I was told by my brother it should be Baraat then Nikkah and I suppose he’s right so here goes:

Event 5/6: Baraat

Prior to the groom leaving his home and setting off to the wedding a ceremony of Sehra Bandan occurs. Traditionally the groom wears a sehra (veil of flowers) although nowadays he is just adorned with flower garlands. Family members of the groom give him gifts or salaami (gifts of money). His sisters and/or cousins may stop him leaving the home and demand for a gift or money (this is playful and not at all a serious hijack type occurrence!). He then gifts them with gold jewellery or money.

Baraat is the entourage which the groom brings on the wedding day. This usually consists of his family and friends. They are referred to as the “baraati”. Traditionally the groom, decked in a sherwani complete with turban and khussay, turns up on a white horse. The horse is embellished with various decorations. With the groom is a shahbala. The shahbala is basically a young child, either his nephew or younger brother who dresses up exactly like the groom, right down to footwear. The shahbala is equivalent to a Best Man, but is not handed responsibility for tasks as is per custom of the best man in a Western sense.  He is simply there for cuteness!

The baraati’s usually turn up dancing and singing – with much fervour and cheer. Some throw firecrackers or launch fireworks as part of these celebrations. The shehnai (shrill flute) plays, dhol (drums) are beaten and there is much cheering and whooping. I heard recently at a baraat one of the baraati as a joke, threw a firecracker near the horse – who became frightened and threw the groom off its back and onto the ground. The poor groom ended up covered in mud and filth!

The baraati’s arrival is much anticipated by the girls side of the family who await with confetti to welcome their presence. Girls form two lines on both sides of the aisle and as the baraati are ushered into the hall they throw confetti and greet them with smiles and kind words. The girls parents welcome their guests and adorn the groom and his parents with a garland of flowers.

The arrival of the baraati’s and finally the groom allows the next series of events to commence – which is the nikkah.

Event 5/6: Nikkah

The reason why I had the nikkah first in my previous list is due to the practise of some families and individuals choosing to perform the nikah ceremony a day or two (or months) prior to the wedding day. However, the norm amongst most Pakistani’s is to have the nikkah on the day of the wedding after the baraat has arrived.

Once the baraati’s arrive and settle down, the nikkah ceremony can begin. The girl tends to be sitting in a room, in all her finery – jewellery (which consists of bangles, rings, earrings, nath – nose ring -, tikka which dangles on the forehead and/or jhumar which sits at the temple of her forehead, to the side), wedding outfit, make up and henna-ed hands and feet- separate from the guests. With her are her sisters, cousins and/or friends.

For the nikkah the Imam will meet her and ask her, in the presence of two witnesses (2 are formal witnesses who attest to the contract, other people are usually in the room but tend to be observers) that a proposal by the groom (full name mentioned) for marriage to her has been made (this is termed -Ijab-e-Qubul) and states mahr amount. The Imam then asks does she accept this proposal. To which (hopefully!) she replies I accept (qabool hai). This question is asked thrice and she responds thrice. Some take her silence as acceptance, but generally most people I know and the Imams here encourage and seek a clear verbal response. After this verbal acceptance she signs the documents, as do her witnesses. A dua is read – and the imams goes to the groom.

The groom is asked the same set of questions however the sequence changes. The imam informs the groom that the bride has accepted his proposal, including the mahr amount and does he accept the bride (her full name) as his wife. He answers I accept her (qabool hai) and signs the documents as do his two witnesses. This question and answer occurs thrice as before.

After this the groom is congratualted, as are his parents and the brides mother and father. Usually the girls parents may be teary eyed with happiness but also at the realisation that their little girl who they raised so lovingly, and who filled the home with her laughter, who spread her love and warmth with her mere presence, and lit up the lives of her siblings and parents is now somebodys wife and will soon depart her paternal home to set up a new life with her husband. Its a happy but also a sad moment.

The grooms side hand out “bidh” – which are small pouches consisting of sweets, and “chuwarey” which are pieces of dried fruit and nuts.

After this the bride enters the hall, walked in by her brothers usually, and is lead to the stage. She takes her seat to the right side of the groom who is standing in wait for her. At this point the brides sister and/or female cousin quickly steals his seat.

A few games begin at this point.

She demands money/gifts from the groom in order to vacate the seat for him to sit next to his wife. A playful rapport occurs, with him stating an amount and the sister rejecting it. Sometimes the grooms family also chirps in and asks the poor girl to consider the grooms feelings! This is all done in jest. Eventually she accept his gift and vacates the seat. After the groom takes his place, the sister again brings a glass of milk for the groom and bride to drink from (doodh palai). For this she also demands another gift from him!

Another game is called jhooti chupai (hiding shoes). The sister again, somehow, removes the shoe of the groom then demands salaami/a gift in exchange for it. Similar to the seat game, he and his family will offer amount which she rejects. At this point the sister is gifted with gold jewellery (gold jewellery for the elder sisters and silver for the young ones)

This marks the ends of the games. At this point guests may come up and congratulate the newly weds and parents, respectively.

Food is served, or I should say feasts!

Event 7: Rukhsati

The rukhsati marks the end of the wedding celebrations. The bride is led out of the hall by the groom and the baraat. The Quran may be held over her head, and it meant to demonstrate bestowment of blessings upon her. There is much crying at this point as she leaves. Her family members will hug her and mark her departure with kind sweet words. There is more crying. Women usually cry as they remember their own rukhsati or they cry because she is leaving them or just because they want to!

Traditionally the bride would be led towards her doli (palanquin) and be taken to her new home in this vehicle of transport. Nowadays the doli has been replaced with a vintage cars, limousines or a bog standard hatchback decorated with ribbons. Before setting foot into the car/doli she will meet with her parents, hug and kiss them. She is then taken away by the baraat. This marks the end of the rukhsati and of the wedding day.

Next:  Events 8 & 9: Waleemah & Makhlawa