Moroccan culture: wedding celebrations

Weddings are great celebrations in Morocco as family is central in Moroccan culture. Marriage is the beginning of an important chapter in one’s life- starting a family and adult life. Girls become women and boys become men when they get married. My friends have proudly shared their wedding photo albums with me.

During my Peace Corps service, I have been lucky to be invited to lots of Moroccan weddings at my site and nearby duars (farming villages). Moroccan weddings, like American weddings, are so diverse so it is impossible to accurately represent them. Weddings here vary by race (Arab and Berber), class, rural and urban areas, and region. My site is primarily Arab, low income, traditional, rural, and in the Marrakesh region. Girls in my community tend to get married around 20 and boys around 30 though it is changing as more girls are achieving their high school diplomas and continuing on to vocational school or university.

All my friends and neighbors have teased me to about getting married in Morocco, proposing their sons or friends. My upstairs neighbor really insisted. Hahaha. I usually reply that my focus now is on work, and I explain that women in the US typically get married around 30. They have said that when I get married (in the US), I should come back to hold a Moroccan wedding.

I will describe in general terms the three main parts I have heard about and observed about the wedding celebrations: the hammam (public bath), henna party, and all-women’s party. I will not talk about dating or engagement or the religious and civil ceremonies. I think this blog post will complete others on what I have learned are essential aspects of Moroccan culture: Aqiqa; couscous Friday’s and Moroccan eating habits; Ramadan; Eid Al Adha (Festival of Sacrifice); Moroccan woman’s dress, fashion, and beauty; and the hammam (bath house).

The hammam

A couple of days before the big women’s party, the bride and groom (separately) and family and close friends visit the hamman (public bath) for purification. It is not unlike when they visit it during the week. See my blog post on the public bath. A few weeks ago, I was getting ready for English class at the markaz jadema alshebab (youth vocational center) and heard lots of noise outside. I went out and saw a boy on a horse with boys and men banging drums and singing around him. This was the groom making his grand entrance to the public bath!

The henna party

The bride also has a henna party with family and close friends. Henna is believed to protect against disease and ensure success and prosperity. They normally hire a henna artist to decorate their hands and feet with intricate, beautiful designs. Sometimes the henna happens at the wedding too- though just for the bride and not guests. I think it’s a wonderful custom.

The all-women’s party

The real “wedding” is the all-women’s party. In my town, they set up a big tent outside the bride’s house with Turkish rugs, tables and chairs, and a throne for the bride and the groom to be admired.

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The wedding can be in the middle of the day or at night. Most of the weddings I have attended have been at night. The first wedding I attended was my host family’s next door neighbor. Guests started arriving at 9pm, but the bride appeared at 12:30am! Everyone gets really dolled up for weddings. They wear their fancy caftans and taqshitas and get their hair and make-up done. See my blog post on Moroccan women’s fashion.

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My first Moroccan wedding!

The bridal gowns

The bride is the center of attention and queen at the party. In Morocco, it is typical for the bride to change her dress several times and make grand entrances. At this first wedding there were five dress and accessory changes! The groom came out with her and sat on the throne, too, and they were told how to pose by the wedding planner and photographer, together or with the guests. Her last dress was like the traditional, white American wedding dress. 

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The first dress and throne
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The final dress

The Amariya

In between the dress changes, guests move their hips and shake their hair to popular music played by a DJ or sometimes watch live music or dance. I love the Moroccan style of dancing! My friends have taught me some moves! Another mayor part of weddings is when the bride and groom are paraded around on the amariya, a decorated chair held up by four people.

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The amariya

Celebratory food

Guests are also served the typical, delicious djej muhamr (roasted chicken), lehem u barqouq (lamb with prunes), and then Moroccan tea and cookies. At this first wedding the dinner was served at 2am! Guests normally take the cookies home as a party favor. At the Mudir of the dar shebab’s (Director of the youth center) wedding they served chicken pastilla (like pie) and roasted lamb, which was a nice change. I still remember the mouthwatering roasted lamb!

The tent, tables and chairs as well as the dresses and accessories are rented. There are many persons involved in working the weddings: preparing and serving the food, dressing up the bride, DJing, holding the amariya, and photographing and videotaping the wedding. All aspects of the wedding are profitable professions in Morocco as people are always getting married!

In my community, after the wedding, girls move to the their husband’s family’s house and live in a separate room or apartment. When a husband has to move for work, then couples make their own home.

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