Thursday, April 14, 2011
Omani White Wedding: Muscat Style
It all starts with the proposal. A man who wants to propose must announce to the father of the woman he wants to propose to that he will come to the house to speak about his daughter. If the father of the girl agrees to this, the man will come with a few male members of his family to speak to the father. If the father accepts, then the bride is consulted. She may choose to question the potential groom and speak to see if they are compatible. This is more common these days. If the bride agrees, an ammount of money or gold (the dowry, called a maher) is agreed upon between the bride and the groom. The entire dowry is the bride's discretion Islamically, and it belongs to her alone in its entirety, so contrary to ignorance, a bride is not sold. Then there is the delivery of the maher and any gifts for the bride by the groom. Traditionally, different regions have different traditions for this. It is like the Western bridal shower only much more expensive, usually 3000-9000 OMR. The bride then can use this money to pay for things for the wedding. Nearer to the wedding is what is called the nikah. In Oman it is called the ______ [I forget right now, I'll fill in the blank when I remember]. Think of it like signing the legal national marriage certificate in a Western marriage (only for Muslims this is the religious part of the marriage). The bride usually wears traditional Omani dress which varies depending on her regional background. If the nikah is done just before the walima (in Oman called the Urs, meaning "family") not a weeks or months before, then the henna party usually comes before. But many families choose to have the nikah months or even a year before the wedding, because then it is halal (not sinful) for the young couple to meet and talk to eachother to plan the wedding reception (urs) and their future housing plans ect. The nikah is the contract guaranteeing the bride her rights, where the one conductiing the marriage will make sure the bride is not coerced, and that there will be witnesses. Culturally, in Oman, it is not acceptable to consumate the marriage after the nikah, but Islamically, there is nothing wrong with it. At this stage the bride usually starts searching to rent her white designer wedding dress, to rent a hotel's ballroom or wedding hall, a stage, lights, kosha (wedding couch), arrange catering, music, female photographers and service staff, send out eleborate invitations, make makeup and hair appointments, ect. A few days before the wedding usually the bride has a henna party and trial with her makeup and haridressers. The henna party is usually close female family and friends. The bride traditionally wears green or red Omani dress but may wear whatever she likes. Most henna parties have cute snacks and remind me of slumber parties, with married girls telling secrets and advice for the new bride if this is her first marriage.Well, onto the Urs, a hall or ballroom is usually rented, and decorated. It is a women-only affair so women wear Lebanese and Western style ballgowns, jeweled caftans and jalabiyias, real jewelry, and even see-through abayas with colourful slips underneath. If you have any jewelry it seems now you wear it. Everyone dresses to the max, and the hairstyles and updoes are elaborate. If you are invited to a Muscat white wedding, DO dress up. Too much by Western standards, will be plain here, lol.Above pictured, typical guest hair and makeup. Below, the wedding stage with the kosha.For white weddings, usually there is an aisle leading up to a stage with an elaborate backdrop and a throne or couch called a kosha. There are dinner tables on either side of the aisle, and just before the stage, there is usually a dance floor. Guests are sat at the tables, and music and fabulous lighting announce the bride's arrival.She walks down the aisle, one step and pose at a time. Every time she takes a step her attendents or the photographer rearranges her dress, and takes another shot. So it isn't anything like a Western bridal march. It can take 10 minutes in total. Then she goes up onto the stage and sits on the kosha. Guests come up to congratulate her or take photos with her if they are important friends and family members. Then a photo session with the photographer begins on the stage, and guests start to dance on the foot of the dance floor below the stage, and dinner is served. You can eat or dance.The bride of course, has the most lovely hair and makeup (or should).Her dress is usually the most over the top ball gown covered in crystals you can imagine. At the very end of the night, an announcement is made to the female guests to cover up, and the groom and male relatives come in to take photos with the bride. Then the bride might stay and party until the morning, or she may choose to leave with the groom, either to their new house, or to his his family house. This is the typical white wedding in Muscat.