Muslim weddings in UK

Muslims and Islam in the United Kingdom

Islam is the second largest religion in the United Kingdom, with today around 3 million Muslims living on the territory. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis represent the largest groups, followed among others by Indians, Arabs or Africans.

That being said, let us now focus more specifically on Muslim weddings in the United Kingdom. Many things are said and many beliefs are held about the implementation of unions under the seal of Islam on British soil.

We will review the religious traditions and legal framework of these unions.


What the British law says

Many Muslims think that an Islamic ceremony is enough to legally confirm their union under British law. Which is wrong. Indeed, in order to be properly married in the eyes of Islamic religion and tradition and the British state, both the religious ceremony and the confirmation of the wedding in a registry office have to be fulfilled.

Concerning the legal requirements, we have selected for you the essential elements to be remembered, found on the official UK Government website :

 « There are usually 2 steps to getting married or forming a civil partnership in England and Wales.

- Give notice at your local register office.

- Have a religious ceremony or civil ceremony at least 28 days after giving notice. »

« Venues : you can have a civil ceremony or civil partnership at:

- a register office

- any venue approved by the local council, eg a stately home or hotel

- a religious premises where permission has been given by the organisation and the premises approved by the local authority »

« Religious blessing can take place after a civil ceremony in a register office. »

« Authorised officials, including ministers and priests of other religions, can register marriages. »

Strangely enough, a great part of the Mosques in the UK are not officially registered. Which means that a wedding taking place in a non-officially registered Mosque is not legally valid. The couple then has to organize a separate civil marriage at a registry office.

The various Muslim actors in the territory tend to want to make as many mosques as possible officially empowered to perform marriages, in order to stem the problems raised by religious ceremonies without legal value, even if those are carried out in accordance with tradition.

This is the point of our next paragraph.


The dangers of a marriage not acknowledged by the United Kingdom

Today in UK many couples live as simple « partners ». Either by choice, or by lack of knowledge. One thing is sure : co habiting couples have fewer legal rights than legally married couple. No statistic today can tell how many Muslims couples have not contracted a legal union.

Islamic marriage without legal registration can put women and children in a difficult position. Indeed, not to have any legal status potentially brings difficulties and suffering to the couples and their families, in case of divorce or death for instance.

Officially married Muslims in Britain can access British courts in case of marital issues. Spouses and children rights are then reinforced. This is why Muslim actors would like to see more mosques able to perform official marriages (as mentioned above). 

Islam and its representatives want all its practitioners to be protected. A recognised union in the country of residence allows the couples to respect traditions with a religious ceremony on the one hand, and to adapt to the changing society on the other.

Now that we have seen the principles and benefits of Islamic marriage registered on the British soil, let us take a closer look at the traditional and religious Islamic ceremony.


Religious Nikah Ceremony

The Quran

The Islamic marriage ceremony is called a nikah. First of all, it has to be ensured that both the bride and groom agree to their union. As for the place, the nikah ceremony can be held anywhere. In the UK, and as seen above, places can vary : either the event is performed in a registered mosque, or in a non-registered mosque, which will result in a civil ceremony to be held later. And finally, the nikah ceremony can also happen in any other place chosen by the couple and their families, according to their possibilities.

Before the nikah ceremony, the future couple has to agree on a mahr, which is a traditional gift from the groom to the bride. It can be objects or money and marks the groom’s commitment. The mahr can be given during the nikah or later.

During the nikah ceremony, two witnesses are needed. They are generally men, and Muslim. The nikah contract is signed in front of them by the couple, making the marriage effective. Depending on the traditions wished by the couple and their families, women can sometimes be separated from men. In which case a male representative called a wali will act in the bride's behalf. The marriage officer can be an Imam, or any other Muslim person understanding Islamic tradition. There may be pronounced vows, or simply extracts from the Quran read by the officiant. After the nikah ceremony, the newlyweds can hold a marriage banquet also called a walima.

Here are all the useful pieces of information about Muslim weddings in the United Kingdom Best Of Cards has gathered for you. Do not hesitate to follow us on our blog, our Pinterest and Facebook pages.