Like many cultures across the globe, Qatari culture has many distinct and intriguing aspects. The traditional Qatari culture is rooted in Islamic practices, making many wonder what a typical wedding is like.
The ILoveQatar.net (ILQ) team is here to shed some light and give you some insights into what a traditional Qatari wedding is made up of.
The printed invitation culture is still practised in Qatar. Typically, the ladies' event invitation is made up of one big card which mentions the couple's details and the event details.
Smaller passes are packed into the invitation envelope if more than one family member is invited. These little passes will be essential to present at the event entrance. This is done to ensure privacy and security are maintained.
When it comes to the invitations for the male event, it is typically an open invitation given via word of mouth, posters on the roads of neighbouring areas, or even social media. However, printed invitations are given to VIP guests or the elderly.
The invitation almost always has a photo of the groom along with all event details.
In terms of the number of main events, it is fairly simple. The bride typically would have two events: the henna and the wedding. The groom would have just the wedding party.
The Milcha is the signing ceremony, usually an intimate function done at home with the immediate family of the bride and groom. The wedding is officiated by a registered ‘sheikh’ who is an Islamic priest, after which the bride and groom sign the marriage contract.
Subjective to family preferences, this is sometimes done months or weeks before the wedding party.
Henna is the traditional art of temporary body tattooing with a natural paste made of henna leaves. Traditionally, this party used to have the bride and the guests get her henna done. Over time, this has changed, and while brides have their henna done before the event, the other cultural elements remain.
This event is only held for the bride and is attended by women. Typically the invitees of the henna party would be the women from the bride’s and groom’s families and other close friends and relatives.
The bride would wear a traditional Qatari gown or dress, usually made from classic Qatari fabrics of vibrant colours such as red or green. These dresses are normally enhanced with golden embroidery. The bride is adorned with traditional Qatari gold jewellery to complement the traditional dress.
At the henna event, you can also expect to witness the distribution of many uniquely packaged giveaways from the bride or immediate relatives. Maintaining the cultural authenticity of this particular event, the giveaways typically are goodie bags that include ‘bukhoor’ (traditional incense), a little pack of henna powder, ‘kohl’ which is the traditional black eyeliner which is famous in Gulf and Southeast Asian countries, chocolates, oud or attar (traditional oil perfume) and many other such gifts.
Another feature that you would find at a henna party is the distribution of Jasmine flower bracelets for all the guests to wear. This is just an element of tradition added to the event.
A common ritual carried out at the henna party is something called ‘yallouh’, where the bride is made to sit in the middle of a circle of girls while they hold on to a shawl or cloth above the bride’s head and flutter it up and down for a few minutes with music in the background. The girls standing in the circle need to be unmarried, and the custom is to signify that.
Watch to find out more about the henna party - #QTips: All about Henna Night (Arabic Weddings)
The wedding ceremony or party is always conducted as male and female-segregated events. Although the male and female events take place on the same day, they are mostly at different locations and very different in nature.
The groom's wedding party is an outdoor tent event, usually elaborate with floral decorations, seating arrangements, food and more. In modern Qatar, some also choose to hold the event in a wedding hall or hotel ballroom.
It is typically an open event where guests flow in and out, greet the groom, sip on some traditional Arabic coffee and may even participate in the traditional Qatari sword dance known as 'Ardha', which is a must-have custom.
A distinct part of the male party is the seating set-up inspired by the traditional majlis seating.
Check out: All about the majlis culture and where it can be experienced here!
Although typically, majlis seating is low-lying, the concept of empty space is maintained. The seating arrangement is couches placed against the edges of the tent, keeping a bare area in the middle, allowing space for the sword dance.
The groom's party food is typically large servings of the traditional Qatari rice 'Machboos' or, as some call it, 'Thabiha', which translates to 'the sacrifice'. The name comes from the idea that each rice tray usually has whole-cooked lamb served.
Along with this, a continuous serving of tea and coffee is accompanied by traditional light sweets such as Gem’at.
The female wedding party is all about extravagance, grandeur & aesthetics. The ladies who attend the wedding, be it the immediate family or any other guests, all put on the best and most stylish gowns complemented by beautiful hair-dos and make-up.
The decor of this event which is almost always held at a hotel, showcases the most aesthetic floral arrangements, elaborate table decor and dining layouts.
A particularly eye-catching feature of the typical Qatari wedding is the elaborate throne on which the bride sits, also known as the ‘kosha’. This throne is always elevated a few steps, is heavily decorated, has a lengthy sofa where the bride sits, and has space for relatives and friends to sit and have a quick chat or take photos.
From the middle of the throne is a lengthy ramp where the ladies dance and continue moving back and forth, which almost seems like a ramp walk.
Upon the bride's entry, many family elders throw money on the bride or even on the other ladies dancing. While this has been in practice over the years, it is done with the intention of removing any evil eye. One may wonder what happens to that money. That money is picked up by those who accompany the band that plays live music at the wedding. Typically, this band is a group of ladies with a lead singer and supporting artists who play the traditional Qatari drum and other instruments.
The bride’s entry to the wedding is typically on her own, where all the limelight is hers. Many hours after the event has begun, the bride has taken her seat, and the ladies have had some time to dance their hearts out, the groom makes his entry.
Towards the end of the night, the groom enters the ladies' wedding hall; however, before this, an announcement is made that the groom will be coming, which notifies all the ladies who wish to veil, to cover up.
The groom walks in with his immediate male relatives, like his father and brothers and the bride’s immediate male relatives.
Another arrangement done before this entrance is the veiling of the bride. Different people opt for different ways of doing this. Some people bring a screen in front of the bride, some a large-scale umbrella-type cover, some just put on a cloak, etc.
Once the groom and other relatives come in, they take photos and exchange greetings with female relatives, after which the male relatives leave, and only the groom stays. Once it is just the groom, the bride is unveiled, and they share the stage for the rest of the event.
Watch to learn more about the bride's wedding party - #QTip: The Women's side of Qatari Weddings
The food served at weddings is usually a wide buffet of traditional Arabic dishes across appetizers, main courses and desserts. However, one must-have dish is the traditional Qatari rice known as ‘Machboos’. Typically made with lamb, you could expect to see a large serving of this with a whole cooked lamb atop a bed of rice.
Check out: Places where you can eat Machboos!
Aside from the main meal, there would be hostesses walking around with endless servings of snacks, sandwiches, chocolates and finger food throughout the event. Snacks and nibbles are also a part of the table layout. Along with food, there is a free-flowing serving of traditional Arabic coffee and tea.
A common sight in modern Qatari weddings is an evolution of this practice where some weddings have coffee carts serving guests lattes, cappuccinos, hot chocolate and more or even trendy mojitos.
At every Qatari wedding, a bride wears a lush white bridal gown with an elaborate trail adorned with jewels.
The groom wears the traditional Qatari white robe known as the ‘Thobe’ and the ‘Bisht’.
The ‘Bisht’ is a thin black cloak with a gold embroidery border worn on top of the thobe. Aside from the groom, the ‘Bisht’ is also typically worn by the groom's father or even the bride's father at weddings.
Watch to learn more about the 'Bisht' - #QTip: What's a bisht and when do you wear one?
Much to the pleasure of the wedding guests who go out of their way to put on their best selves, weddings always have at least one photo booth.
In previous years, these would be studio-like setups with various backgrounds that guests can choose from. With the evolvement of technology, this has now been changed to newer versions of photo booths.
There are a few unique rules to the Qatari wedding, such as not taking in phones with cameras to the ladies event. Typically at the wedding venue entrance, security will take in your phones and hand you a token number. The token number can be handed over to get your phone back.
Another typical rule at a wedding is not to take any gifts to the actual wedding party. While this is a norm, some people include this on the wedding invitation. If you are to give a wedding gift, this could be given at any time before or after the wedding in a more intimate setting.
Here's an interesting watch telling you more about the rules of a Qatari wedding - #QTip: What to bring to a Qatari Wedding
Did you know all these details of a Qatari wedding? Have you been to a Qatari wedding? Do let us know in the comments below. Do share this article - it keeps us going!
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