Wedding!! (Moroccan Style)

October 27th, 2010

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I had made plans to stay in Rabat last weekend.  I was serendipitously invited to a wedding last weekend!  Go me!  S., a classmate of my host sister invited me.  I had met her a week or so before when walking home with my host mother and sister, and she invited me for coffee.  Then she invited me to a wedding; quite the leap I think.  But I was like “Oh my gosh I get to go to a Moroccan wedding!!! Who’s getting married?”  I didn’t learn that bit of information until the first night of the wedding.  Yes, I said FIRST night.  This wedding lasted two days (technically three).  The first night is the henna party.  The bride is dressed up in a beautiful caftan, and henna is put all over her hands and feet.  The groom also presents the dowry to the bride, and if she accepts his dowry, they exchange rings and are officially engaged.  According to the Quran, it is the man who must give the woman a dowry because in the case of a divorce the woman should be left with some property of her own.

So, that first night, I went to the groom’s home first because S. is related to the groom.  She called him her “uncle” but I think he was actually her mother’s cousin.  My logic governing this presumption is because she calls her aunt, who is only 23, her “sister.”  Moroccan families are so tight knit that it really doesn’t matter how you are related to each other, but just simply that you are related to each other.  So anyway, we got to the apartment, and sat down in the salon where a bunch of women were sitting.  A few of them were playing small hand drums, and all of them were singing marriage songs.  The songs generally translate to something along the lines of “your sweet-heart is coming,” I think, according to what S. told me.  I can’t be sure, my Arabic’s not that good.  Then we loaded the bride’s dowry into the bed of a pick-up truck.  Women carried down trays and trays of beautiful clothes, make-up, even lingerie.  There was also a cow in another pick-up truck, also part of the dowry.  Best wedding present ever!!!  So after that was all set, we stood behind the trucks, along with every member of the family and then some, and a group of men armed with drums, bells, and horns.  When the men started playing we started singing, clapping, and walking towards the bride’s house.

The bride’s family was waiting outside for us, and we serenaded them for a bit.  Actually, it was more of an ensemble piece because they were singing right along with us.  We unloaded the truck and brought the dowry into the salon where the bride was sitting, faced covered in a lacy green veil one might wear to a St. Patrick’s Day party in the USA, and a woman was busy applying henna to her hands.  Both the soles and tops of her feet had already been covered in swirly, flowery henna designs, which had been bedazzled with jewels and sprinkled with glitter.  It was beautiful.  I then got dragged into another room by S. where she applied make up to my face, and I changed into the ghandoura (a kind of traditional Moroccan dress) that I had brought with me.  When I went back into the salon, someone had pulled the veil back off the brides face, and taken the dowry somewhere else.  The bride looked beautiful!  She wore an ornate caftan, mostly cream colored, but withe green highlights and jewelry to match her veil.  She and the groom exchanged rings, and then fed each other dates and milk (much like when American couples feed each other cake at the reception).  For the rest of the night we just sat around, and took pictures with the bride and groom, and ate couscous.  It was my favorite kind of couscous too.  This couscous is served with onions, raisins, cinnamon, garbanzo beans, and other foods to give it a very sweet flavor, in contrast with the vegetable couscous I usually eat (which is also very good).  That was the end of Day 1.

Day 2:  I leave my house with S. and her mother to go rent a nice caftan for the actual ceremonial part of the wedding.  I got a very pretty caftan that was royal blue, with a gold inner skirt and embroidery.  Caftans are dresses that generally have bell sleeves and belts, and look as though you have two dresses layered over each other, and in some cases you do.  You could tell if you looked at the skirt of my caftan that it was two layers because the blue skirt opened up at the bottom to show off the gold under-dress.  We went back to the groom’s home where we ate dinner, put on our caftans, and did hair, make up, etc.  I also ended up wearing about six different perfumes to the wedding.  Hold on, I’m sorry, that’s an exaggeration, I think I only had five different perfumes.  People just kept coming up to me and spraying me with whatever bottle of smelly stuff they just happened to have on them.

So we all squeezed into a car that took us to the rented hall where the ceremony would take place.  Think how American weddings, alright American weddings based on Judeo-Christian tradition, have a ceremony, and a separate reception following the ceremony.  Okay, now imagine combining the ceremony and reception into one big event, and that gives you a base line, minimalist idea of what to expect at a Moroccan wedding.  What I’m saying is the dancing and eating are interspersed throughout the ceremony, if not directly part of the ceremony itself.  The hall itself was beautifully decorated with lots of tables and chairs for the many guests, a band, a TV crew to film the wedding, which would then be re-watched countless times by relatives in the future, and a big gold couch at the front of the hall where the bride and groom get to sit.  As guests poured in, they were all greeted, and kissed my the bride’s mother.  Then they were given dates and milk.  In Morocco, it is customary to feed special guests dates and milk.  It is actually delicious, I highly recommend it.  I watched all the women come in dressed to the nines in beautiful, colorful caftans.  I also watched the men file in, some in traditional djellabas, others in suits, a lot in jeans and hoodies.  It was quite a difference compared to the extravagantly dressed women, but then again, the bride in this ceremony was WAY more dressed up than the groom.

The happy couple didn’t even arrive until midnight.  They were drummed into the hall by the same drumming, bell ringing, horn blowing guys who had escorted the groom to the bride’s house the night before.  The groom was leading the bride who had her face covered in a lacy gold veil this time.  The couple was also surrounded by these guys dressed in red and wearing long white cloaks, which they held up to shield the bride and groom.  The bride then got in a little domed box thing, and then the guys in red lifted her up in the air on their shoulders and danced around with her down the aisle.  Guests crowded around this procession, trying to get pictures.  The bride smiled and waved back, looking a little nervous.  I don’t blame her, I would be a little nervous if I was getting married too.  I also wouldn’t want to be dropped by the guys that were carrying me around.  She was soon set down, and the couple adjourned to the couch where they sat for a lot time as people crowded around to take pictures.

The rest of the wedding basically consisted of a lot of picture taking, dancing, and the entrances and exits of the bride and groom.  Each time they returned, the bride was dressed in a different caftan, each one as beautiful, if not more beautiful that the one before it.  I saw her in six different dresses that night.  At one point, both she and the groom got back in the little box thing (one at a time, of course) and got another turn being hoisted onto the shoulders of these four men, and danced around the hall.  This time, people threw rose petals at them, and often, the bride or groom, whoever was in the box at that time, would throw the petals right back.

There was a lot of food consumed at this wedding too.  For the first course of dinner, each table go three chickens.  Three.  In Morocco you eat with your hands, so it was really interesting to watch people sit and tear the meat off the carcass.  It would have been completely inappropriate in the United States, and therefore it was so totally awesome.  The second course was a beef tagine with prunes.  It’s actually really delicious, at least, the prunes are.  I’ve been a vegetarian for 6 years, but decided to be polite, and culturally sensitive, I would suck it up and try to eat just a little meat while in Morocco.  If a Moroccan offers you meat, he or she is offering the most expensive part of the meal, and it’s not very polite to refuse.  Anyway, I’ve been able to stomach chicken and some fish, but that’s it.  Red meat is a no-can-do.  It just makes my stomach churn, so I eat around it, and that is how I discovered that the prunes in that beef tagine were really good.  We then ate fruit, and cookies.  Later we got more sweets, and at the end of the wedding we finally got to eat the wedding cake, which was sweet, but light.  The ceremony culminated in the bride and groom sharing a dance together, and with the rest of their guests, and then throwing little packets of chocolate at us.  The time was 6am Sunday morning.  As I mentioned before the wedding lasted two, technically three, days.  As I stumbled back to the groom’s family’s house, I changed out of my caftan and into a nightgown a grandmother had given me, and completely passed out on one of the couches.  It had been a great weekend.  I was so glad I had this opportunity to get to experience firsthand such a special ceremony, which is pretty much unique to every culture.  It was funny, throughout the night everyone was asking me if I wanted to have a Moroccan wedding when I got married.  “Mumkin” (maybe) I answered, and to be honest, it could be a lot of fun.

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