It’s the beginning of summer, and you know what that means: wedding season! Yes, it’s that special time of year, where Muslims (and non-Muslims alike) take advantage of the good weather and vacation time to get hitched. For Muslims, the urge to lock it down after meeting a good match is intense. If you’re following the rules (aka Islamic law), you already know, you’re not supposed to touch or be alone in the company of your betrothed until you sign the nikah (the marriage contract). For that reason, you should expect to see lots of social media announcements about “engagements,” for couples that have only been dating for a few months. Short courtship periods, and fast weddings, are normal in the Muslim world. Maybe you’re one of those lucky couples looking to tie the knot fairly quickly this summer. Maybe you’re the first in your friend circle to do so and you don’t know where to start. If you’re newly engaged and freaking out about wedding planning, have no fear! I’ve got you covered!
There are a few areas that will dictate the answer to this question: culture, time, energy and money. By far, the most important consideration is the couple’s culture. Some cultures use the nikah as an “engagement period.” Although there is no recognized engagement period in Islamic law, many cultures encourage the couple to sign the marriage contract rather quickly, to make the relationship halal. This allows parents to feel more comfortable having the couple interact and be alone together. Usually, those cultures do not encourage a couple living (or sleeping together) before doing a big party, or walima. Because it takes time to plan a wedding, it might be months or even a year before the couple can really be together.
For some cultures or families, there is a preference to do both events on one day. This means that the walima aspect, might be scaled down a bit, to allow for the couple to be together sooner.
Other considerations include factors like time, energy and money. If you have always envisioned a very elaborate wedding, then you’ll want time to save up money and plan for a bigger event. Friends and family will also need time to buy tickets and clear their calendars. However, to make it easier for the couple to stay halal, it might just be easier to do a very simple nikah in the masjid or even at their parents’ home, and then do the walima months out. The decision is also dependent on a person’s energy and commitment to investing in the party planning aspect. You really have to sit down and think about the level of importance that comes with the walima, versus with the marriage as a whole. Either way, talk to your parents about what traditions they want to see you carry out, and go from there.
When it comes to thinking about your wedding, what do you envision? Are you big into parties? Have you always imagined being surrounded by all your closest friends, plus all your extended family? Or are you the type of person that wants a small ceremony in a mosque surrounded by just the parents and a few other witnesses? How much are you willing to spend? Will your parents cover it, or will you have to save up? Answers to all these questions are crucial in determining the costs.
Now that Covid restrictions have laxed a bit, couples that got nikah’d or did civil ceremonies during the height of the lockdown, are beginning to come out of the woodwork to do fancy affairs. That means prices for everything are high. With inflation, and high demand, those in the wedding industry are making out like bandits! Need a wedding cake? Expect to pay at least $200-500. Need photography? You won’t find many options for less than $1750. Venues? Depending on where you are in the country, you’re looking at $3500 to $6000.
It’s easy to get carried away by the excitement and go overboard. If the funds aren’t there, don’t stress, simply trim the guest list and the expectations. I promise you, you do not actually have to invite your mother’s third cousin’s sister-in-law. You do not need the food catered from the Michelin star restaurant, and you do not need to walk down the aisle in a $5,000 dress or suit. Sure, a nice wedding is nice, but it’s just one day. Why not consider putting that money towards a luxurious honeymoon or even a downpayment on a house! Sit down with your fiance and think carefully about why you are spending what you’re spending.
It’s going to be hard to regulate this list. You’ll have all sorts of pressure from the parentals to add the dentist, their best friend from the third grade and all your relatives you’ve never even met to the guest list. In the current society, people are brought together in the event of just a few popular occasions: graduations, funerals, births, or weddings. For that reason alone, many people feel inclined to do it up big for their wedding. They want all the family gathered there plus all their friends, or anyone that has meant anything to them.
I get the temptation, but here me out: you can create your own traditions and craft your own occasions for celebrations. In your marriage, which will hopefully be long and filled with many happy moments, you will find small events to celebrate. Those moments you can turn into excuses to throw mini parties with people you really care about. Don’t fall into the trap that a wedding celebration is the only time you can celebrate your love and happiness with your partner. Focus on spreading that joy over the course of several years, into different types of events, so that you don’t overwhelm yourself or your finances.
Every girl who has ever seen “Say, yes to the Dress” on TLC understands the desire to find the wedding dress of her dreams. Usually, people have several different dresses for their big day, including many cultural dresses. Just as many though, opt for the classic American White dress. Whether it’s mermaid-style, or a princess ballgown the cost of the dress plus alterations can easily carry into the thousands. However, there is a growing consciousness to shift away from excess spending on the dress. There are online and in-person stores that will sell second-hand wedding dresses. What’s the incentive? It’s significantly cheaper. You might get a designer gown for half the price because it’s been worn once and sold to them by a bride who is done with her dress.
Another option is a sample sale dress. These dresses are the ones you try out on the store. They might require some alterations, but you will buy it in whatever size the mannequin wears and this is usually a few hundred cheaper than the original retail price. The only downside with sample sale is that the options are fewer than the ones you have to order.
Partially inspired by COVID measures to decrease attendees, and partially inspired by a minimalist movement, there is a growing trend to do destination and micro-weddings. A destination wedding might include your parents and maybe siblings at a luxurious resort or hotel somewhere abroad. Such an occasion would be really romantic because you are getting married in a different country, but you still maintain tradition by having necessary family members present.
Another idea to keep numbers down and create an intimate affair, is to have a micro-wedding. These are small wedding packages (around 30 people or less), where the weddings are still very lush, but at a fraction of the cost. It’s a great way to get the full feeling of a wedding, on a smaller scale.