Muslim weddings are steeped in history and tradition and while customs vary based on culture, and societal influence across the Levant, GCC and North Africa play a role, there are certain religious rituals that remain the same, namely, the Katb Al-Ktab, otherwise known as the religious marriage ceremony.

Katb Al-Ktab is the marriage ceremony in Islam — when the Sheikh lays out the terms of the marriage and a contract is signed between both parties, confirming the nuptials. Due to COVID-19, many young Muslim couples who were eager to move in together were adapting how they approach the ceremony, given that traditional celebrations have had to be put on pause.

The common denominator

Over the years, the dress code during the Katb Al-Ktab has evolved. Some attribute the change to the rise of social media and widening access to information, while others suggest it has to do with how interconnected communities have become in an ever-so-globalized world. Taking Jordan as an example, a melting pot of different cultures and home to over two million refugees that include Syrians, Palestinians and Iraqis, the country has seen the cultural traditions around the Katb Al-Ktab change over the last two decades. Zainab Kisswani, a luxury eveningwear house based in Amman, and who has become the go-to designer for a Katb Al-Ktab ceremony says, “The Iraqi tradition of Mehr, which includes seven white items present in the ceremony has now become a part of ours, too. It is truly beautiful to see how we embrace each other’s cultures and traditions.”

In the past, guests were expected to dress conservatively, both men and women had to cover their arms and legs. The bride-to-be usually wore a long, conservative dress, often opting for a traditional abaya. However, Kisswani, explains that, “while some religious aspects of the ceremony remain the same, particularly where the bride is expected to cover her head and arms, the ways in which those are covered have been modernized.” Instead of a traditional abaya, brides-to-be are now opting for jumpsuits, mini-dresses that come with a sheer, embroidered abaya, or strapless dresses accompanied with a jacket or a suit. The common denominator across all this is that, during the ceremony and in the presence of the Sheikh, the sleeve has to be at least 3/4 length.

“We see a lot of different brides, with different needs and wants come in,” Kisswani says. Women are now embracing what works for them, as opposed to what is expected of them. However, “wearing a light color, often times white, which is the most common color brides-to-be go for,” is still very much a tradition. White is considered the purest and cleanest color in Islam, and according to the Color of Psychology, white is a blank slate, symbolizing a new beginning, or a fresh start.

Custom embroidered shawl

Other religious traditions that remain the same include the covering of the head. A bride-to-be is expected to cover her head in the presence of the Sheikh. However, a Hijab is not necessary, and a sheer shawl that is loosely placed above the head upon signing the marriage contract will suffice. “A lot of the brides-to-be that come to us ask for a custom embroidered shawl,” Kisswani explains. “We usually embroider the bride and groom’s names on it using silk threads as a way to modernize and personalize it.” A custom-embroidered shawl by Kisswani usually ranges between JOD 100 and JOD 200, which is equivalent to USD 141 – USD 282.

The evolution of the dress code for the religious ceremony will continue over time, as communities embrace new cultures, traditions and groups. Other changes are also taking place, including the location of the ceremony. In the past, it was held in court, whereas today, couples are able to have the wedding officiated and the marriage contract signed from the comfort of their own homes, and in the presence of a Sheikh. Ceremonies held at home are now usually followed by a party, or a get together, which may explain why brides-to-be are opting for new ways of dressing and covering up.