I have several opportunities to attend Muslim marriages both in India and Bangladesh. However, I found Bangladeshi wedding customs unique in the Islamic world. The cultural synthesis in the country makes Bangladeshi wedding traditions distinctive in many senses. I have personally observed that despite being a predominantly Muslim country, people in Bangladesh freely follow the traditions of their Hindu counterparts. The dress, food, pre-wedding ceremonies, and marriage rituals differ from conservative Muslim traditions and are more in tune with the Bengali heritage. Any Islamic wedding in Bangladesh follows a set practice of customs that are not present in any Muslim marriage ceremony, not even in India and Pakistan. The ethnic Bengali feeling in a Bangladeshi marriage is all pervasive and Islamic customs play the second fiddle.
A wedding in Bangladesh is a three-day affair and full of amusement. Unlike the conservative Islamic countries, where men and women have separate function, there is no such discrimination in a Bangladeshi wedding. There is no role for clergy and other religious rituals in the prenuptial ceremonies, which more or less boast secular rituals. I have never seen veiled women in any Bangladeshi marriage. Gaye Haloud or turmeric ceremony is common to both Hindu and Muslim marriages in Bangladesh. In other Muslim countries, henna takes the place of turmeric. All men and women attend it and apply turmeric on the face of the bride and the groom. Music, dance, and feast are organized at the houses of both the bride and the groom. There are no restrictions on women dancing or singing. Once the turmeric ceremony is fixed, the bride and the groom do not meet each other until their marriage. Any gift, including engagement ring and jeweler, to the bride is presented by family elders from the groom’s side.
Unlike simple marriages in most Islamic societies across the world, Bangladeshi marriages are known for their extravaganza. A lot of money and efforts are put through to organize food, decorate the venues, and field reputed faces from the entertainment world. The marriage is solemnized at the home of the bride or any venue chosen by them, though in Islamic marriages there is no such condition. The sari is the most preferred bridal attire in Bangladeshi weddings. It is usually a decorated cloth 5 to 6 meters in length and draped around the body in distinctive style. The bridal fashion is also exotic with more thrust on expression of feminine qualities. The groom arrives at the marriage venue in a glistering procession. In Bangladesh, the father of the bride welcomes the groom. According usual customs in most Muslim countries, the brother of the bride plays this role in.
The marriage is the only ceremony where religious functions are held. An Islamic priest solemnizes the marriage by asking for consent of both the bride and the groom and registers it in the presence of witnesses. The groom pays mahr or dowry to the bride and says something in romantic verses. The female members of the bride’s family play prank on the groom and his close relatives. The wedding follows a lavish dinner and entertainment programs. Unlike traditional Muslim amusements, women freely participate in Bangladeshi marriage celebrations.
The uniqueness of a Bangladeshi wedding is largely attributed to its liberal culture and the ethnic Bengali heritage. I have never seen restrictions of any kind in Bangladeshi marriages. The amusement is for all, and women stand on equal pedestal with men. The food in also distinctly flavored and the menu includes Indian, Chinese, and international culinary.