dress over to the bride’s family, who formally announce the wedding and decorate their home with lights. A Rasm E Mehndi (Henna Party) is thrown on this day and is a mainly-female gathering in which mehndi (henna) is applied to the bride’s hands and (surprise, surprise), more singing, dancing and general merriment takes place .

Traditionally, mehndi is brought by groom’s parents and is applied in beautiful floral patterns, sometimes encompassing the groom’s name in its elaborate designs. The bride is blessed and sadka (warding off evil) is performed on her bride by donating money and circling her head three times. After the ceremony, dinner is organized for the guests but the bride is not allowed to participate and keeps her face veiled. Rasm E Mehndi is also organized for grooms in some parts of Pakistan.

The Wedding Ceremony

Day three sees the actual marriage contract ceremony, known as nikah. The bride and groom both wear red and the bride again keeps her face veiled. Mooh Dikhai (also known as Aarsi Musshaf), which takes place after nikah, is the ceremony in which the bride shows her face to her groom for the first time as his wife. The couple look at each other in a mirror, the bride unveils herself, and the newlyweds share a piece of sweet fruit, such as a date.

The wedding reception takes place on day four (if you’ve still got the energy to read this far!) But that’s an entirely different story…

“Be yourself beautiful, and you will find the world full of beauty.” – Pakistani Proverb

Got any photos or stories of a Pakistani wedding you’ve attended? (as a guest or one of the spouses-to be!) – We’d love to share them!

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