Though Muslim ceremonies are short and simple, nuptial celebrations may last for a week. Customs vary greatly according to region; Muslim weddings in India, for example, share many traditions with Hindu weddings. Generally, the offer of marriage is extended by a male representative of the bride, called a wali, to the groom. If accepted, a mahr is negotiated between the two sides; it’s a specific sum of money or other valuable gift (such as property) that the groom gives the bride to guarantee her security and independence within the marriage.
The first part of the mahr, “the prompt”, is paid at the wedding. Today, it usually takes the form of a wedding ring. The deferred part of the mahr is paid during the marriage.
The only aspect of a wedding specifically prescribed by Muslim tradition is the nikah. During this ceremony, the bride and groom are separately asked if they agree to the marriage and to the mahr. After they agree, the marriage contract is signed by the two sides; two to three Muslim witnesses must be in attendance. The imam oversees the signing of the contract and also reads from the Qur’an. The couple may or may not exchange vows, which aren’t required in the Muslim faith.
Following the nickah (but not necessarily on the same day), the marriage is made public by a celebration with a large feast called a walima; at some Muslim weddings, men and women celebrate in different rooms. An additional civil ceremony is usually required for legal recognition.