Sunday, May 3, 2009

My first Big Fat Moroccan Wedding experience!

Where to begin?

The last month has flown by. It has come to the point where I feel there is too much to share with you all. My only solution is to take it in pieces. Forgive my time-lagging.

Lets back up to late March. As I mentioned I had gone to Fes for a meeting, returned with a bird and then immediately did Spring camp at my site. What I neglected to mention was that I had gone to a wedding in there too. The day I had bought my canary and got him safely to my house 2+ hours away, I turned around and went out to rent the appropriate attire for my first Moroccan wedding.

I had heard about these weddings. Several of my fellow trainees had already been to a wedding, some early on when language was still such that “We are taking you to my cousin’s wedding across town and we won’t be back until morning” would have been an incomprehensible sentence which would have had to include a game of charades for full comprehension. I had learned from others that there would be dancing all night, huge courses of food and sweets, and a bride with a frequently changing outfit--all to the beat of Moroccan music. So I can’t pretend I hadn’t been forewarned on what this even would entail.

Being a stubborn early-riser (between the chickens, canary and I, we’re all early-birds in this house) I didn’t look forward to the all-night aspect. I approached the event with a mix of excitement, adventure, and the resignation to discomfort you feel before getting your wisdom teeth pulled. I knew I had to seize this opportunity, an invitation by my neighbors to join them in their relative’s wedding, that I would be in good hands and guided through the night with as much forgiveness and understanding as possible.

My attire having been obtained for the evening (a turquoise takshita—or “Disney princess dress” as I would call it), we made ourselves ready and headed out to the reception hall out past the taxi stand at 8:30pm. The room itself looked surprisingly American (I suppose the same variety of reception locations exist here. Some others I’ve heard of taking place on roofs or in tents or just in the street). We took a table with a vantage point of the 2/3 empty room, the band, and the throne-like reception area for the bride and groom.

This celebration itself isn’t one that follows a church wedding. The Moroccan wedding process is different in that respect, and I’m still not entirely clear on the details. I do know that the bride has been properly hennaed (had intricate designs drawn on her with henna, a plant-dye) and celebrated the day before by women relatives and friends. I also know that this event isn’t the last one for the bride and groom, and that we don’t send them off in a car to their honeymoon at the end of the night.

By around 10pm the room had started to fill up and my aching stomach hoped that there would be some nourishment provided soon (I had a very light lunch anticipating a food-heavy evening). Dancing began. The family of the bride came around and welcomed everyone.
At 1am we were served dinner. By this point I would have gleefully eaten cardboard, but instead we were provided three whole chickens (for our table of about 10) with olives and onions. Immediately following this we were presented with a huge slab of beef with prunes. This was barely picked at. These dishes are fairly traditional tajins, and ones I have noticed being served particularly for group occasions. The abundance of meat (there weren’t really any vegetables to speak of) provided more evidence that Moroccan weddings are the same wealth-sharing events we know in America.

After dinner the dancing resumed. I did get up and dance a few times, but I found myself more content watching the others for stretches of time. The bride and groom were carried around on ornate thrones at one point, and in all I counted at least 7 wardrobe changes by the bride—including a traditional shlha (“berber”) wedding dress and makeup. By around 4am I was really feeling the lack of sleep. I had tried hard to stay awake, but with no sugar or caffeine or will to go on dancing I let my eyes close a time or two. Eventually the yells of “you can’t sleep!” subsided and I was allowed to relax a bit and close my eyes in peace. No real sleeping took place, however.

Around 5am the wedding was wrapping up. Official tea-pourers came out and impressively poured tea from amazing heights. We were each given a box of sweet treats and a glass of tea. My stomach had long gone to bed, so I skipped these temptations and gathered my belongings. The night ended as we poured out of the reception hall into the breaking dawn. I got home to a few hours of sleep before Jon and Emily arrived at my door for Spring Camp preparations.

I am very grateful for having had this experience of the all-out Moroccan wedding party. I would attend one again if I knew the couple or if I knew I could escape early. I have, however, found a new appreciation for the short and sweet American wedding receptions where we’ve waved goodbye to the newly weds and gotten to bed at a reasonable hour (I know, I know, me and the other early birds should all go eat worms).


Elizabeth Sobarzo said...


Janis said...

Even though the dress is kind of princessy, it looks like it is fun to wear. It sounds like an interesting wedding experience! I was invited to a wedding when I was in Japan for two of my coworkers, and went for the experience.


Hello Lisa, I am a recent Peace Corps applicant (only sent it off two weeks ago). I would really like to be placed in the Middle East or North Africa so I would love to start learning Arabic now in hopes that some background would bump my chances of those regions. I currently teach English in Spain, so I am really close. I am hoping to spend the summer in Morocco and learn arabic, but also would like to get involved at the same time. I have looked into the WWOOF farming organization, but haven't had any responses. I was curious if you knew of any opportunities where I could volunteer for 2-3 months. If you have any recommendations, I would be very grateful. Thanks,

Loda said...

Wow, Lis! the wedding sounds awesome! It must be so cool to be totally immersed in every aspect of a totally different and unique culture! You looked really pretty in the Moroccan clothing, too! Have you purchased any of their clothing over there or are you still wearing the clothes you brought with you? I know you're busy, but I LOVE the updates!!!!!

Lisa said...

Janis- I'm curious, how did you dress for a Japanese wedding?

Laura- I'm unfortunately wearing basically what I left the US with. I'm having a hard time spending money on things I probably won't take back here with me, and I'm slow in buying what I know I will want to take back with me (such as a nice jalaba, embroidered stuff, etc).

Sarah said...

ooh, la, la ... fancy schmancy outfit!

vgamer282 said...

Wow, that looks like an neat dress! And an amazing experience overall.