Answered by Shaykh Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful.
The actual marriage ceremony is quite simple. A day is chosen (preferably as soon as possible after the engagement) and announced. The prophet (upon him be peace) encouraged that marriages should be announced well, so that the community learns of this communion and do not look at the couple with suspicion when seen together. Therefore, a marriage should not be contracted in secret.
Thereafter, the following should be observed for the actual ceremony:
1. The best time is a Friday after the 'Asr prayer in themasjid. The Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace) said, "Announce this marriage, and perform it in the masjid… (Tirmidhi).
2. Scholars and other pious people should be invited to gain the blessing of their presence and their du'as along with the blessing of Friday and the masjid.
3. The nikah should be performed by a pious person.
4. Two witnesses should be chosen and present at the gathering. The Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace) said, "There is no marriage without a wali and two upright witnesses… (Ibn Hibban). Although all those present could potentially be witnesses, it is better to have two formal witnesses who sign the marriage contract and can be called upon in the event of any problems.
5. The marriage payment [dowry or mahr] should be stipulated beforehand and the person performing the ceremony should be informed of the amount.
6. The bride should preferably send a wali (her father, uncle, brother or any such elder) to represent her. Thewali should be present in the gathering. The Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace) said, "A women should not marry herself off [i.e. without a wali] (Ibn maja). In the Hanafi school, the consent of a mature bride is necessary and she cannot be married off without it. The Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace) said, "A virgin cannot be married off without her permission." They asked as to how her permission is given. He replied, "Her silence" (Bukhari and Muslim).
7. When the bride grants her wali [representative] the permission to marry her to the groom, it is preferable to have two people (from among her mahrams) to witness this also. Although, the representation is valid without witnesses, however, in the event of problems their testimony would be needed to prove that she consented to her marriage to the groom.
8. The sunna khutba [sermon] will be recited first by the imam performing the marriage. This khutbaincludes the three verses of taqwa, and a hadith or two about marriage, exhorting the couple and those present to fear Allah and attain taqwa (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai, Ahmad).
9. After the khutba the imam will ask the representative (1) if he gives consent to the bride's (taking her complete name) marriage (2) to the groom (again taking the complete name) (3) for the stipulated amount of marriage payment (4) in the presence of the two witnesses. If the representative consents then the imam turns to the groom and ask him if he accepts the bride (taking her name) in his marriage for the stipulated amount of marriage payment. The groom has to reply in complete terms such as, "I accept her in my marriage" or " I have accepted her in my marriage" or "I do marry her." It is preferable that he say this and not just "I do" or "I accept."
10. The imam should then recite the followingdu'a,
"Barak Allahu laka wa baraka alayka wa jama'a baynakuma bikhayr."
May Allah bless you and have His blessing descend upon you and unite you in goodness.
Thereafter, he will make other du'as for the couple and those present.
11. It is then sunna the next day or the day after once the couple have consummated their marriage or entered into privacy together to provide a walima reception. This is provided by the groom and his family and is not a responsibility of the bride. The Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace) providedwalima after many of his marriages by feeding the people a goat. Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace) provided a walimaon the occasion of the consummation of his marriage with Zaynab bint Jahsh. He provided meat and bread to the fill off his guests (Bukhari). On the occasion of his marriage to Safiyya bint Huyay ibn Akhtab he even had what may be considered a "pot luck" nowadays in North America where each person brought what he had and they sat down together and ate it (Bukhari and Muslim).
12. Some masjids and imams have the legal capacity to solemnize a marriage which is then recognized by the state, county or local council. This is extremely beneficial as it does not entail re-performing the marriage again in a civil ceremony.
May Allah grant us the ability to simplify what Allah and His Messenger instructed to be simple and grant us blessing in it.
Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
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