There are as many ways to celebrate weddings in Morocco as there are life choices. The Moroccan wedding is a tradition celebrated in different ways based on the time and the culture of each region. Although in the past it lasted approximately one week, nowadays it usually lasts three days and in some places with more deeply rooted customs such as Fez it can be as long as 5 days.
A Wedding In Morocco
Every ritual or ceremony that is worthy of being performed has a meaning, something that gives it meaning even beyond its cultural or religious context. In the case of the Moroccan wedding, in addition to the meaning common to all cultures, the meeting of two people who wish to continue the rest of their lives together, two other concepts come together: on the one hand, the announcement of a new stage in the woman’s life, and on the other, the meeting of two families.
Both in Morocco and in the Western world, the role of the groom at a wedding is rather rare. Once it has been made clear that a wedding, in an almost universal way, is a celebration focused on the figure of the bride, the next step will be to describe the steps that make up this process until the moment when the union of both is considered formalised.
The Request For A Hand
The first approach will take place at the time of the request for a hand. Although it will depend on each particular case how it is formalised (for example, it may be the father of the groom who arranges a meeting with the bride’s family, or even the mother who visits her future mother-in-law to make the request) what they will all have in common is the meaning of this meeting, that is, the formal meeting of both families and the confirmation of the wedding.
The second objective will be to seek the stability of the future Moroccan marriage with two gestures: on the one hand, making the day of the celebration more specific based on the economic conditions of the groom (or in other words, setting the beginning of the marriage for when the groom can provide stability) and setting the dowry (which can be destined for the bride, her family or both).
With regard to the dowry, I would like to make a point: normally, by a bad simplification, it has been interpreted as equivalent to the purchase of the bride (who has never heard the phrase “I’ll trade you three camels for the woman”). Nothing could be further from the truth, since this dowry, which I will not deny has a certain macho character (on the other hand, common to practically any tradition in any civilisation), has its reason for being in the traditional Moroccan family structure.
Moroccans, contrary to what usually happens in Westernised countries, closely maintain family ties, to the extent that it is common for grandparents, parents and grandchildren to live together in the same space (or even for each generation to reside on one floor of the same house).
Therefore, what usually happens in a Moroccan marriage is not so much that a couple forms a new family as that the bride is integrated into the family nucleus of it. This will generate an economic imbalance, since the groom’s family will acquire a new member (who will either collaborate economically or in the tasks of the house) and that of the bride will lose him. That is why the main purpose of the dowry, besides guaranteeing the economic future of the bride, will be to correct, as far as possible, the economic inequality that will be produced.
Normally this dowry will be translated into money or jewels, but if the marriage takes place between families with little purchasing power (for example, in cities further south) it is decided to offer animals such as camels, which are highly valued for the yield they produce.
A ceremony that lasts 3 days
As I said at the beginning, the celebration of the wedding is a process that lasts several days, traditionally approaching the week and standardizing, almost in a general way, in 3 days at the moment. In addition, each day acquires a great symbolic load unique, which causes that the activities and the people involved every day are different.
The first day is directly related to the idea of the wedding as the beginning of a new stage in the woman’s life (the change to a new stage of maturity). In this sense, what takes place on a symbolic level is a process of purification that ends up taking shape in a visit to the Arab public bath by the bride, accompanied by friends and family.
On that day, in addition to a series of ritual ceremonies linked to this idea of purification and desire for good luck, socially it makes sense in a meeting between the bride and the people closest to her; a more intimate meeting prior to the celebrations that will take place afterwards. To establish parallels with the Western world, they could be compared to our bachelorette parties (bridging the distances, obviously).
Continuing with the preparation process for the new stage, the second day will be the time when the bride will be given a protection ritual, formalized with the well-known henna tattoos. This will be applied on the hands and legs, and it is usual to hire a professional for such tasks, but can also take care of it the family of the bride.
The most common is that passages of the Koran are engraved, in addition to the well-known geometric and floral designs. After that, a family meal will begin, which can be understood as a midway point between the intimacy of the previous day and the great celebration of the following day.
And we arrive at the moment of the celebration of the wedding itself. As in the West, it will take place in a noticeably open space (usually a large tent in the middle of the street), where the guests will sit around different tables. As it cannot be otherwise, the bride will have to make herself wait, and previously the guests will drink milk and eat dates as the beginning of the ceremony until the bride makes her appearance, accompanied by music and transported in a carriage carried by friends and family.
From then on, the couple will preside over the ceremony in a central armchair, and the reception will continue its natural development, seasoned with songs, dances and changes of the bride’s dress, which, together with the rest of the luxurious details that characterize this celebration, will serve to show the economic status that is desired for the new couple. Then, at a certain point in the celebration, the groom’s friends will move the bride to her in-laws’ house, to welcome her and make her wedding night.
A celebration on several levels
I would not like to end this entry without underlining a number of characteristics that make, in my view, a Moroccan wedding superior to a Western one in certain respects.
The first has to do with the well-known sense of Moroccan hospitality. In front of our closed guest lists, they propose a final ceremony that, although in principle it is intended for family and friends, the fact that the banquet takes place in a tent in the middle of the street and that both family and friends usually leave the door open to their houses means that it ends up becoming a neighbourhood party.
The other advantage is related to its duration: as opposed to our western pragmatism adding a celebration in all its glory with the concreteness of a day, which causes not a few couples to feel overwhelmed (it is not the first time that I hear someone say that with so many preparations and greetings they barely had time to enjoy) the Moroccan wedding proposes a celebration that is longer in time and more consistent with the social groups that surround the nature of a marriage: from the most intimate environment to the community where the couple is settled, passing through the family of each one (in fact, it is common that the days after the wedding a series of small celebrations take place under the protection of the family of both married, both together and separately).
And now, with these final conclusions I have finished this post about weddings in Morocco. I hope you have been curious about it and that you will have the opportunity to attend one sometime.