As-Salamu 'Alaykum -
I am more than a little fuzzy on certain aspects of Islamic marriage procedures, and although I am not contemplating (another) marriage I feel it is an area I should know something about when asked by others!
Firstly, the bride's gift- the mahr: when a suitor is interested, does the prospective bride THEN set her 'price' in order to determine the man's true feelings or strength of will to marry her, or is this deferred until later? I know it is an item usually included in a marriage contract, but is it something that is a matter of 'public record' so to speak, prior to the marriage, to weed out those who might not be so sincere in their intentions of marriage?
Second, I have read where some schools require a written contract, and others do not. In the case of the latter, how does one go about enforcing the contract if things don't go well for the couple? If there is no written contract and all the witnesses are deceased, how is a man or woman to enforce the contract's points?
Third, regarding pre-marriage customs and such: if a young woman is of a mind to find a husband, does she inform her wali of this and let the wali start looking for a suitable match? And, if this is the case, if the potential bride has a particular requirement for her mahr, is this something the wali (or whoever is assisting her) is informed of and informs potential mates of in the process? (For example, Girl A wants to get married and informs her wali; does her wali then size up potential mates and go to them saying Girl A is looking for a husband- are you interested? If Boy A says yes, does the wali THEN tell him what GIRL A's request is, or does she tell him herself at a later meeting? (chaperoned, of course).
I realize, of course, that in today's culture- especially in the US- such seemingly 'old-fashioned' customs may be given more lip service than observance, but to me it is more important to do what is correct as opposed to what is merely easy. Even if I never find myself in a position to marry again, I think it's important to know what the right path is supposed to look like. I've a young daughter and this sort of information just might come in handy one of these days!