(A) When to marry?
Are there any special days in the Islamic calendar when marriage is encouraged or discouraged? Basically marriage is allowed at all times. However, there are some days on which marriage is not recommended; some of these are based on ahadith and some on cultural, historical reasons.
Generally, we can categorize these days into three: (a) There are some ahadith which say that it is makruh (not recommended) to have a marriage ceremony on the days when the moon is in the constellation of the Scorpio (this is known as al-qamar fil aqrab or qamar dar aqrab), during the last two or three days of the lunar months, and on Wednesdays. (b) There are some ahadith which say that certain days of each month are ill omen days (nahas); these days are the 3rd, 5th, 13th, 16th, 21st, 24th and 25th of lunar months.
However, the ahadith for both the above categories would not stand the scrutiny of the scholars of hadith. Our mujtahids do not normally apply their full expertise in matters not related to obligatory or prohibitive commands. They relax the criteria for acceptability of ahadith in matters related to sunnat and makruh acts. This is not done out of negligence or lack of interest, it is done on the basis of a widely accepted rule in usulu'l-fiqh (the Principles of Jurisprudence) known as qa'idatu't-tasamuh, that is, the rule of leniency (in ascertaining the acceptability of hadith). (For more information on qa'idatu't-tasamuh, the specialist readers may refer to as-Sadr, Durus fi 'Ilmi 'l-Usul, vol. 2 p 204 and vol. 3 (part 1) p 258 and an-Naraqi's 'Awa'idu 'l-Ayyam, pp. 269-271.)
This has been mentioned very clearly by Ayatullah al-Khu'i in his manual of fatwas. He says, "Most of the mustahab acts mentioned in the chapters of this book are based on the qa'idatu't-tasamuh in sources of the sunnat acts. Therefore, whatever has not been proved as sunnat in our view should be done with intention of raja'il matlubiyyah. The same applies to the makruh acts; these should be abstained from with the intention of raja'il matlubiyyah." (Minhaj, vol. 1, p. 14. Raja'i 'l-matlubiyyah means doing something not because it is sunnat but with the intention that it might be expected of us to do so. )
As far as the two categories for marriage days are concerned, it will suffice to quote Ayatullah Gulpaygani, one of the leading mujtahids of our time who says: "One may follow these mustahab and makruh acts with the intention of raja'il matlubiyyah, because there is no clear evidence for some of these things." (See his annotations on al-'Urwatu 'l-Wuthqa, p. 623. )
(c) There are certain days of the Islamic calendar which have become associated with the early events of the Islamic history; for example, the 10th of Muharram is the day of mourning for the massacre at Karbala or the day of the Prophet's death in Safar, etc. Since such days are commemorated by the Muslims as days of mourning, it is socially and, to some extent, religiously not recommended to have a marriage ceremony on such days.
(B) The Wedding Night:
I must explain why I have written wedding 'night' and not 'day'. The hadith says, "Take the bride to her new home during the night." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 62) Based on this saying, it is recommended that the wedding should take place at night. After all, Allah has made the night "so that you may rest in it." (10: 67)
After the bride has entered the room, the groom is recommended to take off the bride's shoes, wash her feet (in a washbowl) and then sprinkle the water around the room.
Then the groom should do wuzu and pray two rak'at sunnat prayer and then recite the following du'a:
Allahummar zuqni ulfataha wa wuddaha wa rizaha bi; war zini biha, waj ma' baynana bi ahsani ijtima'in wa anfasi i'tilafin; fa innaka tuhibbul halal wa tukrihul haram.
O Allah! bless me with her affection, love and her acceptance of me; and make me pleased with her, and bring us together in the best form of a union and in absolute harmony; surely You like lawful things and dislike unlawful things.
Then he should ask the bride to do wuzu and pray two rak'at sunnat prayer.
When they are ready to go to bed, the groom should put his hand on the bride's forehead and pray the following du'a while facing the qiblah. (So don't forget your qiblah compass!)
Allahumma bi amanatika akhaztuha wa bi kalimatika s-tahlaltuha. Fa in qazayta li minha waladan, faj-'alhu mubarakan taqiyyan min Shi'ati Al-i Muhammad (sal-lal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam) wa la taj-'al lish Shaytani fihi shirkan wa la nasiba.
O Allah! I have taken her as Your trust and have made her lawful for myself by Your words. Therefore, if you have decreed for me a child from her, then make him/her blessed and pious from among the followers of the Family of Muhammad [peace be upon him and them]; and do not let the Satan have any part in him/her.
Al-'Urwah. p. 624.
Is it necessary to have sexual intercourse on the very first night after the wedding or can it be delayed? As far as the shari'ah is concerned, it is neither obligatory nor forbidden to have sex on the first night. It is a private decision between the newly wed couple; it has nothing to do with others. However, I must say that the groom should take the feelings of his bride into consideration; after all, she is new to him and to the surroundings.