Most non-Moroccans don’t ever get to experience a Moroccan wedding so it was a real privilege to attend one and see what it’s like. To be fair, this particular Moroccan wedding was not exactly typical because the bride was European so a lot of her friends and family attended, making the events slightly different than they might have been otherwise.
For the bride, one of the most fun parts is being able to wear multiple wedding gowns, or takshitas, and what gowns they are! They are made of silk and lace and come in layers of two or three parts. The dresses are made to order and each one is created using the traditional Moroccan sfifa, the braiding that is used on the edges and complements the colours in the fabrics. The more money you have to spend, the more dresses you get to wear. Aside from being very glamorous, it can be exhausting changing every hour or so.
About 250 guests attended, of which 65 were non-Moroccans. The Moroccans went all out to make sure that the foreign guests were made very welcome and even combined the sexes for the Henna party the day before. This being Rabat, the wedding party was probably a bit more sophisticated than most as normally the men and women are separate until the actual wedding ceremony when everyone comes together. The Henna party is when the bride has her hands and feet painted with Henna patterns and would usually be told the secrets of marriage. In this case, it was a big party, with huge amounts of food, all special recipes just for weddings, and a troupe of musicians who all looked decidedly high on something. The bride and groom were walked into the room with attendants carrying candles and incense, all the women ululating in unison. It was cacophonous and spine tingling.
The following day, when all the guests were assembled and the band playing, the bride, wearing her white dress, emblazoned with sequins and beads and silver braided sfifa, was carried overhead in a highly decorated palanquin, by four strong men. As she entered the hall, the crowd rose in one ululating swarm, throwing rose petals all over her. After her came her groom on a white horse, its saddle and bridle bright red and highly decorated. The horse wore blinders so as not to be disturbed by the swaying, chanting crowd. Flash bulbs were going off nonstop – it was a bit like being at a rock concert.
The bride and groom were placed on a specially decorated dais, hung with flowers and lights and were left to sit there for the entire evening, only moving to change their clothes five more times!
To cement the marriage, the bride and groom are brought dates and milk on a tray and their wedding rings on a cushion. They feed each other the dates and milk as a symbol of their love for each other and then place the rings on each other’s fingers. There is no officiating religious entity, just the families and friends to witness it as they had been legally married by a judge some months earlier.
People took it in turns to be photographed with the bride and groom and eventually they were given some tea to ease their parched throats. Enormous amounts of food were served and eventually the dancing started. I noticed that some of the Europeans kept disappearing for longer and longer periods and eventually discovered that there was a stash of alcohol in someone’s room. Some of the relations of the groom had said they would not come if there was alcohol served so the solution has been to keep it somewhere else. Very effective as no one seemed to notice that a few people were getting a bit merrier than the rest.
For a country where women are encouraged to be demure, I always find it fascinating how sexy they are when they dance and how much the men love to watch them. All the women were dressed in their finest takshitas, only the married or older ladies with their hair covered with matching scarves. They are so graceful and beautiful when they dance and even the small girls seem to be born being able to move their hips the right way. Some of the younger women with long hair would toss it around and around as they danced.
Weddings start really late in Morocco – 9pm would be early! By the time the bride had changed five times, all the photos had been taken and the constant supply of food exhausted, it was about 4am. Once the oldest people had left, the younger crowd got together in someone’s room, with the bride and groom, and more wine was imbibed and photographs taken.
It was an experience not likely to be repeated; a memory to be treasured forever.