Lebanese Wedding Traditions to Incorporate Into Your Big Day

Get to know what makes Lebanese weddings uniquely beautiful.
Lebanese Wedding Traditions to Include in Your Wedding
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Kelsey Mulvey
by Kelsey Mulvey
Updated Feb 07, 2023

When it comes to bold, larger-than-life parties, very few events can rival a Lebanese wedding. "A Lebanese wedding is filled with traditions, dancing, and music," explains Kiran Valani Ali, partner of Divine Decor & Design, a Texas-based company that works on plenty of Lebanese weddings stateside. "It [is] pretty much a night of partying." But, of course, there is more to a wedding day in Lebanon than a big party. Whether you're attending as a guest for the very first time or want to bring a little bit of the Middle East to your big day, now's a better time than any to brush up on your Lebanese culture.

As we continue to explore nuptials around the world, we tapped Valani Ali to share some key Lebanese wedding traditions that make this celebration the party of the year. Whether you want to incorporate some time-honored ideas into your wedding planning process or learn a little more about what to expect, one thing's for sure: These wedding ideas show just how special celebrating a Lebanese couple can be.

A Brief History of Lebanese Wedding Traditions

Located in Western Asia—with incredible views of the Mediterranean Sea—Lebanon has a rich story that could single-handedly fill history books. Though it's currently one of the world's smallest sovereign countries, Lebanon was previously part of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Though the Lebanese people have created their own spin on the wedding celebration in recent years, many wedding traditions have been heavily influenced by Turkish customs. Though a henna party remains a key part of a traditional Lebanese wedding, the practice is often regarded as a Turkish practice that is used to protect couples from evil spirits.

But, as times have changed, weddings continue to be a big milestone for both Lebanese couples and their family members. Lebanese weddings are all about bringing everyone together, so you can expect a large guest list at these events.

Lebanese Prewedding Traditions

Turns out, the wedding day isn't the only larger-than-life celebration in Lebanese culture. Oftentimes, the time leading up to the wedding is filled with engagement parties and events that can rival the ceremony and reception. Throughout it all, you can expect that the couple will get some excellent pictures before and during their special day. "Photoshoots are also a huge part of Lebanese tradition," Valani Ali explains. "Tons of family photos and dramatic shots for the couple."

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Henna Party

Perhaps the most notable pre-wedding tradition is the henna party, which typically happens the night before. The opulence of a henna party can vary: Sometimes this pre-wedding party is shared with close family members and friends, while other celebrations may open the festivities up to the rest of the guests. But, no matter who attends the henna party, the highlight of the event is applying henna to the bride and groom's respective pinkies. From there, guests will typically wrap the couple's henna-clad fingers with gold or money as a sign of good fortune.

Lebanese Wedding Attire

While Lebanese wedding traditions might be different from those in the United States, the dress code is typically the same. In Lebanon, it's on trend to sport a white wedding dress to your big day. And, in true bridal fashion, no wedding dress is complete without some accessories. While some brides will splurge on a fancy hijab for the occasion, others will keep things simple with a pared-back head covering. For the ultimate finishing touch, she's usually dazzled in gold jewelry gifted to her by the bride and groom's families, a tradition that stems from the giving of a dowry.

Of course, the fun does not stop there. On the day of the wedding, the bride's and groom's parents will often hold smaller, separate parties to lead up to the zaffe. (More on that in a second.)

Lebanese Wedding Ceremony Traditions

Did you know that couples are not allowed to have a civil ceremony in Lebanon? So, if you do want to have a traditional Lebanese wedding, it will need to take place in a church or Muslim court. Since civil ceremonies are out of the question, Valani Ali says that most Lebanese couples opt for a katb al-kitab, or Islamic ceremony. During the part of a Muslim wedding, the sheikh presents the couple with a marriage contract, which both husband and wife sign. Since the katb al-kitab is a religious ceremony, most couples cover up and dress conservatively.

Zalghouta

Throughout the wedding celebration, you might notice some female guests emitting a high-pitch sound called zalghouta. Also known as ululating, this scream-like sound is commonly used in Arabic and African weddings as a way to exhibit happiness and excitement for the newlyweds.

Lebanese Wedding Reception Traditions

Henna party? Check. Katb al-kitab? Check. Well, the party's just getting started.

Lebanese Zaffe Grand Entrance

While some American couples will have a grand entrance into their party before kicking off their first dance, Lebanese couples take this a step further with a zaffe. Popular in Arabic culture, a zaffe is a wedding march into the reception venue. "This is when the party starts," Valani Ali shares. "The zaffe will dance along the couple and hype up the crowd!"

With designated zaffe dancers and drummers, this larger-than-life parade acts as the perfect grand entrance to the wedding celebration. As the zaffe passes buildings and houses, onlookers will often throw grains and flower petals as symbols of good fortune.

Decorations

When it comes to the wedding planning process, Lebanese people often take a "more is more" approach to the party. "In terms of decor, Lebanese weddings are always light, floral heavy and you will see a ton of candles," Valani Ali shares. "Primarily the colors of a Lebanese wedding will usually be white and gold." Rounding out the opulent wedding venue is a set of fireworks—which she says has become a traditional element of Lebanese weddings—and a group of belly dancers.

Dabke Wedding Dancing

Speaking of dancing, guests also get their groove on with dabke, a dance that's often performed during special occasions like weddings. "It's a style of traditional line dancing, where guests hold hands and follow the steps of a leader," Valani Ali adds.

Lebanese Traditional, Food, Drinks & Desserts

Whether you opt for a formal, multi-course meal or platters of mouth-watering mezza, Valani Ali says that Lebanese weddings typically have a "a huge feast filled with various options of food and plentiful food!" However, make sure to save room for dessert! "Wedding cakes are also a huge part of Lebanese culture," she adds. "You will see some of the biggest cakes at Lebanese weddings." The Lebanese often view cake as a symbol of fertility, so the newlyweds often clasp hands and cut into the layers with a ceremonial sword, symbolizing a very sweet future together.

Lebanese Postwedding Traditions

Lebanese couples flex their hosting muscles by being the last ones to leave the reception—and not just because they're having a good time. In Lebanese culture, it's actually seen as rude for the newlyweds to leave before their fellow attendees do, so they'll have to hang around until every guest is gone.

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