Weddings in Morocco: A Fusion of Rituals
Marriage in Morocco is closely connected to ancestral traditions and customs as well as religion. It can be celebrated for more than one day and most of the practices evolve around the beauty of the bride and the unity of the family of the two spouses.
At this time of the year in particular, marriage ceremonies are taking place at every part of Morocco. This is a month where almost everyone is on holidays in the country and thus, it is an ideal time to prepare for one of Morocco’s richest traditional event. The ceremony of marriage takes place after an initial meeting between the two united families. This first step is the engagement meeting, called Khetba, where the groom’s family asks for the hand of the bride. Once the parents accept, discussions about the preparation for the ceremony start right away. These negotiations are centered around the bride’s dowry, the costs of the ceremony, and of course, and the date of the marriage. During the Khetba, the groom may offer some jewelry to the bride.
Sometimes, during that same day of the engagement, the official or ‘legal’ marriage takes place as the two sign the necessary documents. Sometimes, this may takes place during another big ceremony. Marriage takes place in the presence of an Adoul, a religious man certified by the government to manually draw up marriage certificates for couples. According to the religion, twelve witnesses should accompany the Adoul, who also attest that the marriage will take place – that the two spouses and families have agreed. Even though the legal marriage has taken place, the spouses cannot live together until other matrimonial steps have been completed.
The first step of the ceremony is the Hammam day, where the bride goes to the traditional, public bath with the closest women of her family. She takes the ceremonial bath right that aims to purify her. The women help her bathe in the Hammam (Turkish bath) and they sing wedding songs to her.
The second step of the ceremony, the day of the Henna ritual. The bride dresses in a traditional dress, usually green, and has her hands and feet painted with fascinating designs of henna. This is done by the Nekacha, the talented woman that the bride’s family hires that day so that she decorates their daughter with henna. Other members of the family have a finger or hand done with henna as well. It is worth mentioning that only women, family and friends, attend this ritual. These women are connected to the bride in some way. Everyone sings joyfully for the bride while dancing. This ritual symbolizes prosperity.
Then, the third step of the ceremony arrives. It is a day that starts with the groom’s family sending the Hdia to the bride, a number of gifts like fabrics for traditional dresses, jewelry, sugar, dates, milk, henna that symbolizes happiness and prosperity. All the way from the groom’s house to the bride’s, people sing wedding songs. This is a very special step of the ceremony as the goal goes beyond the offering gifts, but to informing others that a couple are about to join lives.
In the afternoon, the bride goes with few close women to the hairdresser to get ready for the evening. The festivity usually starts at about 9 p.m. A big house is usually rented for the event. The guests arrive and band sings wedding songs to which people dance. Servers go around the place offering nice Moroccan cookies and fresh fruit juices, mint tea and coffee. Two magisterial chairs with decoration around set the groom and his bride. The two families along with the groom receive the guests. As for the bride, she is treated like a princess in one of the house’s rooms. Four women, called Neggafate, are hired to help her wear her traditional outfit and heavy jewelry.
Then, the big moment comes when the two spouses come together, with the Neggafate. They sit down on the chairs while the guests are dancing in rhythm. The Neggafate help the bride to change her dresses several times during the night. Every dress has matching jewelry. She also wears a traditional outfit specific to the family’s origins in Morocco: Fez, the North, East, Berber, etc. Dinner is served and the ceremony lasts all night long!
While marriage ceremonies are taking place everywhere in Morocco, there are more and more young people who prefer to have a less traditional and copious ceremony as they wish to save money for other purposes.