Afghan Muslim Wedding

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Marriage in the traditional Afghan culture has a deep-rooted process through which it treads step by step.Rarely do young men and women have an opportunity to meet each other, and the to-be wife is usually chosen in a haste.

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When a young man wants to marry a young lady who is from an unknown family, first his parents do some kind of background check about her, trying to know more about her morals, beauty, and other family affairs.

If they are contented with what they find, his parents will send a female family member or a relative to her house in order to understand, indirectly or directly, and would disclose the proposal, if the situation is favorable.

This consultation process takes some time, and a date is usually fixed to announce the decision among the relatives, if both sides are satisfied with this deal.

The Engagement

Shereny khory or namzady (Dari for: engagement) is the first step to formalize the affinity.

The groom's father, accompanied by some kinfolk and elders, comes to the bride's home in a prefixed date with bags of sweets and gifts for the to-be bride, some money and clothes to some family members.

After the food is served, the groom's father or a respected man from among the guests formally unveils the purpose for their coming and puts the demand as if the bride's father accepts his son "as a servant of him."

An elder man from the bride's extended or close family receives this demand, and both sides discuss and agree on things such as dowry, jewelry, expenses of the wedding, and other necessities which are in most cases beyond the capacity of the to-be groom's family.

As it is agreed, a big qand (Dari for: lump sugar) is broken with two sides present and mixed up with sweets to be distributed in small bags among the participants.

Pre-Wedding Arrangements

The duration between the engagement and the wedding depends on several factors, including the financial ability of the groom. Soon after the engagement, the groom's family provides some amount of money to the bride's to buy things like clothes, carpets, dishes, and jewelry for the bride.

The groom's family offers the dowry, the home, and expenses of the wedding party. In some cases, in this period the to-be groom may opt to live with his to-be father-in-law, but without seeing his fiancée till he finishes the dowry by serving his father-in-law.

However, appointments would be arranged to gather the bride and the groom, so that they can speak for a while about themselves.

This is called naamzad baazy (Dari for: meeting each other.) During this period, the future couples can exchange gifts with the help of a third person. The groom's parents also take gifts for the bride and visit her on different occasions like `Eid. Henna Night

Takht e khina (Dari for: henna party) is arranged one night before the wedding. The groom's family prepares enough henna that suffices all the participants.

The henna is taken in a tray and put in a basket decorated with flowers and candles. Children wearing new traditional cloths carry the henna basket with music all the way from the groom's home to the bride's home.

After serving the guests at the bride's home, music is again played. The bride's elder brother brings the groom near to the sofa where the bride is sitting in her colorful wedding dress.

The groom's female relatives don't let the bride pass and joke with her asking to "first pay then enter".

One of the funny moments is when the henna party begins: The bride closes her right hand and does not let the groom put henna in her hand unless his mother presents or promises her some valuable gift or if the groom can open her hand by force!

As it is a party for women, the groom leaves soon after he puts henna in the bride's hand and ties it with a white clean cloth.

The leftover henna is then distributed among the young girls who are not yet married. It is believed that those who could manage to get some henna and put it on their pinkie fingers will get married soon!

The groom's father provides all necessary arrangements and needs of the wedding day for the bride's family.

Relatives and friends of the bride come together in her father's house and bring her out to sit among the women gathered in her father's home and waiting for the groom and his friends to come and take her to her home.

Partying at the Groom's Home

The real party is held in the groom's house where a larger number of people are invited for lunch. A small group of tambourine men stand outside and escort the groom's relatives and friends with their gifts to the house, where another person stands to receive the gifts.

The groom's family members serve the people with tea, water, and fresh juices, standing in line in the entrance to receive the guests and lead them to the rooms where they'll be seated.

The bride's family sends the white cloth prepared for the groom by at least two teenage boys of her family. The groom gets prepared as people would have taken their lunch and performed the `Asr (Afternoon) Prayer.

Then, he rides the horse decorated with a new embroidery cloth at its back. Elders leave to bride's home earlier, and the groom follows them with his friends, singer, and a group of tambourine-men.

Men from both sides sit in a room to listen to khutba nikah (Dari for: marriage speech) at the bride's home. The groom is then taken to inside the house, where the bride is waiting him in a decorated stage among a crowd of women and girls singing and dancing.

The couple stay standing for a while, and they don't sit by themselves. Rather, they are helped to sit by their mothers and sisters. It is believed that the one, bride or groom, who sits first on the sofa will always be dominated by the other one.

But sometimes the couple themselves decides to sit together at the same time. It is believed that the girls who sit near to the bride on the sofa on this day will soon get married!

Aina moshaf (Dari for: mirror and Qur'an) is then begins. Both bride and groom are veiled by a new shawl and new mirror wrapped in a soft cloth and a copy of the holy Qur'an is present on the table.

The mirror is opened under the shawl, and bride and groom see each other in the mirror; this symbolizes purity and cleanliness. Later, both of them recite some verses of Qur'an.

Afterward, the music is played and the new couple exchange glasses of homemade sherbet and malida (kind of Afghan dessert). Then, the cake is cut and eaten first by the married couple and later distributed among the guests.

Every one congratulates the couple in person, and the couple then leaves to their new home.

To the New Home

A few friends and relatives accompany the bride to her new home. When the bride arrives near her new dwelling, she doesn't get off the horse/car.

Everyone will insist her to get off, but she won't listen until she is promised some property by the groom's family! As she steps on the ground, a sheep is sacrificed under her foot ( with the name of Allah mentioned while slaughtering).

And when she steps into her new home, the bride hits a nail in threshold of the door. People consider it a good omen, and believe that the bride will stay at her husband's home forever. Then, a number of girls take the bride to her bedroom and the party ends.

Takht jami (Dari for: wrap up the program) is another special ceremony held on third or seventh day after the wedding.

Close relatives and friends are invited, and they bring gifts for the bride. These are mostly furniture and dishes for the newly established house.

It is a party special for the girls and women. Gifts are raised one by one, with the name of the person who presented it called out.

A few days after the wedding party, groom will go with some valuable gifts to greet his father-in-law and later the couple's relatives will begin inviting the new couple to their home called Paeewazee.