Muslim Wedding Preparation Timeline

A Muslim wedding in Singapore is a festive event immersed in tradition. Aside from complying legal requirements, setting the wedding date and reserving the wedding venue, Muslim couple who wish to get married are required to perform a myriad of wedding customs, all while making sure that each part observes the religious laws of Islam.

Photo by Signature Bridal

A Quick Overview of Islamic Wedding Practices

While a Muslim wedding seems complex, it actually only needs to follow a few basic rules:

• Signing of marriage contract is the only religious requirement for a Muslim wedding
• An imam (also called qadi) typically officiates a wedding, but any respectable Muslim who understands sharia (laws of Islam) can actually serve as the officiant
• The bride and the groom must not be together during nikah or the wedding ceremony and will only see each other again after they are already married
• The exact performance of traditions depend on the couple’s Islamic sect and culture

Apart from those mentioned above, a Muslim wedding typically follows various other traditional, practical and legal customs. Listing these customs and practices in a timeline will make a couple’s wedding preparation much easier. Muslim couples may use the following timeline as their basis, to be customized or changed as they see fit.

12 Months Before the Wedding or Immediately After the Engagement

• Set the type of wedding. The couple and their parents discuss which wedding traditions they will follow and to what degree, the size of the wedding, and the details of the betrothal (particularly regarding the bridal dowry or hantaran).
• Select a wedding date. As much as possible, the couple should choose a date that falls on the month of Shawwal (the 10th month of the Islamic calendar).
• Choose an officiant and venue. While Muslim couples are not required to be wedded at a mosque, this is generally advised as doing so makes it easier for them to be properly guided by an imam.
• Convert to Islam (if necessary). A Muslim man may have a non-Muslim bride, even if the woman has not yet converted to Islam; however, a Muslim woman may only marry a Muslim man.
• Comply remarriage requirements. If the bride or groom (or both) has been divorced or is remarrying, they need to present their Certificate of Making Interim Judgment, Final Decree Nisi and Decree Nisi Absolute. Other sharia requirements may also be required.
• Start looking for the ceremonial attires.

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9–11 Months Before the Wedding

• Discuss the wedding with the officiant. The couple should get the approval of their officiant regarding all the ceremonial details of the wedding. They may also request his services to help them draft their marriage contract, which should specify the mahr or the amount the groom will give to the bride as a wedding gift.
• Familiarize the rules of the mosque. These include:
– The wedding should not coincide with any of the mosque’s activities
– Loud talk and food/drinks are not allowed in the vicinity of the Prayer Hall
– Appropriate attire that covers the aurah should be worn
– Men and women should be separated at all times
– Everyone should refrain from making noises
– The mosque may charge for any damages
• Arrange and hold pre-wedding ceremonies. Most pre-wedding traditions are performed at this time. Such pre-wedding practices include fatha, the ritual for honoring the fathers of the couple, and the delivery of gifts and dowry (istiadat hantar belanja).

This is also usually the period when the couple starts looking for their wedding vendors, such as their florists, caterers, henna artists, musicians, photographers, and decorators.

6–8 Months Before the Wedding

• Discuss details of the walima (wedding banquet). The couple should decide where to hold their banquet and whether or not to have a purely halal menu. The banquet venue should then be reserved immediately, with the management duly informed about the food restrictions of the event.
• Try on the ceremonial attires. If the bride and groom’s attires were not tailor-made, they should be checked to have a perfect fit. Alterations should be made if necessary.
• Learn about the different parts of the wedding ceremony. These include:
– The baraat procession: the groom arrives at the venue with his family and friends (his baraat)
– Giving of the mahr: the groom sends his marriage gift to the bride (this may be deferred to a later date)
Nikahnama: One party expresses their wish to marry the other party, and the other accepts
– Sermon from the imam
– The elders give their blessings
– Guests pray for the newlyweds
– Reception dinner
• Draft the program for the wedding banquet. The couple should notify would-be speakers, performers, and anyone else who will play a part at the wedding banquet.
• Look for a house. The bride and groom should prepare a home of their own, where they will go to after the wedding.
• Book the officiating imam formally. The imam must sign a contract that notes down the date and exact time of the wedding, as well as the details (topic and length of his sermon) and fee of his services.

Photo by Signature Bridal

2–4 Months Before the Wedding

• Send out the invitations. The invitation cards should be designed, printed and sent at least 6 weeks before the wedding. Guests who are coming from abroad must be notified earlier. The invitation cards, through its design, can be a subtle way to inform the guests that the wedding will follow Muslim wedding traditions.
• Finalize the wedding décor. The décor may be provided by the venue or a third-party vendor. Note that some vendors have specific themes for Malay or Muslim weddings.
• Arrange transportation for the wedding. Make sure cars have been booked and that the bride and groom will be driven to the ceremony venue separately. Transportation may also have to be arranged for the bridal party and guests from out of town.
• Start planning for the honeymoon. If they will be travelling abroad, the bride and groom should make sure their passports are up to date and that they have the necessary visas to travel.
• Confirm the wedding’s principal participants. The wedding ceremony will require two male witnesses and a wali, a male Muslim who will serve as representative of the bride.
• Assign point persons for specific parts of the wedding. These persons will be the ones responsible for managing certain aspects of the wedding, such as the food, décor, and ushering the guests. In some cases, a team of wedding coordinators can take care of all of these.
• Choose and purchase the wedding bands
• Select the bridesmaids’ dresses
• Have a food tasting session
• Purchase the wedding favors
• Order the wedding cake

Photo by Signature Bridal

3–4 Weeks Before the Wedding

• Finalize the wedding attires. The couple can have a last fitting of their ceremonial attires, including their shoes and other accessories. The clothes should be altered and repaired (if necessary) and then cleaned.
• Finalize the reception program. Everyone who plays a part in the wedding program should be ready to do their parts at this point. The couple should send a reminder to the officiating imam and have the wedding program printed.
• Confirm the details of the wedding venue. The couple should make sure that all venues have been reserved at the exact hours for the wedding. They should also finalize the seating arrangement of their guests.
• Prepare the couple’s home. The couple should have their own place to go home to once they’re married. It’s best if their new home has already been furnished and stocked with food.
• Prepare wedding gifts. Apart from the mahr and hantaran, the bride and groom may choose to give each other personal gifts. They should also prepare the bunga telur gifts, which they are supposed to give to the guests.

1–2 Weeks Before the Wedding

• Celebrate pre-wedding events. These include henna parties, turmeric ceremonies and ritual baths. The couple may also choose to have Western rituals, such as the bachelor and bachelorette parties.
• Finalize arrangement with the caterer. The couple should inform their caterer about their final menu, number of guests, beverage preferences and requests for any other related items.
• Review the program with the photographer. The couple should brief the wedding photographer about the flow of the program and make sure that he photograph all the special moments of the wedding. This is particularly important if the photographer is not familiar with Muslim weddings.
• Confirm the guest count. The couple should call guests who have not responded to their RSVPs. They invite more people in place of those who won’t be able to attend.
• Prepare a wedding day timeline. The timeline should indicate all the activities in each hour of the wedding day, as well as the specific people involved in it and its point persons, and their contact numbers.

Day Before the Wedding

At this point, the couple should just try to rest and stay calm so that they’re relaxed and full of energy for the next day. However, they may still have to do a few things, such as:

• Review the timeline/program of the wedding ceremony and banquet
• Check with their point persons or wedding coordinator(s)
• Assign “guards” who will ensure that proper hijab is observed

Photo by Signature Bridal

Post Wedding

At the end of the wedding, the couple should make sure that all vendors have been paid, all obligations settled, and everyone who played a part in the wedding are given their dues. Other post-wedding traditions specific to Muslim weddings include:

Rukhsat: the bride’s family bids her a final and emotional farewell before she leaves for her husband’s house.
• Welcoming the Bride: the groom’s mother holds a Quran above the bride’s head as a symbol of welcoming her to the family.
Chauthi: on the fourth day after the wedding, the bride visits her old home, where she joyfully reunites with her parents.

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