Seven is the number of completion for many religions and cultures. In Iraq, the number seven is especially important when it comes to marriage.  These seven steps are more than traditions: for many in Iraq, they mark the beginning to a lasting and meaningful union.

Before the Ceremony:

Most of the traditional seven steps take place before the actual ceremony. Each tradition is considered of great importance and is meant to prepare the future bride and groom not just for the ceremony, but a lifetime commitment. It’s also, of course, a time of bonding with family and friends.

  1. Mashaya and Sherbert: Not unlike the tradition of asking for parents for a daughter’s hand in marriage, members of the groom’s family visit the bride’s house and notify her father of the groom’s intent. After the bride and her father accept, rose water, cordial, and Turkish coffee is served.
  2. Engagement: While shorter engagements are preferred, engagements can last from anywhere from a month to several years. During this time, the couple and their families plan the ceremony and exchange engagement rings. The bride will start looking for her gown.
  3. Nishan: This pre-wedding event is a party of sorts, complete with music, dancing, family, and also traditional religious readings. The bride-to-be often dresses in new gowns. Gifts are also exchanged between family members.
  4. Mez al Sayed: Two days before a Muslim wedding, the prospective bride and groom meets with an Imam to sign the official contract. Often, a table is decorated traditionally, with a mirror facing a candle oraba, the Quran, and other items, including Jordan Almonds. The couple faces East, towards the rising sun.
  5. Henna: The evening before the ceremony, the women of the bridal party gather and adorn the bride’s skin in traditional henna, using on the hands and feet.

The Ceremony:

  1. The men of the bridal party come to escort the women of the bridal party to the ceremony. Candles are lit, and children may carry olive branches. Traditional music “Zaffa” is played as the bride walks down the aisle. The bride, escorted by her father, meets the groom on a stage, where they are seated on a “kosha “, a type of sofa. They remain seated during religious readings and exchanging of vows. In a Muslim wedding, vows are led by an Imam and focus on commitment to each other and their religion. Afterwards, a celebration is held, which involves a long night of feasting and dancing.

Completion: After the Ceremony

Seven days after the ceremony, the couple celebrates, typically at the groom’s house, where more gifts are exchanged.

While weddings in Iraq vary greatly, and many couples offer for more modern weddings, these traditions are sacred to many.

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