Wedding ceremony in Morocco
Because of its social importance and its originality, the Moroccan wedding is a topic that deserves to be treated in a separate page within this section dedicated to the traditions and culture of Morocco. And that is what we are going to do here, highlighting the general highlights, as weddings in rural areas differ from those in big cities. There are also differences depending on the part of the country where it takes place, so here we will focus on the common points of all of them. Regarding the price of a Moroccan wedding will depend a lot on whether it is held in Morocco or in another part of the world and also on the number of guests and simplicity of the wedding.
The Moroccan wedding, a free choice
According to Islam, marriage in Morocco is a solemn ceremony that solidifies a couple’s commitment to one another and to the continued existence of the human race as a whole.. Muslim law considers marriage as a civil contract, the validity of which will depend on the acceptance of both parties. “According to their financial and personal circumstances, every Muslim who satisfies the requirements for marriage is assumed to be required to wed..”
Until the advent of the Personal Status of 1993, women were not free to choose their future husbands. Thanks to this civil norm, the free choice of spouse is guaranteed for her, although she cannot marry without the consent of a guardian (Wali). His intervention is mandatory, but since he is only a guardian, he cannot force her to marry someone who is not of her will. And even if the woman is still under paternal care, she does not need his explicit consent. In case the woman has no one in her entourage who can act as a wali, this figure necessary for a Moroccan wedding is replaced by a judge.
Women in Morocco are becoming more and more educated and therefore are gaining access to the labor market. This means that on many occasions they become the breadwinners of a family, hence their decision-making capacity is increasing.
Stages of a Moroccan wedding
Before a Moroccan wedding takes place, there is a first stage called hotoba, in which the proposal of hand is made with the reading of the first azora of the Koran, the fatiha, and the writing of the marriage certificate.
The act of engagement and courtship involves a series of rituals that differ from one area of Morocco to another, according to their traditions, although there are numerous coincidences in some customs.
Modalities of a marriage proposal
There are two main ways to propose, a mandatory step to celebrate a Moroccan wedding:
Summoning by the groom’s father: once the bride and groom agree, it is the groom’s family, specifically his father, who summons the bride’s family to fix a first meeting. The first visit takes place so that the families can get to know each other. In other cases, when the initiative has been taken by the young man or by his parents, the proposal is made neither by him nor by his father but by any influential man of the family or of his entourage.
Call by the groom’s mother: another modality of request is the one made by the groom’s mother. In these cases it is the mother, accompanied by other women of the family, who goes to visit the mother of the young woman to make the request.
If the relationship between the youth and the families already existed, the response will be affirmative and immediate. In the case that such a relationship does not exist, a period of reflection must be waited during which the father will be consulted: if he opposes the marriage, the mother will give some excuse to justify the lack of agreement. The most frequent excuse is to say that the daughter is marrying a member of the family, such as a cousin. If they are in favor of the relationship, visitation continues.
In most cases, when both families accept the future marriage of their children, the groom’s family brings the bride-to-be some gifts: sugar, flowers and fabrics for her to make a traditional Moroccan costume, called takchita. This is the next stage, which is the official engagement. It is at this moment that the families must reach an agreement about the obligatory dowry (Sdaq) whose amount is fixed by the father of the future wife. In return for the dowry and sustenance, the woman has to see to the good running of the household and its organization under the direction of the husband, to whom she owes obedience and fidelity. As for the amount of the dowry and the time limit for its delivery, there are no fixed rules. The law does not establish any specific amount: it must be fair but never excessive.
In addition to the dowry, the families agree on the possible day of the celebration of this Moroccan wedding and on everything that will be needed. The length of the engagement period depends mainly on the economic and social conditions of the couple. Although traditional families do not take long to celebrate the marriage.
One of the most important points is to find the date that best suits to celebrate the wedding. They usually take place in autumn.
A Moroccan wedding consists of two parts, which can be close to each other or far apart:
The legal phase, which takes place with the signing of the contract by which the custody of the wife passes to the husband.
The second, of social character, which coincides with the feast and ends with the transfer of the wife to her husband’s house, where the consummation of the marriage takes place.
The woman in the Moroccan Wedding
As we have commented before, the celebration of a Moroccan wedding differs a lot in the cities and in the rural areas, depending on the region, although here we expose the most usual in the center and the south of the country, where the woman has her own wedding ritual. The place of the celebration varies according to the economic conditions of the couple: you can rent a large hall and celebrate it in the western style or as it happens in the poorest neighborhoods and in the most traditional families, you can celebrate it in the terraces of the houses (as long as they are wide and no neighbor prevents it) or also set up a huge tent (jaima) next to the doorway of the bride’s house.
The husband’s family brings gifts in one or two carts: one with clothes, shoes, make-up, henna, milk, dates and cakes, and the other with foodstuffs, preferably sacks of sugar, flour, semolina and oil. These carts go around the city from the house of the groom’s family to the house of the bride’s family, and the people go around singing accompanied by a group of musicians. The commotion makes everyone aware that what is being celebrated is indeed a Moroccan wedding.
The ceremonies involve a series of rites and preparations in which water and henna, both purifying elements, are of great importance. A few days before the Moroccan wedding (five in the case of Fez and three in Rabat) the bride-to-be goes at noon to the hammam (Arab public bath) accompanied by her friends and family. All young brides want to go that day with the bride, as there is the belief that it will give them luck to find a good husband. From the house to the hammam, one of the companions carries a lighted candle and the rest of the companions utter yu-yus to scare away the demons or evil genies that are believed to frequent the baths.
The other element that takes great importance in these celebrations is the Henna or henna. Its application is carried out to purify and protect the bride from bad influences. It is used as a means of purification and protection at times when it is believed that one is exposed to supernatural dangers, as in the case of religious celebrations. Its main mission is to keep the Znun away from the body and soul. It is applied on the hands, up to the wrists and on the feet up to the ankles.
The day of the celebration
The Moroccan wedding begins with the arrival of the guests while the bride-to-be gets her hair done at the hairdresser’s. Then she gets dressed with the help of a woman who is an expert in the organization of celebrations. Then she gets dressed with the help of a woman who is an expert in the organization of celebrations and who also rents the wedding dresses, jewelry and even the tea services, cushions, etc. This lady is the one who will help the bride-to-be to change her dress and jewelry whenever it is deemed appropriate. There can be up to seven changes of clothes and adornments. The last dress the bride will wear will be white, with a bouquet of flowers in her hand.
At the moment this lady deems appropriate, she will bring a small table with the rings, a glass of milk and a plate with dates stuffed with almonds and walnuts. It is at that moment when the exchange of rings, dates and milk takes place. Milk is the purest symbol of happiness, so that the life of the future bride is dyed white and dates are a symbol of prosperity, sweetness and fortune. Then tea and cakes are distributed among the guests.
Finally, dinner is served and dancing to the sound of an orchestra until late at night. It is then that the bride is moved to her new home. In some areas, the mother-in-law welcomes her with a tray of milk, representing purity, and dates to wish her fortune. In addition to that, the mother-in-law gives her a bunch of keys and a loaf of bread, thus offering her her new home. Other times and depending on the area, figs and raisins are offered, which bring happiness and sweetness, and eggs, which represent fertility wishes for the wife.
The day after the wedding night, called Sbah, there is a feast prepared by the husband’s family that inaugurates the new life of marriage.
The groom’s wedding celebration, in the North
Normally in northern Morocco, the woman and the man celebrate their Moroccan wedding separately, each having a different set of rituals. Here we will talk about the part of the groom’s celebration, as it is usually celebrated in the north of Morocco, for example in Tangier.
A Moroccan wedding in this area, whether of the man or the woman, usually starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday.
The man must take the Hedia to the bride’s house and leave these gifts at the door without entering it. The Hedia is usually composed of silk fabrics, slippers, sugar, tea, dates, handbags, candles and other gifts, among which it is sometimes common to bring gold pieces or an animal for sacrifice. On this same day, the man usually invites his closest friends to the Hamman or traditional Moroccan bath. Some people hire traditional music groups to accompany them on their way from the bath to the house. After the bath, the groom invites his friends to lunch at home.
It is the day of the Dibiha or sacrifice. Before the prayer they will prepare for the prayer. After the prayer the traditional music group waits at the door of the mosque to accompany again the journeys. On this day the groom invites his neighbors and acquaintances to have lunch with him. This is the day when the groom dresses in yabador (traditional costume) or European costume for the photo session, which takes place in the evening with the bride.
This is the day of the groom’s wedding celebration which is celebrated with all the relatives, friends, acquaintances and neighbors (men only). Depending on the economy of the groom, it will be held in an event venue, on the terrace of a house or in a tent. After midnight, the groom changes his clothes to put on the Moroccan yilaba and prepares for one of the most important parts of the Moroccan wedding of this type: the henna celebration. For this comes a man who gives a speech and after that, the groom must put his hand in a bowl with henna, as well as the bride, with the idea of being purified. It is the most emotional moment of the man’s wedding.
Once the henna ceremony is over, the man changes back into a European-style suit and goes to the bride’s house to pick her up to take her to her new home. This part of the wedding is called Buya. In the more rural areas and villages, the bride usually goes in a kind of wooden box that is placed on top of a horse or mule and makes the journey to her new home. A journey in which she is usually accompanied by the whole village that follows with curiosity this part of the wedding. In addition to friendly and curious neighbors, this procession is accompanied by traditional music groups.
In larger cities the buya may be replaced by the Jarya where the bride makes this journey in a procession of cars, just as is done in Western weddings.
When the bride arrives at her new home, the mother-in-law greets her with a tray full of dates stuffed with nuts and two small cups of milk which the groom and bride must drink by intertwining their arms so that each drinks from the other’s cup.
On Sunday, as in the woman’s wedding, the Sbah is performed. This part of the Moroccan wedding is joint. It is the quietest day where the bride receives her family and friends and takes pictures with them.
The atmosphere of a Moroccan wedding
A good self-respecting Moroccan wedding should pay special attention to the following details: the music and the dresses of the bride and groom.
The music at a Moroccan wedding
For the celebration of a Moroccan wedding, music is essential. These are some of the types of music that are usually found in these celebrations, which the bride and groom hire depending on their economy and how traditional the family is.
The groups can be Xaavi, Dakka Marrachia, Tarab Andalussi, Gnawa, E3sawa, the band and sometimes Hamacha. Some opt for more modern and current music and on the other hand the more traditional families opt for Enechid.
Wedding dresses in a Moroccan wedding
This is one of the most important details of a Moroccan wedding. In the celebration of women, it is not surprising that the bride gets to wear seven or eight outfits. Here are some of the most important ones:
Lebsa el Fesia
The Rabati Caftan
Groom’s Dresses at a Moroccan Wedding
The groom’s dress is not as varied as that of the bride. The most typical suits of the groom are:
Yilaba and Belgian
Jabador and Belgian
Source: For the elaboration of this article on a Moroccan wedding, part of the information has been extracted from Leila Abu-Shams: Oral Traditions: Wedding Ceremonies in Morocco.