Marriage in Pakistan

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Marriage in Pakistan

Marriage in Pakistan (Urdu: پاکستانی شادی‎) pertains to wedding traditions established and adhered by Pakistani men and women. Despite their local and regional variations, marriages in Pakistan generally follow Islamic marital jurisprudence.[1][2] Culturally, marriages are not only seen as a union between a husband and a wife, but also an alliance between their respective families.[3] These traditions extend to other countries around in the world where Overseas Pakistani communities exist.[4][5]

Before the wedding[edit]


Searching for a potential groom or bride (رشتہ تلاش کرنا) is the first step of traditional Pakistani marriages. Beyond age 20, both men and women are considered potential grooms and brides. Most marriages in Pakistan are traditional arranged marriages, semi-arranged marriages or love marriages. Normally the searching starts as soon the girl steps into her twenties.

  • Arranged marriage occurs when a member of the family, a close friend or a third person party help bring two supposedly compatible people together in matrimony. The groom and bride have usually never met before, and any interaction between them is akin to small talk with a stranger. This form of marriage is considered traditional, but is losing popularity among the newer generations.
  • Semi-arranged marriage is a growing trend where both men and women interact with one another before marriage (a form of dating). Both the man and woman have usually had several “meet and greet” opportunities, thereby allowing both to gain a sense of familiarity.[6] This process can occur over a span of a few months to a few years and may or may not culminate in marriage. However, if both agree upon marriage, the potential groom will approach his family to send a proposal to the family of the potential bride.[7]
  • Love marriages (also known as court marriages) are rare, since the concept of "family consent" has been eliminated. Such “free-will” challenges traditional mindsets as it "dishonours" the powerful institution in Pakistani society - the family. Without family consent, marriages are usually frowned upon.[8]


Once a decision has been made by either the man or woman or both, one or more representatives of the potential groom's family pay a visit to the potential bride's family. In arranged marriages, the first visit is purely for the parties to become acquainted with one another and does not include a formal proposal. Following the first visit, both the man and woman have their say in whether or not they would like a follow up to this visit. Once both parties are in agreement, a proposal party (شادی کا پیام) is held at the bride's home, where the groom's parents and family elders formally ask the bride's parents for her hand in marriage. In semi-arranged marriages, the first or second visit may include a formal proposal, since both the man and woman have already agreed to marriage prior - the proposal is more or less a formality. In love marriages, the man directly proposes to the woman. Once the wedding proposal is accepted, beverages and refreshments are served. Depending on individual family traditions, the bride-to-be may also be presented with an gifts such as jewelry and a variety of gifts. Some religious families may also recite Surah Al-Fatihah.


An engagement (called nisbat نِسبت, mangni منگنی or habar bandi حبر بندی) is a formal ceremony to mark the engagement of the couple.[9] It is usually a small ceremony that takes place in the presence of a few close members of the would-be bride's and groom's families. Rings and other items of jewelry among affluent families are exchanged between the would-be bride and groom. In traditional engagement ceremonies, the bride and the groom are not seated together, and the rings are placed on the bride's finger by the groom's mother or sister, and vice versa. However, segregated engagement ceremonies have become a rarity among the newer generations and rings are usually exchanged between the couple. A prayer (Dua) and blessings are then recited for the couple, and the wedding date is decided.


Arranged and semi-arranged marriages in Pakistan often take long periods of time to finalize. Up to a year or more can elapse from the day of engagement until the wedding day. Wedding customs and celebrations also differ significantly depending on ethnic background and religion. However, a typical Pakistani wedding has at least three main customs: Rasm-e-Henna, Nikah and Walima.[10]


Rasm-e-Heena (رسمی حنا) or mehndi (مہندی) is a ceremony that is named after henna, a dye prepared from the Lawsonia inermis plant which is mixed into a paste form to apply onto the hands of the bride and groom. This event is held a few days before the main wedding ceremony and was traditionally held separately for the bride and the groom. However nowadays the ceremony is usually combined and held at a marriage hall. The groom will typically wear a casual black or white shalwar qameez, sherwani or western suit while the bride will typically wear an embroidered brightly colored shalwar kameez, sari or lehnga. The dress may or may not be accompanied by jewellery, depending upon region and ethnic background. In the bridal ceremony, a certain number of married women who are closely related to the bride apply henna to her hands, and feed her sweets. This ritual is supposed to bring good luck and longevity to the bride's married life. It is traditional for the groom's sister to decide what type of dressing attire is to be worn, including the style, accents and colour. Hairstyles may also be chosen by the grooms sister. Similarly, on the groom's side, oil is applied to his head and sweets are fed to the groom. Sometimes elaborate musical and acting performances are part of the Rasm-e-Heena celebrations. Elaborate dance sequences and competitions between the bride and groom's families are also quite common these days. Traditionally this was considered a "woman's event" as men did not participate in it. However this has changed substantially in recent generations with males featuring prominently. Although in some families rasm-e-heena is not considered compulsory.

Marriage ceremony or Shaadi[edit]

Hosting the marriage ceremony differs among different cultures. In Punjabi weddings, the ceremony traditionally hosted by the family of the bride, while in Baloch weddings the ceremony is traditionally hosted by the family of the groom. Nowadays, it has become common to hold the event at a marriage hall, restaurant or hotel.


Nikah (نِكاح) is the formal marriage ceremony where a marriage contract (نکاح نامہ) is signed by both the bride and the groom in presence of family members. The nikah is performed by an Imam, Mufti, Sheikh or Mullah, who is licensed by the government to perform this ritual. The bride and groom must both have two witnesses present to ensure that the marriage is consensual.

Aarsi Mushaf Dikhana[edit]

Aarsi Mushaf Dikhana (آرسى مشف دِكهانا) or munh dekhai (منہ دِکھائی) is a ritual of “showing of the face” after the nikah ceremony. A green embroidered shawl is generally held over the couple's head and they are made to see each other in the mirror and the bride unveils her face that she keeps hidden during the nikah. The bride and groom share a piece of fruit and family and friends congratulate the couple and offer gifts. Dinner is then served to the guests.


Rukhsati (رُخصتی) - "sending off" (sometimes called Doli (ڈولی) - "palanquin") takes place when the groom and bride leave together with the permission of elders of the Family. At this point the bride and groom are married in the eyes of God and this the Bride's farewell to her family. Traditionally, the groom would travel to the Nikkah venue by a decorated horse and after the Nikkah, takes his wife in a doli (palanquin) in recent times, the doli is replaced by cars. Small pranks may be played on the groom to lighten the mood while delaying the Bride's departure, for example the bride's siblings may hide the groom's shoes[11] or block the exit requiring some small token to allow the couple to leave[12]. This is juxtaposed with the dour occasion for the bride's parents as it marks the departure of their daughter from their home and can become a very emotional scene. In order to bless and protect the couple, the Qur'an is held over the bride's head as she leaves, and even though the Qur'an may be involved, there is no basis in Islam or Muslim tradition for the Rukhsati[13]. Muslim cultures outside the Indian subcontinent generally do not practice the rukhsati tradition[13]. Similar traditions exist in all parts of the subcontinent for example Vidai[14][15][11] or Bidaai[16] in Hindu tradition, Doli[17][12] in Punjabi and Sikh weddings, Bidai[18] or Kankanjali[19] in Bengali weddings, Kanyadan[20][21] in Nepalese weddings and Kschemadandulu[22][23] in South Indian weddings. In recent times the rukhsati has been used to exert control or extract dowry[24], however this practice is not permitted in Islam as it is considered haram for any person to restrain a married woman from going with her husband, after the Nikkah has been performed[25].


A dinner is served which consists of several dishes with meat featuring heavily in the meal. Some of the well represented dishes in a wedding meal include pullao, biryani, chaanp, chargha, various forms of roasted fowl and lamb, various forms of kebabs, naan, Shirmal, Taftan, Falooda, Kulfi etc. .


It is customary for a bride and groom to receive wedding presents in the form of cash. Traditionally, an envelope with cash is given to the bride or groom when wedding guests come to visit them during the wedding reception. It is also customary for friends and family of the couple to invite them over for dinner and lunch after the wedding to formally accept them as a couple. This can often result in the first few weeks of married life for the newly weds being spent engaging in dinner parties and small receptions.


Walima (ولِيمہ) is the final day of the wedding held by the couple as they host their first dinner as husband and wife. This is to celebrate the consummation of husband and wife. This is traditionally organized by the bridegroom and/or his family thus, without his parents, this ritual normally cannot be performed. So to make walima valid, the parents' blessing and presence is the most important factor.[26] The groom's family, specifically his parents, invite all of the bride's family and their guests to their home for a feast. More commonly nowadays, this is held in a marriage hall or hotel instead. The Valima is typically the most festive event of the wedding ceremony and intends to publicize the marriage.[27] The bride wears a heavily decorated dress with gold jewellery provided by the groom's family. The groom normally opts for a formal Western suit or tuxedo. The bride's brother decides on the attire to be worn for all of the single men, and the groom's sister decides on the attire and jewellery to be worn for all of the single women. It is at this ceremony that they are formally and publicly showcased as a married couple.


Wedding songs are performed typically during the Rasm-e-Heena function. These songs are mainly traditional folk songs, but may also include pop songs.


Invitations & Wedding Cards[edit]



Shab-i-Zifaf (شبِ زِفاف) refers to the couples' first night together and it occurs after the bride has left for the groom's house. On the day of the wedding, the couples' bedroom is decorated with flowers. It is customary for roses or rose petals to be laid across the couples' bed and sometimes for garlands or strings of roses to be used as bed curtains. The groom's female relatives lead the bride to the bedroom and she is left for some time to await the groom's arrival. At this point it is common for the groom to stay with his relatives for a while. After the relatives have left, the groom enters the bedroom where the bride is waiting. Traditionally the bride's veil or head covering (dupatta or chador) is draped over so that it covers her face (گھونگٹ). It is customary for the husband to brush the bride's veil aside to reveal her face as one of the first things on that night. It is also customary in some families for the husband to present his newly-wed wife with a small token of affection. This is generally a ring or a family heirloom.

Regional variations[edit]


Attan ( اتڼ ) is a Pashtun dance usually performed at the end of the marriage ceremonies. Traditionally however, the dance was performed twice - once at the beginning of the wedding and once at the end.


Baraat (برات) is the procession of the family, relatives, and friends of the groom who accompany the groom to the bride's home for the official wedding ceremony. The groom makes his way to the bride's home on a richly decorated horse or car and the “baraat” follows in different vehicles. Usually they are also accompanied by a band playing wedding songs. The groom is given a warm welcome by the bride's family with flower garlands and rose petals thrown upon the procession by the bride's sisters, cousins and friends. Baraat is common in Sindhi and Punjabi weddings.


Bijjar ( بجر ) is a Balochi word which literally translates to “cooperation” but in actuality is the receiving of aid, where by the groom (saloonk) or his family members receive Bijjar from the community members (mainly relatives and friends) to smoothly perform the wedding. Bijjar usually came in the form of cattle or crops but nowadays is mainly money and is repaid back at weddings of relatives and friends at a later time.

Dastar Bandi[edit]

Dastar Bandi ( دستار بندی ) is a ceremony where a turban is placed on the head of the groom and marks the start of manhood. Elders of the groom's family place a turban on his head and formally include him in the 'circle of men'. This ceremony is commonly performed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, western Punjab and northern Balochistan.


Dholki ( ڈھولکی ) is a ceremony that takes its name from the percussion instrument Dholki and is featured heavily during wedding celebrations in Punjab. Traditionally, many days or even weeks before the actual wedding day, women will gather in the house of the bride at night to sing and dance while accompanied by other percussion instruments. Today, this ceremony has also been reduced to a single night of singing and is often combined with the Rasm-e-Heena ceremony.

Doodh Pilai[edit]

Doodh Pilai ( دودھ پلائی ) is a ceremony which is prevalent in many Urdu speaking weddings. On the actual wedding day, sisters, cousins or friends of the bride will bring milk for the groom. After he drinks the milk, he is supposed to present them with money and gifts.


Haldi (ہلدی) is a Sindhi wedding ritual followed by the bride and groom - a form of purification by pouring oil and haldi all over the bride/groom bodies this is done by the family members of both. After the ceremony is finish couple cannot leave the house.

Jol Bandi[edit]

Jol Bandi (جول بینڈی) or Bashang (بشنگ) is a Baloch wedding ceremony held at the brides home and is similar in concept to Rasm-e-Heena. "Jol" means a large well decorated sheet in Balochi and "bandi" means "to close". During this ceremony, the bride is covered with the decorated sheet, usually sown by the groom's family. This marks the beginning of the official wedding ceremony.


Maklava is a predominantly a Punjabi custom. Traditionally, the marriages were arranged and often contracted between people from different cities and villages. This often meant that the bride was unfamiliar with her new family. To ease her into the new life and surroundings, she was brought back to her parents' house a few days after the wedding. She then spent some time at her parents' house before heading back to her new husband's home. This practice is still prevalent in most rural areas of the Punjab.


Mobaraki (مبارکی) is a post-wedding banquet common in Baloch wedding and is hosted by the family of the bride. The entire groom's family, friends and relatives are invited along with relatives and friends of the bride's family.

Paon Dhulai[edit]

Paon Dhulai is a Sindhi wedding tradition, where the bride's brother washes the feet of both of the bride and groom. Some families condemned this as it seems like an insult to the family of the bride.


Sammi is a folk dance mostly performed in Potohar region of upper Punjab and Hazara region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during weddings.

Other traditions[edit]

  • Chauthi, or the fourth day after the wedding the brides parents host a dinner for the immediate family members of the groom, often this is marked with playful traditions like hiding the shoes of the groom and a lavish feast.
  • Darwaza Rukai, doorway blocking
  • Godda Pharai/Guthna Pakrai, is a Punjabi custom in which the younger brother of the bridegroom holds the knee of the bride and doesn't let go until some acceptable monetary gift is given to him.
  • Sehra Bandhai, garlands dressing

Religious customs[edit]


Mahr (مهر) is a mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions that will be paid by the groom to the bride.[28] While the mahr is often money, it can also be anything agreed upon by the bride such as jewelry, home goods, furniture, a dwelling or some land. Mahr is typically specified in the marriage contract signed during an Islamic marriage. The amount of mehr is decided by the family of the bride and the time of the payment is negotiable.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pakistan, Islam in - Oxford Islamic Studies Online". 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2012-09-07.
  2. ^ "Pakistan". Retrieved 2012-09-07.
  3. ^ "A Simple Guide to Pakistani Wedding Rituals". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  4. ^ "The Pakistani Wedding Ceremony - DESIblitz". 12 July 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  5. ^ Muslim Weddings,
  6. ^ Zakaria, Rafia (19 October 2011). "Almost-arranged marriage". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  7. ^ Watch, Muslimah Media (26 September 2012). "Marriages in Pakistan: More than just a gamble". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  8. ^ "Why Love Marriages Are Considered A Taboo In Pakistan?". 8 August 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Rewaj - All About Women Lifestyle»Blog Archive » Wedding in Pakistan". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  10. ^, Kendra Evensen. "Traditional wedding: Three-day event for Muslim couple, family". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  11. ^ a b "The Beautiful Meaning Behind Vidaai Ceremony In Indian Weddings Will Melt Your Heart". BollywoodShaadis. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  12. ^ a b "Doli: The Ceremony of a Punjabi Bride Departing Her Parents' Home". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  13. ^ a b "After performing Nikah, how long a bride and - Encyclopedia of searchable Islamic Q & A - Islamhelpline". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  14. ^ "Vidai Ceremony - Doli". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  15. ^ "The Vidai Ceremony - An Emotional Goodbye". The Big Fat Indian Wedding. 2014-05-01. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  16. ^ " > The Bidaai Ceremony". Wedding Blog. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  17. ^ "Attending a Sikh Wedding - SikhiWiki, free Sikh encyclopedia". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  18. ^ "12 Things That Happen At A Bengali Wedding". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  19. ^ "Bengali Marriage Rituals". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  20. ^ "Kanyadan: The Gift of a Virgin". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  21. ^ "Wedding Customs in Nepal - Rice OISS - Rice University".
  22. ^ "Kschemadandulu Archives - vivahavocab". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  23. ^ "Vidaai Ceremony, Post Wedding Rituals or Doli, Vidhai Rituals". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  24. ^ "Implementation of anti-dowry law a challenge for KP". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  25. ^ "Rukhsati | Islam and Quran". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  26. ^ "". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  27. ^ "Fiqh - Table - Page 7". Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  28. ^ Enforcing Mahr in the Canadian Courts Fareen Jamal, Volume 24, No. 3, June 2012

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