This question is being answered by Wael Abdelgawad, the Zawaj.com Editor and Administrator.
I am a 34 year old Christian woman with an 8 year old daughter. We have met the most beautiful soul that in my heart I have fallen in love with. He is a Muslim. We desire to marry and I have no idea on how to even get started being that I am not a Muslim. I do respect his wishes and they are to marry in the eyes of God but of the Islamic faith. Can you advise me on where to get started and how?
Please and thank you,
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. May Allah make it happy, blessed and fruitful.
An Islamic wedding should be held either at the local mosque (many mosques have large rooms or halls for lectures, dinners, weddings and other events), or more commonly at another location such as a hotel, a park, etc. The ceremony should be officiated by the local Imam (the local Muslim religious leader). He will recite from the Qur'an and give a short talk about marriage, and then he will ask you both if you accept one another as husband and wife.
Ideally your parents, especially your father, should be there to assent also. The groom should pay you a marriage gift or dowry (what we call a mahr in Arabic). It can be money or anything of significant value, but should be an amount agreed on by both of you. The Imam might also present you with a religious marriage certificate to sign. Both of you will sign it, the Imam will sign it, and it will be signed by at least two Muslim witnesses.
If the family and guests are more conservative then guests should be grouped by gender, for example with women on one side of the room and men on the other. The bride's gown should be as modest as possible, and guests (particularly women) should be asked to dress modestly, i.e. no form-fitting dresses or open backs.
Of course the ceremony should be followed by a waleemah, which is the wedding reception or banquet. However, alcohol should not be served.
The entire marriage ceremony and banquet should be modest and within the couple's means. It is not the Islamic way to spend lavish sums of money or to go into debt to pay for the marriage.
Lastly, the couple should be sure to also get a civil marriage certificate at the local government office.
There are several few articles on our site that can give you more information. Please see our Articles page, and look at the section on Weddings in Islam.
In particular see the article, "Marriage Ceremony in Islam: the Basics", which is extracted from a handbook on marriage issued by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
As a final note, since you are a Christian I think it's important that you and your future husband discuss the issue of religious practices in the home. Your husband may expect the house to be maintained as an Islamic environment (for example, no alcohol, no pork, no un-Islamic symbols or images on the walls). Almost certainly he will expect that any children the two of you have together will be raised as Muslims. I think it's important to discuss these issues and even put them in writing so that there will be no misunderstandings or conflicts later on.
Best regards and best wishes on your marriage,
- Wael Hesham Abdelgawad, Administrator