The Iraqi wedding traditions consist of a series of parties beginning with the engagement and ending with a party several days or weeks after the actual marriage ceremony. Between the engagement party, also called khitooba, and the wedding ceremony is the nishan, where the couple and their family and friends gather to celebrate the pending marriage. The bride wears several dresses for the occasion--anywhere from three to seven. The night before the wedding is a celebration called lailat al-henna. Traditionally, seven days after the wedding is the sab’a; however, this has been modified in modern days to take place whenever the couple returns from their honeymoon.
The Nishan (Gifts from the Groom's Family)
During the nishan, the groom and the groom's family traditionally shower the bride with gifts of jewelry, diamonds and specifically gold. The amount of the jewelry as well as the value of it will vary according the wealth and financial means of the groom's family. The jewelry can consist of some simple earrings or be as elaborate as a golden belt for the bride to wear. The jewelry is placed on the bride during the nishan party while onlookers dance and play music.
Wedding Day Gifts
On the day of the wedding, the bride will again receive jewelry from both her family and the family of the groom. The bride will be presented with the gifts after the wedding ceremony, during which what American culture would denote as the wedding reception. The bride receives the gifts after the cake ceremony and before dinner is served to the group. The bride's new husband will traditionally also give her a gift of jewelry during the wedding.
Sab'a - After the Wedding
Though the sab’a, which means "seven," is traditionally seven days after the wedding, the custom has adapted to hold the party whenever the couple returns from their honeymoon. The sab’a is held in the house of the family of the groom and only women are invited. The husband waits in a room separate from the party while his wife entertains the women. The women who are invited will traditionally bring gifts for the wedding couple.