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How People in the Arab World Say "I Do"

posted on: Aug 12, 2021


By: Danielle Meyer/ Arab America Contributing Writer

Every country has unique traditions, especially at weddings. Many people think of many outdated stereotypes when they think of Middle Eastern dating and wedding customs. Arab weddings have changed greatly in the last hundred years. Here are ten wedding traditions that are common in the Arab world!


The “Tulba” is essentially a formal asking of the bride’s hand in marriage. It is typically a smaller event and usually limited to just the families of the bride and groom. The Tulba occurs after both families have agreed for the couple to be married. In the Tulba, the groom formally asks the bride (and her family) for her hand in marriage. Families then formally recognize that the couple will be married. In Egypt and Parts of Palestine and Jordan, the bride’s family hosts a reception in their home, where the groom formally asks for the bride’s hand in marriage from her father or the eldest man in the family. After the father agrees, the families read the Fatiha (the first sura in the Quran) and serve sharbat, a sweet cordial prepared from flowers or fruit (usually in Egypt) or Arabic coffee (usually in the Levant).


This event usually occurs one or two days before the wedding ceremony. It is a small gathering of the male relatives of both the bride and the groom. The Radwa usually takes place at the bride’s family’s house. At the Radwa, the men on the groom’s side make sure that the bride’s family is satisfied with the marriage. The eldest male on the groom’s side also congratulates all the male family members.



Henna is particularly popular in Palestine. This is a gathering of the female relatives from both sides of the family, and typically occurs at the same time as the Radwa. Firstly, the women from the groom’s side gather at the groom’s family residence where they knead dough in bowls to create Henna. These bowls are adorned with colors and flowers and presented in a very traditional manner to the bride’s family. This Henna is then applied on the bride’s hands, and after her, the application is done on the hands of other female family members. In modern times, the henna night has become very similar to a bachelorette party; the bride’s female friends will join her, and there will be dancing and celebrating.


In some areas, especially Palestine, the men also celebrate the Sahra. The Sahra is an evening party in which music and dance groups perform. Traditionally, the Sahra is for men only; however, in modern times, women are sometimes allowed to participate. In some areas, the Sahra may involve the Dabke, which is a traditional dance.

Zaffe and Dabke


In different regions, different traditional dances are performed at weddings. The zaffe is a group celebration that begins at both the bride and groom’s homes. There is dancing, shouting, and celebration. The zaffe can include professional dancers and even the occasional belly dancer. The groom is then escorted by the zaffe celebration to his bride where the family showers them with blessings and flower petals, then they are escorted to the ceremony to officially wed. The Zaffa is usually performed Dabke-style at Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian and Palestinian weddings, often with male folk dancers and drummers accompanying the belly dancer. Egyptians also love their drums and occasionally request an old-school zaffe.


How People in the Arab World Say "I Do"

The nikah is the traditional wedding ceremony. This is a marriage contract that officially binds the two people as husband and wife. The ritual is performed by the Imam (priest, in simple words) who also fills out all the legal documents involved. The wedding is to be done with the bride and groom’s permission with two adult men, usually from the family, being witness to it. The groom is supposed to offer a mahr to the bride as a wedding gift. Sometimes, after the wedding ceremony, there is a small lunch or dinner reception just for the families.


How People in the Arab World Say "I Do"

The walima is the wedding party. It is typically a very extravagant function to throw a wedding party for friends and extended family. It is customary to book two separate spaces – one for men and one for women – though, in modern weddings, this custom is not always followed. 

Celebratory Gunfire

In many parts of the Arab world, guns are shot into the air to celebrate weddings. These practices are often criticized; however, they remain a prevalent practice, especially in rural areas.


In Iran, the Qiran union is commonly practiced. Also known as a religious or lawful wedding, the Qiran is the religious aspect of the wedding. It is held by a Maazoun, who is a religious representative who officiates the religious portion of the wedding. During the ceremony, the groom joins hands with his future father-in-law to make the marriage official in the presence of two witnesses. After the Qiran, the new couple gives out candy in special cups to family and friends to inform them of their union.


The final celebration is the “Ferdah.” This party is exclusive to only the closest family members/relatives on both the bride and groom’s side. It usually takes place at the bride’s family’s house. The bride’s family hosts the party, and the groom’s side of the family traditionally brings fruits and nuts as a gift. It’s a smaller gathering, but still just as lively as the other parties during the engagement/wedding process.

Have a unique custom? Share it below in the comments!

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