Ever heard of the wedding that was scheduled for 8 p.m. but started at 10 p.m.?
Most of us have probably heard of this or other similar disasters.
In traditionally Muslim societies like in the Middle East and in the Indian subcontinent, weddings are long, drawn out and relaxed affairs.
But in time-pressured North America, most Muslims don't have this luxury. Halls and caterers, for instance, are rented or hired for very specific time periods that must be respected. This is why it's necessary for everyone involved, the bride, the groom, their families and guests, to come on time.
Having a wedding take place on time isn't easy, given all of the details and stress involved. But it isn't impossible. Below are some tips that can help, Insha Allah (if Allah wills):
1. Develop a reputation of being a punctual person
Why are people rarely ever late to Mr. Waheed's house or to his parties?
It's because he's a punctual person, and people, even the latecomers know, they'll miss dinner if they don't show up on time.
There are probably at least a few Mr. Waheed-type of Muslims in your community. Because of their commitment to punctuality, most people try to come on time to their events.
If you're not a punctual person, start applying this Islamic principle in your personal life today, and expect the same from others. This will in turn lead them to making an effort to come to your social events, and your wedding, on time, Insha Allah.
2. Don't abuse the word Insha Allah
How do Muslims abuse the word Insha Allah?
By saying it right after promising to do something they have no intention of doing. For example, 'yeah I'll be at the wedding at 6 p.m. sharp, Insha Allah'.
Actually, by using the word Insha Allah, a person is promising to do their best to fulfill a promise. So in the above-mentioned case, that means a person will carefully plan, taking into account traffic time, to get to the wedding by 6 p.m. sharp. If on the way, something happens, despite their best laid plans, that's another story. What's important is that they have done their part in promising to come on time.
3. Make it clear on the wedding invitation that things will start on time
What do the words "the Nikah will take place at 6:00 p.m. SHARP" really mean?
SHARP is another way of saying "it's going to happen then, no matter what, so you'd better show up on time".Too often, guests assume that since the bride and groom will arrive late, they can arrive late too.
Or the bride and groom and their respective parties assume that since the guests are going to arrive late, they should too. Putting the word "SHARP" should dispel such a notion.
It's not really a threat, just a "warning". Make sure the wedding invitations use this five-letter word clearly.
4. Follow the RSVP system
What does this four-letter word mean?
Essentially, it's asking guests to let the hosts know by a specific date whether or not they will be coming. For weddings, this is important because it affects the food situation. If people decide not to come, hosts can reduce the food order and save money and food from being wasted.
Call up or e-mail people who have not responded to the RSVP according to the deadline. Ask them if they are coming or not politely.
Doing this will show that you are serious about the wedding day running smoothly and efficiently. It may give an early hint to some guests at least that if this host is so serious about the RSVP, then they will probably be pretty serious about running the event on time.
5. Make sure to have substitutes
You've heard of substitute teachers but have you heard of substitute Imams?
As much as possible, try to have a back up plan. So assign two people to be Imams who will officiate the marriage, making it clear that if one doesn't show up or there is an emergency, the other can replace him and the program can continue on time, smoothly.
Do the same for the person who is to recite the Quran, as well as those who will be transporting food to the hall.
6. Regularly remind the main parties about punctuality
Can a wedding start if the bride, groom or their immediate family are not present?
It can but it's not desirable. Make sure ALL parties directly involved in the wedding are reminded that they must be at the hall at the latest one hour BEFORE the time the guests arrive.
Reminding them beforehand, with phone calls, e-mails, etc. will help them make the necessary preparations (i.e. clothes, makeup, etc.) early enough so they show up on time, Insha Allah.
Remember, if the groom and bride are late and the Nikah is delayed, everything else on that day will be delayed.
7. Arrange for bride and groom preparation at the hall
Could a bride and groom be late to their wedding if they got ready in the same hall where the ceremony is to be held?
Probably not. See if you can get the clothes and makeup artist to show up at the hall two to three hours before (and make sure the hall is open for you at that time!). This will drastically cut the last minute rush that occurs and can result in delays of the bride and groom's arrival at the wedding.
8. Call guests one to two weeks before about the wedding
A phone call or e-mail reminding guests about the exact date and time of the wedding will help them mentally start preparing for the wedding. Emphasize the importance of being at the event on time without nagging them about it.
9. Emphasize the prayer
If the time for Maghrib prayer, for instance, occurs right after the Nikah, try to use this as a way to encourage guests to show up on time.
You can tell them that in order to make sure Maghrib is offered on time and in congregation, everyone should try to be at the Nikah when it starts, so they don't miss it or Maghrib.
10. Offer to arrange for transportation
Sound kind of weird?
Well, if you call up your guests and ask if they have transportation that will get them to the hall on time, they may think you're strange, but they will take your desire to start things on time seriously. Give it a shot. What have you got to lose?
11. Make sure all set up of the hall is done at the most one hour before the wedding is scheduled to start
What could be more embarrassing than to come to a wedding only to find that tables and chairs are still being set up?
Make sure that everything is ready and set to go at the time guests have been invited to come. Otherwise, everything else at the wedding is almost sure to be delayed.
12. Arrange a simultaneous program for kids that starts exactly on time
Who has a harder time being punctual than families with kids?
After all, it takes time to dress and prepare little ones for a big event like a wedding. And let's not forget emergencies (i.e. junior throwing up at the last minute).
One way to encourage families with kids to come on time is to arrange a simultaneous program for kids at the wedding which will start at the same time the wedding is scheduled to.
It doesn't have to be anything fancy. It can just be some hired baby-sitters who can play beanbag games with them or a puppet show. Be creative!
Offer a special treat of toys or candies for the first 25 kids who come on time.
This kind of a program may encourage young kids to push their parents to come on time to the wedding.
13. Make Dua for things to go on time
All power is only with Allah. That means you have your part to play in trying to make sure things happen on time, but results are in the hands of Allah.
By making Dua, you are expressing an intention and commitment to a goal. On top of that, you're asking the One Who can make anything and everything happen if He wills. Don't forget this important act in your drive to make your wedding happen on time.