Muslim wedding dresses tend to honor the beliefs of Islam through simplicity and modesty. The dresses vary from country to country, but all feature several layers of clothing, as well as a head covering. The colors vary with the styles, with a bridal white preferred in some countries and different colors in others.
A Muslim wedding dress is often a dressier version of the accepted dress for women in that particular country. In many countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq, women wear an abaya in daily life, as well as to their wedding. While a daily abaya is usually a plain black garment, a wedding abaya is often in a lighter color, with more details. A wedding abaya can be white, pink, blue or something different, according to regional tastes and customs. Some wedding versions have a contrasting lace color over the abaya, or embroidery on the top layer.
In some regions, a wedding dress that is closer to the Western wedding dress style is allowed. These dresses are white silk or satin and feature a high neck and long sleeves. These dresses use a head wrap or headpiece that is separate from the dress to fulfill the Islamic need to cover the hair. The wedding veil is attached to the head covering, creating a Western-style sheer veil in the back.
In India and Palestine, bright-red wedding dresses are popular among Muslim brides. These generally take the shape of the local customary dress. A Muslim bride in India would wear a dress made like a sari, with a veil matching the dress worn over the head. These usually feature a bright-red background with a contrasting color embroidered over it in small, intricate patterns. In Palestine, Muslim wedding dresses are belted at the waist and feature a dark-red background, with a pattern over it in a contrasting color.
To keep a wedding dress looking modest, most Muslim wedding dresses feature high necklines, sometimes extending up above the collar an inch or two. While Muslim wedding dresses in India may leave the arms visible, in most Islamic countries the custom is to wear long sleeves and sometimes a long veil that extends from the neck over the hands to cover them. In very religiously conservative families, brides often wear gloves that coordinate with their wedding dress color.
In past years, the custom in wealthy Islamic nations, such as the the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, was to spend an extravagant amount on wedding dresses. The dresses were the major expenditures of the wedding ceremony. Recently, as the economies of these countries has flagged, the trend has become for Muslim brides to rent their wedding dresses instead of buying them. This has become so pervasive in some parts of Saudi Arabia that bridal shops that once sold only wedding dresses are now setting up rental services.