Because getting married is still considered the most important decision of your life in Morocco, getting hitched is what we Westerners call a very big deal.
Today’s Moroccan weddings, like the country itself, weave old and new traditions seamlessly to create a truly unique and memorable occasion. Prepaations begin about one year earlier with couples choosing either to keep things simple with an uncomplicated agreement signing in front of witnesses and a Moroccan notary called an Adoul… or the more formal marriage commitment ceremony. The latter incorporates the signing of a marriage agreement but also includes the presentation of gifts to the bride by her future husband. These gifts include sugar for a happy life, milk for purity, an engagement ring and henna. Particulars of this ceremony tend to differ slightly from region to region.
The bride relies heavily on her Neggafates, or Master Wedding Planners, for help in co-ordinating the many important details, not the least of which is the critical caftan selection. Brides in Morocco change their outfits frequently throughout the wedding day. The final selection is usually a show-stopping white wedding dress. Neggafates also assist the bride and her entourage with hair, make-up and henna for the big day.
The application of the henna tattoos traditionally occurs two days before the wedding when the bride, her friends and female family members indulge in a ritual bath known as the hamam. Following this, a Hennaya, or professional henna artist, applies the traditional henna bridal designs to the bride’s feet and hands. Sometimes the groom’s name is hidden in the tattoo design to add an extra dash of romance.
The ceremony starts with the recitation of Quranic verses and songs in honour of the Prophet. Wedding guests gather in a large room or hall to await the arrival of the happy couple with great anticipation. Once they enter, the bride and groom take their seats in large comfortable chairs called Amariya. Four strong men carry each of the Amariya around the room, led by a band playing tradition wedding music, so that all the guests may get a good look at the couple. The bride and groom then move to a place of honour so that guests may approach, offer their congratulations and have their pictures taken.
Like weddings all over the world, food can make or break a Moroccan wedding so the details have to be perfect. Typical wedding menu items include Pastille, a puff pastry stuffed with fricasseed pigeon or chicken. Other items are Mashwi, a dish of baby lamb, and Tajine. Desserts feature traditional sweet pastries and Moroccan cookies accompanied by copious amounts of Moroccan mint tea.
Following the festivities, which can continue all night long, the newly wedded couple are driven to the groom’s home where the bride is formally welcomed by her new mother-in-law with a symbolic gift of milk and dates. A modern variation of this tradition, however, sees the couple choosing instead to spend their wedding night at a hotel.
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