If you were to ask an engaged couple about their most important considerations in terms of planning a Muslim wedding, what do you think would top their list? If we look at the data on wedding expenditures, we can assume that the venue, food and clothing are the most important since they are also the most expensive. Then, the venue will need to be decorated, maybe with a plethora of flowers and some nice draping, tablecloths, centerpieces, etc. Then there’s the cake. Couples spend days and actually go taste testing in search of the perfect cake, yet somehow most wedding cakes are barely edible. We can’t forget the entertainment, maybe some nasheed artists or a photo-booth. But, what about the Imam?
In the midst of the frenzy of planning and coordinating such a momentous day, the importance of selecting the right Imam for your nikah is often completely overlooked. Most couples spend the majority of their time (and money) selecting the perfect outfits, the ideal location, and the most delicious food for the guests. But what about the individual who will be doing the most speaking on the day of the nikah?
Our goal here is to explain why it is important to select the right Imam to perform your Islamic marriage ceremony and to let you know that you have options beyond the Imam at the mosque that is closest to your home.
What is the role of the Imam?
On the day of your nikah, the Imam will do a few things. First, he may speak privately to the bride and groom to ensure that both parties agree to get married and to the terms of the marriage, for example, the dowry, if one is specified.
After that, the Imam will perform the actual nikah ceremony. He may begin with a recitation from the Quran, followed by a short speech on marriage. The speech typically includes general advice from the Quran and Hadīth for the bride and groom, but ultimately the Imam can say whatever he feels is appropriate.
The Imam then asks the bride and groom to publically (that is, in front of a minimum of two witnesses) make the offer and acceptance of marriage to each other. Once the offer is made and accepted, the couple is officially married. The Imam then closes the ceremony with a prayer.