signing nikah

My First Hyderabadi Wedding


Bursts of vibrant colors everywhere, the sound of glass bangles clinking away, display of gold ornaments, a dash of family drama and gossips, overflow of sweets and desserts, fresh roses and jasmines, heavy sarees, and yes, the shopping that doesn’t seem to end—this is how I would describe my first Indian wedding. And this is exactly how I would describe Pakistani weddings too, except that the sarees are simpler and most people prefer not to wear gold ornaments (security reasons).

Masood’s only brother got married a few days ago. Being the only daughter-in-law of the family, I was brought along on each shopping excursion. The air-conditioned boutiques were fun, the suffocating shops at Char Minar were not.  The famous Hyderabadi biryani was fun, the summer heat was not. Cold glasses of lassi kept me alive.


Attending a family wedding without henna is a crime. For the ladies, that is. And being a bride without henna on both hands and feet is an even bigger crime warranting six months of community service and a month in jail. That’s an exaggeration, of course. What isn’t an overstatement is that henna is compulsory for ladies.

I found myself a nice lady in the neighborhood to apply my henna. She was deeply fascinated by the fact that I am from Karachi, so much so that she asked if she could keep the henna design, that I brought along with me, as a memento. I was her first Pakistani customer. It took her almost three hours to apply the designs on both my hands and feet. By the time I returned home, I already knew her entire family history; educational, marital and medical background; and information on some of her neighbors.

I took random shots of the girls’ henna designs later that evening…



Although the women in Karachi are scared to wear their gold ornaments for fear of getting robbed, the women in Hyderabad are safe to wear their precious jewelries. In fact, I noticed that it is common for women to wear all their gold jewelry they’d ever owned in a single go. Before leaving Dubai, Masood presented me a long gold necklace to wear with my saree. It is the heaviest piece of jewelry I’d ever owned, and frankly, I think I looked ridiculous wearing it. It’s just not me. I prefer delicate ornaments. But as the wife of a Hyderabadi, I needed to show my bling or else women guests might conclude that my husband isn’t earning well. Or that he doesn’t buy me anything. Or that we’ve gotten poor (specially since everyone knows how Dubai is suffering after the recession).

What I do love is the gorgeous set of Hyderbadi bangles shown below. It is adorned with stones and glitters beautifully.




Let’s not discuss the total cost incurred for the wedding; I guess the groom is still recovering from that. But the little girls (sisters of the bride) earned themselves some cash the night before the wedding, when they all came over to our house to pull the groom’s finger. Some pulled his entire hand, but that’s besides the point. We knew they were coming, so we turned off all the lights and closed the doors, but the kiddos managed to climb up the gate and enter the house. Masood tried to sweet-talk the young ones, but they were persistent and unwavering. And by 2 AM, they finally left with their cash. It’s a tradition they like to follow here. This is a common practice in Pakistan too.



It wasn’t easy and many said it was impossible, but we were able to pull off a segregated wedding reception, where there were separate male and female serving staff. We hired both a male and a female videographer. I was the only photographer. And just after the wedding documents were signed by the bride, Nikon fell off my lap and hit my toe before landing on the ground. The edge of the lens hit a blood vessel so it took sometime for the bleeding to stop, but I was grateful because otherwise the lens would’ve been broken. That is expensive; my toe healed for free.

Also, there’s the meher. The marriage contract includes a meher—a formal statement specifying the monetary amount the groom will give the bride. Both Masood and his brother gave the specified (and agreed-upon) amount then and there, immediately after signing the marriage contract, just like how it’s supposed to be. I mention this because I noticed that it has become a common practice for grooms to specify a large amount on the contract as meher, but do not actually give the cash to their wives. It’s like a show, where the groom displays his generosity to the guests by declaring that he’s giving so and so amount. But the bride does not receive it. Ever.

signing nikah



And then there’s the heavy garland of fresh roses and jasmines. The groom was lucky, but the bride was literally covered in flowers! In the pictures below, I was putting the garland on the poor bride, who was suffocating while the groom looks on. It’s a tradition. As the older daughter-in-law, it was my duty and obligation to smother the air out of the younger daughter-in-law’s respiratory system. It symbolizes my love for the new family member.


PS: For all those who are concerned about the new bride – she’s fine and happy, and has totally forgotten about the entire floral torture that was inflicted upon her.


  1. A big ha ha on the ending! What a nice detailed p0st! Hope ur camera is ok? It would have been a ‘death ov a camera’ at a wedding thing.

      1. Lol. Nadia. I never knew what my photography camera is w0rth until I go0gled it. N0w that i kn0w, I gasp n then freeze 4 like eternity when my camera slipz fr0m my hands . And then if mama is ar0und to poke, well! U kan imagine the scene then.

  2. Wow, everything was fine until the flowers part. I would have torn them off – they even look suffocating, let alone actually being in one! 🙂

    Lovely pictures as usual (especially of the bling). Ouch about the camera! That must have hurt (and I am not talking about the toe!).

    1. Mezba, you usually do not have the option to refuse when you’re the groom/bride (specially the bride), it will make her appear ‘disobedient’ 😀

      Besides, we were kindhearted enough to lift the floral veil off her face and she was finally able to breathe.

      Regarding the camera … although nothing had happened to it, I was still in shock for a long time over the fact that it dropped. I am very, very careful about Nikon, and this was the first time that it dropped. My heart stopped beating for a century when I saw it fall.

        1. That would be a serious mistake , i must say. You never know anything can happen if the flowers are torn off. The in laws can pounce on you. The bride or groom may show the kung fu skills. Sassu ma may faint. And trust me man! Starplus drama is the last thing anyone would want at their wedding. 😛 Good thing I’m allergic to flowers’s scent! 😀 the whole town knows. lol

  3. How fascinating Nadia! I have always been amazed by cultural weddings. Your description were lively too! Out of curiosity, correct me if I am wrong, I thought in Indian weddings, the bride’s side was supposed to present the groom’s family with offerings? This is what happens with Indian weddings in Malaysia. Or at least what I was told.
    P.S. The Henna looks beautiful 🙂

    1. You are actually right, Tien. Both the bride and groom sides of the family present each other with gifts. The groom in this case, however, opted to *not* wear any garlands (weeks before the wedding).

  4. Sign. Is that one of the most compulsory part of wedding photography? I see it everywhere on every wedding photographs. 😀

    Off-topic: remember I used to be excited to have a camera? Now that I have, I don’t find what to photograph. 😥 Could you help? 🙁

    1. Yes, of course, Sajib! It’s proof that the contract has been signed 😀

      Let summer pass, and when the weather gets cooler, get out often to take pictures around you.

  5. Wow, I didn’t know about the pulling the finger thing in Hyderabad, in Pakistan they just have that shoe hiding thing as far as I remember. Interesting stuff! Hope your toe’s OK now and I would have cried a lot if the camera had broken as well.

    Pictures are gorge Mashallah!

    1. Humaira, the bride’s brother had planned to hide the groom’s shoes, but it didn’t work out. Mwah ha ha 😀

      Yep, my toe is fine now. Although it still appears slightly bluish. Thanks!

  6. That’s very interesting :)) at first I thought you were talking about a Pakistani-Hyderbadi wedding (Sindhi) and then I realized :p the Indian wedding IS very close to a Paki one, plus or minus a few tradition (never heard of finger pulling before now :D) did you guys block the door for the groom before he entered? I always found that a fun tradition 🙂

    I hope your Nikon AND toe stay in 1 piece in the future :))

    1. Hello LavendarClouds!

      Block the door for the groom? We didn’t have to, since he was so shy that we had to literally push him in 😀

  7. Salam Nadia baji congrats to your bro in law from my end .. may they have a blessed and happy married life….

  8. haha! this one’s pretty funny. your traditions are as colorful as the tattoos..

    i sensed some mischief and fondness in the narration. you make things light like one could look forward to tortures of that kind, haha! 🙂

    you and husband surely go places… nakakainggit! 🙂

    1. dpsa, our culture and traditions are indeed very colorful (and some pretty hilarious and unbelievable). But Indian/Pakistani weddings are so much fun (as compared to the weddings I’ve attended in the Philippines :D)

      Huwag kang mainggit…mas maraming magagandang tanawin sa pinas 🙂 Sayang nga lang at wala akong camera noon.

      1. hello, nadia. call me san, ‘yon ang tawag nila sa ‘kin. dpsa sounds like a company name, haha!

        wow! you write fluently in tagalog, am so impressed! ang galing talaga. matagal ka rito? 🙂

        yes, umpisa na ng tag-ulan na rito kaya unti-unti na namang nagiging berde ang paligid. ha, ha! pls translate for your readers… 🙂
        btw, pls read my prev. post – Nananawagan. let’s see if you still remember the vocabularies there, hehe…

        1. Hello, San! LOL @ dspa sounding like a company name 😀

          Yep, spent a few years in the Philippines bago ako ikinasal. ‘di na kailangan i-translate sa iba … let some things remain private 😉

  9. Congrats for your BIL wedding! I’m sure you had much fun taking pics and lot more cultural bits 🙂
    The pulling fingers part seems familiar but over here in a Malay wedding,the groom is sometimes blocked from seeing the bride’s face unless he says something nice and acceptable to the bride 🙂 The henna pics are really pretty! And you’re right.No henna deserves a punishment on its own 🙂
    Really enjoyed this post Nadia! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Lat! I had planned on taking more photographs, but since it’s a family affair I had other responsibilities, like playing host to the guests, making sure they’re stuffed with biryanis, the chicken curries, the haleem, and then desserts 😀

      “…the groom is sometimes blocked from seeing the bride’s face unless he says something nice and acceptable to the bride.” Now, why haven’t I heard about this lovely tradition a few years ago? Hmm.

  10. Congrats on your BIL wedding! Everything looks so beautiful 😀
    Its very similar to the Pakistani weddings, init?
    Sorry about your beloved camera, even I gasped at that part. Hows it doing?

    1. Thank you so much, Smiley! Yep, except for very little things, Indian and Pakistani weddings are mostly similar.

      Oh, Nikon is happy and healthy 😀

  11. i can see u had a great time … such a lovely and colorful wedding !! Happy to hear ur Nikon is safe n happy !!

    p.s. i didn’t know u r from Karachi – in 1986 – 1988 we’re in karachi too … lived near “teen talwar” studied in “st. Peter’s high school” – it’s nice to know u are from the same place 🙂

  12. LOL @ “it was my duty and obligation to smother the air out of the younger daughter-in-law’s respiratory system”!!
    Reminded me of my Indian wedding, I took the torture in my stride but poor Mr Sheikh suffered from some major sinus issues after all that garland-ing ceremony. He still shudders at the memory till now! hehehe

  13. Oohh I simply love weddings!! They are such vibrant and colourful events! Hehe.. Hey the “finger pulling” part seems a lot similar to those we have in Singapore in both the Malay and Chinese culturetoo..It varies though on what the kids/young adults will do to the poor groom and rip him of every dollar he had! Hehe… They will even ask the groom to do silly things to prove his love or desperation lol before letting him see the bride… At my wedding (a Malay sorta wedding in Singapore), it was so hectic as we were late to meet the Qadi (mufti) for the nikah we all forget about this part! So my husband had a wad of bills in his pocket that went unclaimed.. well guess who got them in the end?? 😉 hehehe….

    1. “They will even ask the groom to do silly things to prove his love or desperation before letting him see the bride…” Poor groom!

      You are very lucky, Mrs Umer! 😉

  14. Congrats to Mushtaq on his wedding and to your entire family on a new addition! 🙂

    I tell you getting married in such hot and humid months in India is like self-inflicting torture… I dont understand why people in India prefer this, but mine was the same way too….

  15. I love the lovely pictures and the detailed description of the wedding. It must have been fun, I can’t wait to attend an actual Pakistani wedding, I have in the past. My mom was Pakistani and I’ve been to Karachi twice, but haven’t attended a wedding. I see all the pix my cousins post on FB, but I guess being there is another story.

    And so true about wearing gold in Karachi, my family doesn’t even let us talk!!! lol…during my wedding my sister took my husbands shoe. I warned him ahead of time as he’s Peruvian and wouldn’t have known what to do. In the end he donated a good amount of money to my sister and now we laugh about it. But I got her back when she got married!! 🙂

    Masha’ALlah you take such amazing pictures!!!

    1. Thank you, Zeba. Welcome to the blog!

      “about wearing gold in Karachi, my family doesn’t even let us talk!” I know what you mean! The elders warn us as if the robber is eavesdropping that very moment 😀

      I was wondering what your husband would think had you not pre-warned him about the shoe-hiding tradition. He must have ended up confused and frustrated.

      1. He said that he wasn’t going to take off his shoes and that he was bring an extra pair!! lol…but they made him take them off and I also told my sister about his master plan!!!

  16. yayay for our Hyderabadi weddings! 😛 Hahaha I love your narration, you make LOL like literally!
    Lol didn’t u guys arrange for a marfa? Coz “hyderabadi shaadi aur marfe k baghair” 😛 usually dulhe miya’s friends arrange it and mostly on valima (nikah k din if bride’s ppl arrange it-but I don’t like the idea of marfa on shaadi, I mean come on the girl is leaving her parent’s home, her babul ka angan and tum nachne wale hai? 🙁 ), its something different and entertaining to watch the guys dance on those jhupuk jhapak beats (though as u said we have segregated weddings but watching them dance in cd’s is always hilarious, omg their moves! :P). And now I’m tired of hyderabadi weddings, now I wanna attend Pakistani wedding, I know we have almost the same traditions but yaara novels mein they portray shaadi itne ache tareekh se dil karta bus chali jaoun. I wish kahin se bhi kidhar se bhi Pakistan mein humara koi rishtedaar paida hojaye 😛 and main unki shaadi mein jaoun wahan insha’Allah. Ah I love Pakistan and Pakistani Ppl! Anyway take care. 🙂

    1. No marfa for this wedding, Hijabi. In fact, there was no dancing involved. It was a simple wedding: nikah, dinner, rukhsati, then valima. Except for that finger-pulling rasam (because the children wanted their money, lol), there was no other tradition carried out. But we do have those dancing in Pakistan, where the steps are so disorganized, everyone is dancing to his own beat! It’s hilarious 😀

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