With countless ethnic groups enchantingly painting our little island, there are many rituals that make us understand the beauty of the diverse cultures and customs the locals follow. The countless traditions followed by the different communities are highly fascinating that they make us desire to experience them at least once in our life. And, there’s nothing better than weddings to exhibit and relish these interesting traditions! Are you budding with curiosity? A traditional treat awaits you then!
Here are some exciting deets about an underrated wedding tradition known to be popular at Muslim weddings – The Marawa! Haven’t heard of it before? Well, the marawa is an assortment of eatables, attire and accessories exchanged between the bride and groom’s families. We are talking about gifts pouring down like rain, honey. Let’s find out what’s so thrilling about this tradition…
A Peek into the Tradition
You are curious and excited to know more about it. We get you! But, let’s make things clear before we bombard you with the facts. If you think this tradition is followed by all Muslims and around the globe, you’re wrong. The marawa is highly popular among the Moor crowd while other Muslims may incorporate it to their traditions if desired. This is mostly practiced in Asian countries.
Although the art of gift giving has been on a hysterical rise in the past decade, the roots of this fascinating tradition can be tracked down to the early centuries. If you dig into the faded, old photographs of any Muslim ancestors, you would probably find trays of fruits along with jewellery set up in a neat table or on the bride’s satin covered bed. This is where it all began.
Let’s fast forward to 2020 where Muslim families create a separate budget just for the wedding gift hampers. If you’re thinking this is a one-time gift exchange, nuh-uh! Muslim peeps own a whole list of occasions they need to send in gifts to the bride or groom. You will often find the bride sending in marawa gifts for the groom during the Fatiha ceremony, which is a private affair between the families and close relatives often held at home. This is the first occasion that declares the engagement of the couple as the first verse of the Quran is recited in the presence of everyone and blessings are showered upon the newly engaged. Hop on to the next occasion – the actual engagement ceremony! Phew! Two engagements, we know! Quite exhausting and a hard punch on the wallet. But, hey – Traditions come first, right? Girls die out of excitement during this ceremony because that’s when they are at the receiving end. So, next time your Muslim girl friend says she wants to get married but without a husband, you’ll know why!
The exchange of gifts don’t end there! When Eid arrives after the couple’s betrothal, they need to go on a separate shopping spree to purchase some new clothes for each other and then gift it in a prettily decorated box as they pay visits to the houses and celebrate the festivities together.
Let’s spin the time wheel again and now we stop at the Mehendi ceremony. This is where the bride is yet again pampered with the best of gifts to enjoy as she savours her newly married life. At this time, she’s also presented with the ensemble for her Walima ceremony by the Groom along with matching shoes and accessories. And finally, the groom, once again, tries to find more space to store all his new gifts after the Nikah ceremony.
People go out of the way to ensure their gifts are top-notch. It has become the norm to pick the fanciest, expensive and highest-quality presents for the bride and groom. At the top of anyone’s list is one gift arrangement with a prayer mat, prayer beads and the holy Qur’an, preferably with a personalized cover. While the Marawa can include any type of gift, here are some popular items that are presented:
• Cake with the couple’s names
For the Bride:
• Traditional wear such as shalwars and lehengas
• Casual wear tops and shawls
• Makeup and skin-care products
• Shower essentials
• Jewellery and watch
• Hair and hijab accessories
• Mehendi cones
For the Groom:
• Formal shirts and pants
• Casual shirts, t-shirts and denims
• Perfume and deodorants
• Bath essentials
The goodies are usually shared among the family members and relatives while the gifts are given to the bride and groom.
The young brides and grooms of today prefer to be much more thoughtful when preparing the marawa. Some like to include separate boxes of gifts for the bride’s or groom’s immediate family members. Some of these may include jewellery for the mother-in-law and clothes or accessories for the rest of the family. A handful of people put more thought into it and customize a velvet plaque for the in-laws, extending their appreciation and gratefulness for welcoming them into their family.
Marawa gifts were initially arranged in plain trays where the items were kept in place by plastic wraps. Later, trays were replaced by boxes. Now, boxes are just one of the many options available for marawa arrangements. It’s a part of the custom that the marawa gifts are clearly visible as they are displayed in many different ways. The gifts are safely transported and carried to the receiver’s house or the reception hall and are attractively set-up on a long table.
The growing trends have evoked a desire in people to make the arrangements aesthetically pleasing, hence giving the crowd a treat for the eyes. Blush and other soft, feminine colours are usually used to decorate the marawa arrangements for brides. On the other hand, the marawa gifts for the grooms are often decorated with black, blue, silver or gold. Some over-the-top decorations include garden-themed boxes with wooden planks, rustic cages as well as faux grass and life-sized arrangements.
For an added touch of opulence:
• The dresses are pleated neatly and/or displayed on half-mannequins
• The gifts are placed on crystal trays with crystal beads cascading from it
• Gift boxes are crafted to fit like a gigantic puzzle
• The clothes are displayed on hangers attached to hanger rails
However, floral and foliage have withstood as the most popular pick while every new trend tried to take its place.
From planning the purchases, visiting the stores to arranging the marawa neatly, it’s a different task altogether. With all the other wedding preparations to attend to, packing the gifts are the last thing some would want to invest their energy in. This is where trousseau arrangers come to the rescue, saving the hassle of decorating the marawa.
However, some families love to get involved with the packing while they are able to pour their love into the arrangements by working on it themselves. Thus, they plan on the decorations, purchase the needful and settle down at the comfort of their homes to unitedly pack the gifts while they share conversations, snacks and laughter together!
Receiving gifts is all fun…until you see the lingerie. Shhh! Keep it down! We know it’s awkwardly hilarious. Some brides go red in the face when they realize they have been gifted with inner garments to wear after the wedding – That too, by the mother and sister-in-laws! However, this is not a practice followed by all families, yet it is on the rise.
The Unspoken Truth
Giving and receiving gifts during weddings are truly a heart-warming act of love. Showering the future spouse with intriguing gifts are a way to show how much they are loved, valued and appreciated. However, there’s an open secret about this tradition that is known by all and spoken by none.
Marawa collections have become a form of showcasing wealth, whether one has it or not. Certain families expect dowries in the form of a lavish Marawa collection, while some may not appreciate it if the gifts aren’t branded and expensive. Therefore, there’s pressure on the other party to meet their expectations, leading them to purchase even the most expensive chocolates in bulk! And, chocolate hampers don’t end with just one. They can vary from enormous 3 feet arrangements to three or four separate hampers. And yes, in some instances even the latest iPhone is gifted!
In addition to this, the gift giving has also become a form of competition among relatives to be able to afford the most elaborate gifts for their daughter or son-in-law compared to their own extended families. This rivalry sets their expectations high when expecting marawa from the bride’s or groom’s family as well. Some families even expect the number of marawa boxes to be higher compared to what they had provided.
Sometimes, marawa is all about quantity over quality – the more, the merrier. There are families that splurge millions on Louis Vuitton bags and Cartier watches. A marawa of that kind will get a lot of oohs and ahs!
Nonetheless, people love the marawa tradition and some value it as it provides them an opportunity to show their love to their spouse through gifts!