"When you fail to plan, you plan to fail"-Anonymous
There is probably no social event more difficult and stressful to organize than a wedding.
While the actual act of getting married Islamically is very simple, the wedding can become a chaotic mess if careful planning is not part of the process.
It is with this in mind that we've come up with the detailed checklist below. It's not comprehensive, but it's a basic guideline in question format brides, grooms, families and friends can use for planning.
1. THE STARTING POINT
Have all of the people who are involved with organizing this wedding (i.e. bride, groom, bride's parents, siblings, friends; groom's parents, siblings, friends) sat together formally at a meeting?
Have they discussed and worked out the points below?
A. THE WEDDING STYLE
Have the bride, groom and their families discussed what kind of wedding they want? Some points to consider are:
- large or small
- fancy or simple
- formal informal
- dinner or lunch, tea or picnic
B. THE WEDDING COORDINATOR
- Has an overall wedding coordinator been designated?
- Is this person older (i.e. a parent), wiser, patient, tolerant and experienced?
- Can this person handle stress and pressure well?
- Have they organized other weddings or large social events before?
- Have the bride, groom and their families agreed that this person should be in charge of the arrangements?
- Has an agreement been made by everyone involved in planning the wedding that this person will have the final say over all matters pertaining to the wedding, following Shura (consultation) with relevant parties?
- Has an agreement been reached that all lists, paperwork and news pertaining to the wedding will be made known to this coordinator by all parties involved in organizing this wedding?
C. THE SHARIAH REQUIREMENTS
Has a Shariah requirements committee been selected? This committee will:
- ensure details of the marriage contract, including the Mahr and conditions to be put in the contract have been finalized
- find out what is required from a couple to marry in that state (i.e. a marriage license, blood test).
- inform the bride and groom of these requirements
- help the bride and groom secure the necessary documents (i.e. marriage license)
- inform the bride and groom of any immigration issues relevant to marriage (if the marriage involves two people in different countries)
D. THE BUDGET
Has a budget committee, led by a responsible, older experienced accountant ideally been established? This committee will:
- decide on a budget for the wedding
- put this budget on paper
- make sure this budget been approved by the parties that are paying for it (i.e. groom, groom's family, bride, bride's family)?
- notify each committee (see below) exactly how much money they can spend on their section
- give each committee the money it needs to get its job done
- come up with a final financial accounting at the end of the wedding for the record of the bride, the groom and if wanted, for their families
E. THE HALL
Has a hall committee been established? This committee will:
- discuss with relevant parties what kind of hall to book
- choose a hall in accordance with the tastes of the relevant parties and the budget they have been given
- make sure that booking the hall does not mean being stuck with its catering services (if the relevant parties don't want this). This needs to be discussed with the food committee (see below)
- book the hall
- sign a written contract with them
- follow up from time to time with hall administrators to remind them of the contract
- take care of all physical arrangements (i.e. seating arrangements, separation of the sexes) at the hall.
- make sure that the rules and regulations of the hall are respected by relevant parties and guests during the wedding
- make sure they are paid promptly for their services
- take care of hospitality issues related to the wedding
Some things to look for in a hall are:
- is it in a convenient location for guests?
- does it have motels and hotels nearby so that out of town guests can easily get to the site?
- are these hotels and motels affordable?
- does the hall have enough space for prayer during the wedding?
- does it have separate rooms of men and women or can it at least be segregated easily?
- are washrooms big enough to accommodate the needs of a large number of guests?
- is the hall clean and well kept?
- will other weddings be held in the same hall simultaneously?
- if so, will this interfere with your wedding party?
- can the decoration committee come the day before to set up the place?
- does the hall include catering? If so, has the food committee been notified of this?
- does the hall have a condition that you must use their catering? If so, have the relevant parties and the food committee been notified of this and have they agreed to it?
- what is the maximum capacity of people allowed in the hall?
- what are the fire regulations?
- can you bring burners to keep the food warm?
- how big is the kitchen?
- is there a parking area that will be sufficient for guests that is free?
- what are the rules and regulations of the place?
- do you have a written copy of them?
F. THE FOOD
Has a food committee been established. This committee will:
- discuss with relevant parties what kind of food will be served, what kind of caterer to book and what food guidelines need to be respected in the wedding menu
- choose a caterer in accordance with the tastes of the relevant parties and the budget they have been given
- sign a written contract with the caterers
- follow up from time to time with the caterers to remind them of the contract and of the food guidelines, but not meddle with their work
- make sure full payment is made
- arrange how the food will be served (if the caterers are not already taking care of this)
G. THE DECORATIONS
Has the decorations committee been selected? This committee will:
- discuss with relevant parties how they would like the hall decorated
- buy the decorations
- decorate the hall before the wedding
- clean up afterwards
H. THE PROGRAM
Has the program committee been selected? This committee will:
- book the Imam and/or person who is officiating the marriage as well as his substitute
- set up audio visual equipment at the hall for the wedding
- write up a written program and get it printed out
- work with the time manager (see below) to ensure the program runs on time
I. THE TIME MANAGER
Has the time manager been selected? This person is responsible for assuring punctuality at the wedding. S/he must:
- be in regular communication with all committees
- regularly remind by e-mail, phone etc. the relevant parties and guests about being on time
- come up with a foolproof plan to get the wedding to start and end on time
J. THE CLOTHING
Has the clothing committee been selected? This committee will do the following:
- get the bride and groom's clothing measurements and preferences
- buy the clothes or get them made at a tailor's
- take care of all issues related to payment and delivery of the bride and groom's clothing
- make sure to get the clothes early on so the bride and groom can try them on and any necessary changes can be made
- arrange for any changes to be made
- make sure the clothes are ready for the bride and groom the day of the wedding
K. THE INVITATION CARDS
Has the invitations committee been selected? This committee will:
- discuss with relevant parties what design, verse of the Quran and text should be on the cards
- design a map to the hall which will be included with the invitation card
- make sure the spelling of the names on the wedding card is correct
- arrange the printing of the cards
- get the names and addresses of all guests
- distribute, mail, e-mail, etc. the wedding invitation cards
L. LOOKING FOR A HOME
- have the bride and groom begun discussed where they will live and what kind of place they will live in (i.e. apartment, home, etc.)?
- have they begun the process of looking for a place?
2. CLOSE TO THE MIDDLE POINT
At this point in the wedding plans, things should quickly be moving forward. The following are questions to ask at this point:
Have all committees been given their budgets?
B. THE SHARIAH REQUIREMENTS
- Are immigration procedures (if relevant) headed towards completion?
- Has the Mahr been agreed to?
- Have the conditions in the marriage contract been discussed and agreed to?
- Has a prenuptial agreement been drawn up?
Has the Shariah requirements committee researched the following information:
- what legal documents and procedures are required to marry
- when exactly is a couple is to register their marriage
- is a blood test required in the state before couples marry
- if the couple are from two different states or countries, what legal and immigration issues need to be dealt with before the couple can marry?
- how many days before the wedding do you need to get a marriage license?
- has the committee informed the overall wedding coordinator and bride and groom of this information?
- Is the hall booked and the contract for it signed?
- Has the hall committee drawn up a rough plan of how the hall needs to be set up for the wedding?
- Have they drawn up how guests will be welcomed at the door and by whom?
- Have the caterers been booked?
- Have they been given the conditions for food preparation and serving at the wedding?
- Has a written contract been signed with them with an attached copy of the conditions?
- Does the contract clearly include the following:
- that the food will be prepared and served in accordance with the guidelines in the attached conditions
- the exact date and time of the wedding
- when exactly the caterers have to be present at the hall the day of the wedding
- whether or not utensils, tablecloths, etc. will be provided by the caterers or not
- who will do the dishwashing if regular utensils are being used
- the total cost of services
- the deadlines and system of payment for services
- exactly what the menu will be.
- Has the clothing committee discussed with the bride and groom what kind of clothing they will wear?
- Have they gotten the measurements of the bride and the groom?
- Have they decided whether they will buy their clothing, rent it, or have it made and sent to them?
- After this has been discussed, has the clothing committee begun making arrangements to get the clothes bought or made, and sent to them well before the wedding?
- Has everything been written down between the tailors and the clothing committee, especially:
- sizes and measurements
- exact payment
- when the clothing will be received
- will payment precede the reception of clothes or does payment come before?
- Has the program committee established the Islamic groundrules of the program, in terms of what kind of entertainment is Halal and acceptable and what is not?
- Have these groundrules been put on paper?
- Has the program committee begun searching for an Imam to officiate the marriage by seeking out someone who is qualified as well as someone who can speak well? Some other considerations are:
- is this Imam someone who is on time or does he need an extra push?
- is this Imam fluent in at least Arabic and English?
- what kind of Khutbahs does he give?
- is he suitable for your crowd?
- is this Imam someone who can present Islam with wisdom to Muslims in North America and to non-Muslims?
- have members of the program committee attended at least a few Khutbahs given by prospective Imams?
G. THE INVITATION CARDS
- Has the invitation card committee selected the printers?
- Has the committee selected the design of the card?
- Has the committee selected the verse of the Quran that will be used on the card?
- Does the committee have the correct spelling of the names of everyone who is to be mentioned on the card, as well as the exact date and the name of the hall?
- Does the card include a telephone number or e-mail address, as well as a date by which guests must inform the family if they are coming or not (RSVP)?
- Has the committee drawn up a clear, simple map to the invitation hall that will be included in the invitation card?
3. THE MIDDLE POINT
A. THE HALL
- Has the hall committee coordinator called the hall officials and reconfirmed their booking?
- Have the caterers been called and reminded of the contract?
- Have they been reminded of the conditions of the contract?
C. SHARIAH REQUIREMENTS
- Are all immigration procedures (if relevant) moving forward smoothly?
- Has the couple begun the processes of getting a blood test (if relevant) and making any necessary applications for the marriage?
- Has the clothing arrived?
- Have the bride and groom tried on their clothes and made note of alterations that need to be made, if any?
- If changes are to be made, has the clothing committee contacted the tailors and arranged to have the final version of the clothes sent to them as soon as possible?
E. LOOKING FOR A HOME
- Has the bride and groom's new home been rented?
- Have the bride and groom discussed how the place will be decorated or will they wait until after marriage to do this?
- Have they begun buying basic furniture (i.e. bed, kitchen utensils)?
F. THE PROGRAM
- Has the program committee finalized the program?
- Has the program committee begun contacting those who will participate in the program (i.e. speakers)?
- Has the committee decided, in consultation with relevant parties, if videocameras and cameras be allowed at the wedding?
- If so, what restrictions will be placed on this? Is it possible to get a woman to develop the photographs?
- Have the Imam and the substitute Imam been booked?
- Have the program committee coordinator and the Imam signed a written contract which includes the following:
- the exact date of the Nikah ceremony
- the exact time the Imam is supposed to be there
- how much the Imam will be paid for his services
- what topic he will speak about after the Nikah and for how long
- the name of the substitute Imam and an agreement that he will take over in the event the first Imam does not show up on time
G. THE INVITATION CARDS
- Has the committee sent in the order to have the invitation cards printed?
- Has the decoration committee discussed how the place will be decorated with relevant parties?
- Has the committee thoroughly researched the hall set up?
- Has the committee begun to come up with a rough sketch of how the place will look?
- If flowers are to be included as part of the decorations, have arrangements with the florist been made?
4. POST-MIDDLE POINT, BEFORE THE FINAL RUN
A. THE PROGRAM
- Have all speakers and those involved in the program have begun "practicing" for their parts on the wedding day?
- Has a moderator for the wedding day program been selected?
- Have all audiovisual requirements (i.e. video, photographer) been made?
- Have five people been spoken to be the "security" at the hall who will take care of any difficult situations, ensure proper Hijab is respected, etc?
B. INVITATION CARDS
- Have all cards been mailed off or dropped off?
- Has the committee bought or arranged to make thank you cards so the groom and bride can thank guests for their gifts?
5. THE FINAL RUN-A FEW MONTHS/WEEKS BEFORE
- Have all of the decorations been bought?
B. LOOKING FOR A HOME
- Is the new home of the bride and groom ready to receive the new couple?
- Is there enough necessary furniture?
- Is there nonperishable food in the fridge?
C. INVITATION CARDS
- Are the thank you cards ready?
- Have all guests sent in their RSVPs?
- If not, have the ones who haven't been called and asked if they are coming or not?
- Has the invitation cards committee informed the food and hall committee about the the exact number of people coming based on the response to the invitation cards?the response to the invitation cards?
D. TRANSPORTATION (this is the hall committee's responsibility)
- Who will drive the groom to the hall?
- Who will drive the bride to the hall?
- Do all drivers have the right directions?
- Have drivers of the bride and groom "test drove" the route to the hall two to three days before the ceremony?
- If a specific type of car is preferred, has this been booked and rented for the date and paid for?
E. SHARIAH REQUIREMENTS
- Have all immigration issues been finalized?
- Have all legal issues been taken care of and finalized (i.e. marriage license, etc.)?
F. THE PROGRAM
- Has the program been put on paper and sent for printing?
- Has everyone involved in the program been called to make sure they are ready for the big day?
- Has transportation been arranged for participants of the program if they need?
- Has the Imam been reminded of the wedding and has the committee gone over the program with him?
- Has all clothing been cleaned or sent to the dry cleaners if necessary?
- Has all clothing been checked for loose threads, loose buttons, and have these things been repaired?
- Have shoes been bought or selected?
H. HALL COMMITTEE
- Has the hall committee finalized the seating arrangements for the wedding, mixing up Muslims and non-Muslims, instead of seating them on a separate table, for example?
6. ONE WEEK TO THREE DAYS BEFORE THE WEDDING
- Are the written programs ready?
- Have the caterers been called and has the entire program for the day been discussed with them from A to Z?
7. ONE DAY BEFORE
- If people are getting stressed, have they found ways to try to calm down?
- Has the decoration committee decorated the hall?
8. DURING THE WEDDING
A. TIME MANAGER
- Has everything started on time?
- Is the food warm?
- Are the conditions outlined in the guidelines for the caterers being respected?
- Has the hospitality line greeted incoming guests?
- Are two of "security guards" stationed at the sisters' door to ensure proper Hijab is maintained?
9. POST-WEDDING STUFF
- Has the hall been completely and thoroughly cleaned of any dirt, grease, paper, etc.
- If furniture or other hall paraphernalia have been destroyed, have they been paid for?
- Have the hall administrators been sent a thank you card?
- Have the caterers been paid?
- Have they been sent a thank you card?