If you’re not Moroccan, maybe you’ve wondered what a Moroccan wedding is like.
Moroccan weddings are pulsing. The colors. The music. The food. They engage all five of the senses.
Women dress in vibrant kaftans, the light catching on the beaded details and creating a shimmering effect as you look across the dance floors. Lanterns, candles, rose petals, long carpets, chandeliers, and did we mention, camels?
As an international team living and photographing in Morocco, we’ve put a lot of time into learning about Moroccan culture and understanding the wedding traditions.
It’s one thing to observe, it’s another thing to consult with our Moroccan clients and friends for the inside scoop on Moroccan weddings.
When we talk about Moroccan weddings, we don’t actually mean the wedding ceremony. In Morocco, the wedding ceremony actually happens prior to the wedding celebration. It’s a small event, called the Drib Sdak, where the bride and groom will sign a formal marriage agreement. The event that we photograph is the wedding celebration, which would be similar to a “reception” in other cultures.
Traditionally (and probably still in many areas) it was important for many neighbors and people in the community to be invited so that they would know that this couple was married. In this culture, it is traditionally frowned upon for singles to be one on one with one another. So the wedding is more than just a celebration of the marriage, but a formal way of communicating that this man and woman are now married.
Morocco is diverse and so there are wedding traditions that vary from region to region and from family to family. The traditions we will share are some of the more common ones.
A day or two before the wedding, the bride may have a henna ceremony. This is where the bride and the women in her family and other female friends will gather and have henna done. Henna represents good luck and the bride may wear a green kaftan for this party. We’ve been given a few answers as to the significance of the color green. The two most common responses are that because green is the color of henna and green represents Islam. In some cases, we’ve seen henna done at the wedding celebration itself.
Normally a wedding will start sometime in the evening. It’s said that guests will start arriving after the last call to prayer (which will be after the sunset). When guests arrive at a wedding one of the first things they will be served are dates and milk.
Dates and milk are said to bring fertility and good luck – which is why they are at weddings.
Throughout the wedding the bride will change into different kaftans or takchitas (traditional Moroccan gown). Normally, she will wear between three and seven kaftans. Each region of Morocco has it’s own kind of kaftan. So if, for example, she is from Fes, she will wear a kaftan that is traditional for that area. Her last dress of the evening is often a western white wedding gown. In most weddings, unless the family can’t afford it, there will be a Negafa. A Negafa is like a wedding coordinator. She will coordinate the brides kaftans, jewelry, makeup, hair and the events that will take place during the weddings. She may also organize the farash and the Amaria (we’ll get to those further down).
Why all of the singing each time the bride enters and leaves the wedding?
With the Negafa, will be a group of ladies who will assist her. But the biggest role they play is singing each time the bride enters and leaves. They will sing what is like an Islamic blessing. During the wedding the bride will receive many compliments, but it’s important that Allah receives the most praise. So this song will praise Allah as a way of countering all of the praise going to the bride.
The family of the bride and groom, along with the groom, will greet the guests as they arrive at the wedding. Meanwhile the bride will only make her entrance later on once everyone has arrived.
She will be presented on the Amaria. The Amaria is a small ornate carriage that men will carry on their shoulders (the pictures describe it better than we can). The groom will walk in front of the Amaria, presenting his bride to all of the guests. Later on, the bride and groom may choose to be presented in their own separate, uncovered carriage called a mida.
Many weddings will also have a farash. The farash is much like an elaborate couch. The bride and groom will sit here with the change of every dress. Family members and close friends will come up and take pictures with the couple. When they’re not being presented, dancing or eating, they will sit on the farash.
A large meal will be served around 11 or 12 in the evening. There is a joke that you can tell how many courses will be served either by how many plates you have in front of you or by how many tablecloths are on the table. Some common courses are tajine (often lamb with prunes) and pastilla.
Dancing is a major part of a Moroccan wedding. It occurs during most of the wedding and depending on the family, there may even be a live band and singer. Later on in the evening (around two in the morning), it may switch to a DJ. Normally, everyone who is physically able to dance, dances!
Around three or four in the morning, the bride (now in a white gown) and groom will do a cake cutting.
At many weddings, there will be a “breakfast” served around four in the morning. As photographers, we normally leave the wedding around four or five in the morning after all of the main events have happened and guests are beginning to leave.