The Week-long Affair: A Pakistani Wedding!

The Week-long Affair: A Pakistani Wedding!

This blog is a little different from our usual blogs. It was actually written by Tooba Gilani who is one of our amazing clients! The photos in the blog are from Tooba & Shahmeran’s wedding as well. PS. These photos were taken in 2015 so there might be some stylistic differences to my current style of photos ~ Sharyar

Nikkah

Ever since you’re a little girl, the “dream” wedding is etched in your mind. From décor to food to your attire, everything must be perfect, and if it isn’t… well, hey there Bridezilla. My wedding was a week-long traditional meets modern Pakistani affair.

A usual western wedding holds a morning ceremony and evening reception. One day, in and out, you’re done. Hooray!! BUT, now let me take you on a journey, I like to call my wedding bonanza!

The birth of #Haanji

Day 1. Nikkah- this is the equivalent of a shorter church ceremony. It can take place at the Mosque, in your house, a hotel, wherever you like; it just has to take place before the Valima.
If it’s at the Mosque, the men and women go to their designated prayer areas. Prayers are said. The two will be asked if they want to take each other as their lawfully wedded partner, to which both reply in acceptance, “Qabool hai” (I do). Hugs are exchanged, and of course goodies and snacks are distributed (usually by the groom’s family) to all those present.

My family and I reached the Mosque around 4pm. The women went to their allocated portion upstairs and the men went to the main hall .We waited as people started to arrive for the regular prayers, as our Nikkah would be read after Asr prayer. Once Asr prayer was complete, the Maulana (priest) blessed our marriage and everyone joined in as he prayed for our successful lives ahead. He asked Shahmeran (my fiance) if he’d take me as his lawfully wedded wife. Pin drop silence. Everyone’s on edge to hear those two words (Qabool hai) uttered into mic … and this guy being the polite yet quirky human being he is, says “Hannji”. The whole Mosque roars in merriment, people are crying because they’re laughing so hard.

Now “hannji” is the most informal, slang way one could say yes in this situation. Let me put this in perspective for you:
Priest: Do you Shahmeran Gilani… take Tooba Aman… to be your lawfully wedded wife”
Shahmeran: “Yea, dawg!!”

I was expecting our Nikkah to be so formal, quiet and nothing muttered above a whisper, but leave it to Shahmeran to set the mood and tone for it all! And man, did this change the atmosphere for the entire celebration. And that my friends is how our wedding hashtag was born, #haanji.

Voila! Just like that, half our marriage was complete. And now my turn to say “Qabool hai”, but I’ll give you a backstory. The most wedding related issue I had ever thought about was saying “Qabool hai” three times, as my mum did, as my grandma did… exactly as they do in the movies. I wanted nothing more, nothing less. So as the ceremony continued, the Maulana states that my dad is giving me away to Shahmeran and all they’re going to wait for are the Nikkah papers to be signed.

A few moments later, my dad comes up the stairs to the ladies area. My anxiety is building, I have to say those two words). So, here’s the moment, once I say it, it’s done. There are no take backs and I have to say it in front of some 150+ people. You can imagine, I’m sweating and my ears have turned pink (my body’s fight or flight mechanism). So my dad walks through the door with the papers, I’m expecting a mic so I can project my acceptance. My dad hands me the papers I sign them, I give him a hug, and that is it. Signed three times and I am married. It never occurred to me until a few months after my wedding that I never said “Qabool hai”. The only thing about my marriage I had given actual thought to, I never got to say aloud. Sometimes, when I think about it, it bothers me because I feel that my Nikkah has been incomplete to some extent because the courtesy that was extended to Shahmeran, wasn’t to me. It meant a lot to me, and for someone to decide that, well your dad can do it on your behalf, is not okay. Ok, rant complete.

Had I known, it would play out like this, I would have made sure otherwise. To the rest of the unmarried ladies out there, if there is a specific portion of your ceremony, or a certain something about your wedding that you want to play out a specific way, you have to voice it. You may not get to make all the decisions, but unless you voice it, you’ll always live with regret. And the rest of us married bunch, the things we didn’t get to do to our heart’s desires, well… we’ll just laugh and joke about it for the rest of our lives. You know, I joke that my husband I “technically” are not married because I didn’t say my two words. It doesn’t change that I didn’t get to say it, but he sure cracks a smile.

Photos from the Mehndi:

Baraat

Culturally speaking, a Baraat signifies the official first day of the bride with the groom”. The morning of the Baraat, the bride is the responsibility of her parents. But, after the baraat ceremony, the bride officially belongs to her groom. Her family is still hers, but she belongs to the groom.

Once upon a time, Pakistan and India were one nation under the sub-continent. The majority of the wedding ceremonies back then followed the Indian ways and rituals. With Pakistan’s independence in 1947, the Pakistanis that migrated from India brought with them the Indian traditions and culture. Most of these traditions are still very alive in Pakistan and the Pakistanis living around the world today, especially when it comes to our weddings.

So, back to my Baraat day. Two of the fun-filled customs our families pre-decided were “doodh pilayi” (milk from the finest goats in YEG) and “guhtna pakrayi” (the knee grab).

The $1000 meal (Part I)

I’ll start off with the “doodh” ritual – estimated time of completion, 50 minutes. The whole point of “doodh pilayi” is to add fun and pizzaz to the Baraat day. But in reality, it’s to force the groom to pay at every step possible. The guy wants to leave his house to get his bride? He needs to pay up! Oh you wanna enter the banquet hall?! You need to pay up! Oh, now you want to take her with you? That’s right, you guessed it, he’s gonna pay up! And so in the doodh pilayi, the bridesmaids and friends of the bride offer the groom a cup of milk, in exchange for money, and he has to finish it, before he can take the bride.

My side offered the finest goat milk (my brother handpicked the goat) in a golden goblet, decked in the shiniest jewels to the groom… at a price of course. The ladies demands started the auction at $1000. The groom’s side put up a fight, saying the demand is too high and the glass isn’t worth it, and boy did they put up a good one. My husband counter offered with $5… and everyone lost it. The girls were screaming and the boys howling. And so the girls whined and slowly brought their high hopes down to $750 and my husband increased his increments in petty cash.

The revenue grew in small increments. The bridesmaids tried to distract the groom in an attempt to steal his shoes. Poor souls, their battle only led to bloodshed and spilt milk. As the banter continued, my best friend, sneakily asked me to take off one of my rings and displayed it as a gift of adoration that the groom must buy for me (the bride). He wasn’t expecting this, so he asked my opinion, and I obviously chimed in with a yes!! This gave the females about $200 leverage.

My mom finally stepped in and you know, once the big guns come in, even the lion turns into a sheep. She commanded that he pay up, and my husband stated he would pay $100 for every sip I took. And so with my mom’s help, the ladies earned $500 for all their hard work.

As they were celebrating their achievement of $500, waving the bills in the air… my husband snatched half the earnings back. The girls were just short of tears at this point, and the guys were howling once again. But, with the remaining bit of milk, the girls were able to bribe and regain their earnings.

And that marked the first and last time my husband drank milk worth $500.00.
Disclaimer: My brother did not actually handpick a goat to milk, we went with the next best option, Safeway.

The $1000 meal (Part II)

After the Baraat ceremony adjourned, the newlyweds and the groom’s party headed back to the groom’s place, for yet another custom to be carried out. This one was the “guhtna pakrayi”, in which my youngest brother-in-law sat in my lap and demanded a ransom be paid before I would be set free. It’s about 11:30pm and Shahjahan (younger brother) takes his seating and begins his demands. He asks how much I’m willing to pay, and I start off with $5. He takes his money and begins his quest. I slowly handed him $5 or $10 bills, up to about $60 bucks. And so to progress things faster, I exchanged the $60 with a hunnit dollar bill and the crowd went wild for more action!

Photos from Baraat & Waleema

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