Islamic wedding ceremonies are among the most important in the ummah (Muslim community). Because Muslim weddings are seen as a legal commitment rather than a religious one, vows are not necessary, only a nikah (marriage contract). In fact, the bride need not even be present for the actual wedding as long as she sends a representative. However, many brides and grooms do exchange vows for the purpose of publicly solidifying their emotional commitment to each other.
A Muslim marriage contract contains legal "vows" by which each party -- the bride and groom -- agrees to abide for the length of the marriage. Muslim brides and grooms are free to specify anything they wish in the marriage contract. For example, although it is permissible in Islam for a man to take more than one wife, a bride may include in the nikah a clause forbidding her groom to do so. In some cases, such as when the bride is very young, the contract may include terms as to the age at which the marriage may be consummated.
Role of the Imam
Muslim couples traditionally are married by an imam, or Muslim religious leader, although any adult Muslim male can perform the ceremony. There is a reading from the Quran and the officiant speaks about marriage and the roles of spouses, then asks the bride and groom three times if they accept one another willingly and the terms outlined in the nikah. Both must answer in the affirmative each time or the marriage is not recognized.
Role of the Guests
Muslim weddings must be public. The bride and groom are not allowed to marry in secret; if they do, the marriage is not valid. The role of the wedding guests is to witness the affirmative responses and/or vows of the bride and groom. If the wedding is small, only a few guests are present for the actual ceremony and the new marriage is publicly declared at a walimah, or reception, immediately thereafter.
If Muslim couples choose to exchange vows, they are not obligated to use any specific words. However, traditional bridal vows are as follows: "I, (bride's name), offer you myself in marriage and in accordance with the instructions of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. I pledge, in honesty and with sincerity, to be for you an obedient and faithful wife." The groom traditionally responds with, "I pledge, in honesty and sincerity, to be for you a faithful and helpful husband."
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