How Iraqi People Get Married (Marriage & Wedding Traditions)

Nora Nasr

Author

Nora Nasr

How Iraqi People Get Married (Marriage & Wedding Traditions)

Ever wondered how Iraqis get married?

That’s what we’re going to look at today.

We’ll be covering Iraqi marriage and wedding traditions and discussing everything from the engagement up until the big wedding day.

Sharbat & Fatiha

If an Iraqi man is interested in a girl for marriage, then one of the first steps he has to take is to ask for the girl's hand.

It is customary for representatives of the groom and his family to visit the prospective bride's home and ask her father for permission to marry his daughter.

This tradition is called the Sharbat (شربت) or Fatiha (الفاتحة).

The girl could be someone he already knows such as a relative or she could be a neighbor, cousin, workmate, or student at the same college, etc.

In the old days though, arranged marriages were very common and most grooms would meet their prospective brides during this initial meeting.

Nowadays though, arranged marriages are much less common.

Rose water, cordial, and coffee are presented once the bride and her father have both accepted to proceed with the marriage and the Quranic Surah ‘Al-Fatiha’ (hence the name) is recited.

After this meeting between the two families takes place, the couple begins getting to know each other. They will usually meet in their homes or in public and go out on dates together.

In Muslim families, however, the couples are limited to speaking only, as physical contact is prohibited without an official marriage contract in place.

Conservative Muslim families might even limit the dates or meetings within the home.

Not all couples have a Sharbat/Fatiha though.

For some families, if the couple already knows each other well they will skip this step and prepare for the engagement ceremony instead.

Engagement or Aqid

Every marital union in Iraq begins with an engagement.

During the engagement ceremony, the prospective bride and groom will come together to sign the official Islamic marriage contract or Aqid (عقد). This is also sometimes called the Nikah (نِكَاح‎). This is a wedding contract that legally joins the couple as husband and wife.

The ritual is usually carried out by an Imam, who also reads out all the necessary marriage vows and marries the couple to each other. To be valid, the contract must be performed with the permission of both the bride and groom.

Also, as a wedding present, the husband is supposed to give the bride a Mahr. The Mahr is often defined in the marriage contract that is signed at the time of marriage, and it is frequently given in the form of money in most marriages, although it can also be anything agreed upon by the bride, such as jewelry, home goods, furniture, a home, or even land.

The couple then exchanges engagement rings and embraces.

Following the engagement ceremony, there is sometimes a short lunch or supper reception for the family only.

While shorter engagements are more common (less than a year), some engagements can last anywhere from a year to several years.

After the engagement, the bride will begin her search for her gown and prepare for the wedding.

Nishan

There is a Iraqi tradition that takes place after the engagement and before the wedding, this is where the wife-to-be is given gifts, and these gifts are called the Nishan (نيشان).

For the Nishan, the groom and his family usually shower the bride with jewelry, diamonds, and, in particular, gold.

The number and value of the jewelry can vary depending on the groom's financial means. The jewelry might be as modest as a pair of earrings, or as extravagant as many gold pieces for the bride to wear.

Gifts are also sometimes given to family members like the bride's mother.

Henna

Iraqi wedding henna

The henna (حنة) is a party that is held a day before the wedding for both the groom and the bride, and it's somewhat similar to a bachelor/bachelorette celebration.

The evening before the official wedding ceremony, the women of the family and friends get together and apply traditional henna to the bride's hands and feet.

The bride dresses up in a beautiful dress (or dresses) throughout the night and celebrates with her loved ones. This pre-wedding celebration is filled with food, music, dancing, and traditional Iraqi songs being recited.

The groom might also have a celebration of his own where he invites his family and his friends. The bachelor party is to prepare him for the wedding, and similar to the bride’s party, it usually involves music and dancing to celebrate his getting married.

The wedding day

Finally, the big wedding (عُرْس) day is here.

On the wedding day, the family of the bride and groom accompany the couple to the ceremony which is either held at home or in a wedding hall.

As the bride and groom arrive, they begin to walk down the aisle, and the traditional "Zaffa" (زفة) is performed. During the Zaffa, family and friends cheer loudly and music is played.

The couple is then guided to a big stage and seated on a "kosha," (كوشا), which is a type of sofa the couple sits on facing their guests.

Iraqi kosha wedding

After that, the bride is presented with more gifts from her husband and her guests. This is followed by a cake-cutting ceremony, and dinner is served for everyone.

After dinner, the celebrations begin. The wedding night is usually long, and the couple enjoys a night of celebration with their family and friends that includes singing and dancing until late into the night.

If you’ve ever been to an Iraqi wedding before, you’ll know this: Iraqis know how to party!

Then a second Zaffa (زفة) takes place after the wedding ceremony. This Zaffa involves driving the bride and groom’s new home and beeping the cars very loudly throughout the whole journey. Music is played loudly too. This is the final celebration, after which the bride and groom are left to start their new life together.

It’s also common for most couples to go on a honeymoon (شهر العسل) following the wedding day.

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