Earlier this year I went to my cousin’s wedding. It was a traditional Samoan wedding held in a Catholic church in West Auckland. A lot of family and friends were present to celebrate with the bride and groom. The ceremony was conducted by a priest.
The bride looked beautiful in her long white wedding dress and her gorgeous veil that trailed all the way down to the ground and behind her. There were twelve bridesmaids, six from the bride’s side and six from the groom’s side. All these bridesmaids wore long cream dresses. Each bridesmaid entered the church holding the hands of the groomsmen. There were six groomsmen, dressed in tuxedos and looking very smart.
The church grounds were set up very nicely and neatly with big marquees and tents all over the church grounds. In the main marquee a long table had been placed for the bridal party to sit at after the church ceremony. The bride and groom sat at the centre of this table, the maid of honour was seated next to the bride and the best man next to the groomsman. The other bridesmaids sat in a row after the maid of honour, and the groomsmen sat in a row alongside the best man. Also at the main table were the celebrant, the parents of the newly wed couple and any guests who held a matai (chief's) title.
Food is a very important part of any Samoan celebration; it is a way of bringing people together. The tables were laden with beautifully presented food prepared by the professional caterers. There were taro, chop suey, corned beef, oka (raw fish), fai (banana) and a variety of sea foods. And then of course there were the desserts! These included ice-cream and many different kinds of delicious cakes.
While the guests were enjoying their food fa’a Samoa was performed. This is the formal part of the wedding where speeches are presented and gifts are given to show appreciation to those families who have contributed to the wedding. These are presented by young girls of the family, usually dressed nicely in traditional Samoan clothing. They usually give away food and money, displayed on a tray, and a large piece of material that could be used for anything.
The wedding cake at a Samoan wedding is always very large and has many different tiers and this wedding was no exception. At European weddings all of the cake is usually handed out to the guests but we do it differently. The top tier is usually for the couple, the second tier is for the priest or the celebrant, the third tier goes to the parents of the couple, and the remaining tiers are for the guests to enjoy with dessert.
Also on display in the bridal marquee were the gifts people had brought for the bridal couple that would help them to set up a new life together i.e. homeware, or sometimes just money.
The final part of the wedding celebrations was the most relaxing when the guests sat back and enjoyed items performed and prepared by younger members of the families, and joined in the dancing and singing. A lot of this entertainment was traditional but some of it was also in a modern style. After all we live in a modern world, and while we will always respect the old way of doing things we are also open to new ways and ideas. Our culture does not stand still. Overall I really thought this wedding was beautiful and that it was a very worthwhile experience.