Sunday, October 18

Muslim Weddings: A Dress Code

Now I would never call myself an expert at wedding planning. Yes, I seem to go to many, but then it's not like I've organised my own or anything. Sigh, moan etc.

There is one thing that I am clear about though, and that's what people should wear to Muslim weddings, particularly those here in the UK.

Muslims are quite lucky when it comes to weddings. Almost by religious dictation they're forced to have two discrete events: the wedding ceremony and on a later day (more often than not the day after), the valima. This natural splitting of the nuptials allows for various logistical practicalities; for example it's usually the girl's side who pays for and hosts the wedding, while the guy deals with the valima. Both groups therefore get to have their own party in the style (and with the cost) they find to be most appropriate.

Most Muslims in the UK have a "home" culture as well as their western one, and the two events also allows us to demonstrate that too, which is where my point about dress comes in. Due to the serene and religious nature of the wedding ceremony it makes sense to make this event more of a traditional affair where guests wear clothes which either demonstrate where they or the couple getting married come from. For most of us from the sub-continent, this means saris, shalwar kameez, sherwanis, lenghas... You get the picture. Men should NOT wear suits.

The valima on the other hand allows guests to show their other side. For men this now does indeed mean a suit; for women it's slightly trickier since not many tend to feel comfortable in dresses. Having said that saris still go with suits so it's less of an issue for them.

Why is this so important? Surely everyone should wear what they're comfortable in? Well put simply it's all about consistency. No matter how hot everyone looks individually, there's something really odd and off-putting about having a photo with some guys wearing suits while the others wear traditional - especially if they're wearing the opposite to what the groom is. But further than that it's also about vibe and appropriateness; trying to establish what particular facet of the marriage we're trying to celebrate. You're supposed to nick the groom's chappal, not his shoes.

Before you write me off as being a total nutcase it's worth mentioning that this has never been a problem at any of the non-Muslim Asian weddings I go to. Unless you're not brown (and therefore excused, but even then not really since you should have been briefed already) you would always - without question - wear traditional at the religious ceremony, and be sombre and muted while you're at it. On the other hand at the reception the men would then be in suits, with the women in dresses (or traditional if that's not an option) and there'll be dancing and music and the rest of it too.

I get that us Muslims are a reserved bunch and I'm not saying that valimas should have dancefloors, but the fact that we can't get something as simple as a dress code right disappoints me - but not as much as the fact that we don't even care about these things. Perhaps it's laziness or selfishness; personally I think it's just yet another indication of how we, as Muslims, uniquely manage to struggle with expressing and consolidating the various identities we own.

My rule of thumb guys? Wear traditional to the wedding and leave your suits for the valima.


  1. Anonymous21:59

    i really dont see the big deal in what anyone wears as long as they're not outdoing the bride or groom.
    Its about personal comfort unless the bride and groom have specified otherwise, as i see alot of women in all theri bling gear which isnt something another would be comfortable in and there really is more to a wedding than what everyone is wearing

  2. Jaffa Cake14:05

    Men wear thobes and turbans, women wear abaya or long dresses.


  3. I always thought that when it's your 'sides' day, you dress up accordingly? That if you know the bride's family, you go all-out on the shaadi, and then casual for the walima, meaning guys leave ties and jackets at home, and usually wear shalwar kameez? And vice versa?
    Maybe I just made that up.

  4. HW,

    You're right about dressing up more for who you know (although I never wear a tie with my suits now, maybe unless it's family). I'm talking more about trad vs suit style. Both styles can be dressed up or down.

    I dunno. I just think it looks odd if what you're wearing clashes with the groom.

  5. Anonymous02:43

    Can you give me some guidance on what to wear for a ceremony in the sharia court in Qatar please? I am the bride and a newly converted Muslim. My future husband is not sure whether it should be a caftan and head scarf or if I need a head scarf. I think probably?! ! Thanks

  6. Hi Anonymous,

    Sorry, I have no idea! Congratulations thought!