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Peek inside a Pakistani pre-wedding ceremony

Fasiha Sharif is a journalist from Pakistan visiting and working in the WVXU newsroom on a three week assignment. Recently she attended a traditional Pakistani pre-wedding ceremony at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in West Chester and brought back this report…


Dholki is an instrument that's used on Mehndi, a ceremony the day before the marriage of Pakistanis. Mehndi is the day when all friends and family members get together, have traditional food, and enjoy music and dancing.

I attended the Mehndi ceremony of Faraz Hassan Malik at the community hall of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Faraz met his bride in college and they decided to get married. In Pakistan, however, most marriages are arranged.

“My mom tells me that she saw her husband one day and that was it,’’ Faraz said. ”The whole process of finding someone is, I think, where a lot of traditional values are lost completely.”

Faraz said he and his bride met in college “in a non-traditional way at all, so I think traditional values are fine when two people like each other and they are okay with one another.”  

There is a lot of color

  • The wedding stage is decorated with yellow scarves and white flowers.
  • Plates of henna and jewelry made out of flowers glitter like stars.
  • Faraz is wearing a long brown tunic called a Kurta and pants called Pajama. Most of the men wear the same Pakistani traditional dress.
  • The ladies are in popular Pakistani wedding outfits called Gharara and Frok.
Credit Fasiha Sharif
Bending flower made jewelry.

The ceremony begins with family members putting henna on the groom’s hands and flowered jewelry on each other. Then the men do some dancing.

“Everybody has a good time and then they kick all the guys out and then the girls do,” Faraz said. “Whatever they do I never seen it so I don’t know exactly what they do - have they dance? Like today for example we go back to the gym; we will play basketball while they were dancing."

The women dance while the men are gone then everyone comes back together to share a meal.

Yellow is the historical color for Mehndi. Most brides wear yellow dresses on Mehndi. On Barat, the day of the marriage, brides wear red outfits with embroidery called Lehnga. They cover their heads with Dopatta, a veil, during the ceremony. Grooms wear Sherwanis, a kind of long coat, and turbans.

Noor is a Pakistani girl attending the ceremony with her mother. She is wearing a blue dress with some embroidery on it.

“Well, I like wearing traditional Pakistani clothes, like Shalwar Kameez,” Noor said. “But I like going crazy, the more pretty they are. And I think it’s a really cool thing to kind of express yourself with our Pakistani clothes.”

Noor lives in the United States but is planning to wear Pakistani clothing next year at her 8th grade graduation ceremony.

Food at Mehndi

The wedding menu was a typical Pakistani wedding feast with Baryani, Mutton Qourma, Kabab, and sweet desserts. In Pakistan, weddings usually also include dishes unique to each region of the country.

This is the first Pakistani wedding for Sania Michal from Hamilton, Ohio. Sania said at first she wasn’t used to the spicy Pakistani dishes but now she is okay with them.

“Oh, I love the culture,” Sania said. “I think it’s beautiful in the way you pray. You take time out of each day. The dresses and I just love it.”  

Thousands of Muslims live in Greater Cincinnati

According to the Islamic center of Greater Cincinnati, 25,000 Muslims live in the Cincinnati area.  The center has a Mosque with a community hall, a primary school, and some non-governmental organizations that serve the local Muslim community. Shakila Ahmad is the new President of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. She said their doors are open to Muslims from around the world.

“It’s a way for them to be who they are and be free to be Americans as well.” Shakila said. “So it’s a wonderful way for us to come together as Muslims but keep our identity and our ethnicity and our roots because everyone in America has come from somewhere at some point. So that’s what makes America beautiful and that’s what makes Muslim Americans. I think it is so wonderful.”

The center also offers tours for those who want to know about Islam.

Traditions are important to everyone. The center offers the opportunity to share your culture and learn about others. I’ve learned that practicing your own culture is easier when you are able to be flexible with the culture you are living in.