“Weddings: Love and Mercy in Marriage Ceremonies”

by Juliane Hammer

Chapter Summary

Juliane Hammer describes three Muslim American weddings as a way to discuss the nature not only of the “big day” itself, but also the implications of a traditional Islamic marriage contract in the context of the United States and the ways that Muslim American marriages are shaped by ethnic and national background, religious affiliation, economic status, education, and locality. Hammer introduces readers to three different couples. We attend a simple mosque-based marriage ceremony of an African American woman who was raised Muslim to a recent white male convert and the modest reception that follows. Then, it’s on to an elaborate hotel wedding in which two Pakistani Americans are wed; this wedding features a lengthy ceremony and an exquisite South Asian buffet dinner. Finally, Hammer visits an Arab American home where the uncle of the bride oversees the signing of the marriage contract and then hosts a dinner for the family. The formal wedding in this case is different from the wedding reception, which is held later and includes some 400 guests, a band, a Palestinian dance troupe, and a Levantine buffet dinner.


Discussion Questions

  • What elements are common to most Muslim American weddings? Be sure to explain what a nikah is.
  • Outline the differences among the three weddings that Juliane Hammer describes. Include details about the location of the wedding, the people involved, the wedding reception, and any food served to guests.
  • What elements do Muslim American and non-Muslim American weddings share?

Group Exercises

  • Watch the engagement, wedding, and reception videos of Sara and Ershen, Farrah and Saed, and one unnamed couple.
  • Discuss or write about how these videos illustrate Juliane Hammer’s point that Muslim American weddings are shaped by ethnic and national background, religious affiliation, economic status, education, locality, and personal preference.

Juliane Hammer (Ph.D., Humboldt) is associate professor of religious studies and Kenan Rifai Scholar at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of American Muslim Women, Religious Authority, and Activism: More Than a Prayer and co-editor of  The Cambridge Companion to American Islam, among other books.