A Moroccan Wedding

The first thing you need to know is that the night officially began at 8 PM and lasted until 6 AM.  Our group made it from 10 PM to 4 AM which I still think is pretty impressive. 

Weddings are a big deal in the Middle East and North Africa.  I should say, the reception party is a big deal.  A “spend all your money and invite all your friends and give lots of gifts and serve lots of food and dance and sing and dance some more” kind of deal.  From what I understand the actual ceremony takes place with your immediate family before a Muslim judge.  It’s very modest and quiet.  The reception is anything but. 

One of Max’s co-workers got married and so a gaggle of us from the consulate spent the early evening together primping like we were all going to the prom.  At Moroccan weddings women wear something called a “Caftan” – they are extremely ornate.  I wore something a little East-Meets-West since I’m a cheapskate but still want to have a good time.  A good Caftan starts around $160 and goes up from there.  And up.  The bride’s first Caftan (Seven is the tradition) was this beautiful pink satin encrusted with diamonds.  Probably real. 

 Ok, so after we wobble through the hotel lobby on our much too tall special event heels, dates on arm, we are seated in a beautiful reception hall, all white, with purple and pink lights projected across the chandeliered ceiling.  Then we wait, we talk, we nibble on spicy puffed rice, we dance, we nibble, and then we dance more.  The dancing!  I, as you may well know, am no dancer.  It’s been a phobia since I was in Junior High.  I’ve tried to figure it out over the years and I think it has something to do with my inherent lack of dancing related skills (rhythm, agility, funk) and my puritan heritage.  Hips are bad, right?  Anyway, one of the lovely things about being overseas is that you are freed from cultural bondage AND any ideas you had about yourself as being something or not being something.  I’m not saying I got out there and cut a rug, but I did, in fact, stand in a circle, bouncing with everyone else and clapping to the beet.  My hips and my shoulders may have actually been moving at the same time.  This is a big step, people.   

There is something really beautiful about Moroccan dancing.  Not the moves or anything, but the spirit of it.  So we are sitting at this wedding, everyone has been waiting for hours already and their faces are growing grimmer by the minute. But when the band strikes up a certain chord one woman starts clapping and then another and then another and their faces are beaming.  As if drawn by a giant magnet they all leave their seats and shake it to the dance floor in front of the band.  The women dance with women and the men dance with men and at some point they mosh together in the middle and they all throw their heads back with joy.  With joy!  No one is trying to seduce anyone or prove to their friends they are better than each other, they just want to move to the beat to celebrate this occasion.  One particularly grim looking Berber woman with face tattoos from her bottom lip down past her chin sat in the corner for the first few hours of the night, scowling at something.  But when the drums came out and started into their frenzy of faster and faster drumming she was out of her seat and throwing her hips about like I’d never seen.  Her toothless grin was contagious and she circled the floor grabbing the hands of fellow dancers and lifting them in triumph. 

Moving on.  The bride and groom show up just before midnight and the bride is carried about in a large, wheel-less carriage.  Four dudes hoist her on their shoulders and dance around the room for a bit.  They repeat this hoisting process one more time in the night after she has changed into another dress, but women do the carrying and dancing.  At some point in the night she gets henna-ed and there is more dancing.  (Henna is the semi-permanent tattooing they do on the feet and hands in Morocco.  It’s a typical before or at weddings and other celebrations.)  At one point scads of presents are brought out in a procession and placed before the bride;  gold, jewelry, milk, water, honey, henna. 

THEN at 2:00 am we are served a four course meal.  That’s right, four courses ending in half of a whole roasted lamb.   Fish Pastilla, vegetables, cheeses, crab with avocado, roasted lamb mechui with pineapple and quail eggs followed by  ice cream cake and then fruit and cheese.  I don’t drink, but I certainly had what I’m sure a hangover feels the next day…when I awoke at 3 in the afternoon.  I don’t know if it was all the food, the tremendous noise, or the late hour, but it was certainly all worth it says my day later self who can sit up straight and bare the light of day once more.   


  1. The drums and dancing would have been the topper for me! Thanks for sharing the event and please send your coworker our wishes for many years of wedded happiness from Ankara.

  2. I love (LOVE) this picture of you and Max.
    And what an experience! I loved reading about(and imagining) you dancing. :)

  3. Also love the picture and reading about the wedding. And I'm delighted that you danced. It all sounds so lovely.

  4. how amazing. I need to be invited to more weddings.

  5. I'm really glad we got to go - I had almost started seeking engaged people out to make friends, just so we could go to one!