I’ve never liked weddings. I skipped my best friend’s wedding, I tried to get out of going to my sister’s wedding, I’ve avoided weddings nearly as much as I’ve avoided funerals. I just hate them. I don’t like the music, I don’t like the food, I don’t like most of the people at them, and I don’t like the expense, the expectation of gifts, or the non-personal nature of them in general.
I can say without a doubt, that the only thing I hate more than weddings are Moroccan weddings. This presents a slight problem as I’ve just recently become married to a Moroccan. We’re working through that, as I will explain in a second, but first let me give an example of a Moroccan wedding, since I’ve just attended one and it reaffirmed everything for me.
Hanane’s sister just had her wedding.
The Moroccan wedding is a painfully drawn out affair of at least three days or more. In this case, in the weeks before the wedding there was a flurry of activity as parents and siblings prepared thousands of cookies and sweets, bought dresses, and did all the rest. Thankfully, I was able to shield my bride from becoming a kitchen slave thanks to our own recent marriage. Her sisters and mother were upset with her over it, but she was relieved to be able to escape from it. So, that’s all the attention I will give to that particular aspect of hell. Except to say that on Thursday night we stayed with her parents so that she could work with everyone else and help prepare for the wedding. This was actually okay as I am fond of her parents and the siblings that live at their house, although, coming straight from an hour long cramped Grand Taxi ride (seven people is standard in these sedans) and then catching another taxi to their house, having a late dinner after no lunch, and being tired from work and sleeping in an uncomfortable wool stuffed bed instead of our own was just the start of this infernal weekend.
In the morning I had to go to Fes and so I woke up and headed to the Grand Taxi again with no change of clothes and the usual no shower but without the benefit of my usual couple of hours of waking and adjusting with coffee, a morning shit, and not having to talk to anyone but my sweety. I’m a grumpy fucker without some time to let my bowels relax and not jibber jabber uselessly with people in the constant salaam a leycum, leycum a salaam, la bas, la bas la basalikc, hamdilah, hnya shweeya, blah blah jibber jabber that is utterly pointless and only serves to interupt every conversation, project, or bit of work you attempt to do here.
That night I came back and repeated the big taxi ride followed by the small taxi accompanied by edgy hunger as we were staying at the parental house again because it was the henna night for the women. Again with a very late (midnight dinner), no chance to grade my papers, and more exhaustion. Not only is there the application of henna but also the stereo is expected to be turned up to level 197 so that the sounds are distorted. As with an engagement, the bride is immobilized and everyone else dances and has fun. It’s for the women, but since I’m a member of the family and a foreigner, I got to be there and dance and have fun too. This part was actually the most fun part. I loved dancing with her mom, dad, and all the kids that were there, though the music started to really hurt my head, I was incredibly hungry, and I knew that I had to wake up early for my 12 hour hell day and a new commute to Fez by cramped grand taxi. Since some cousins and her brother and his wife had all come to visit, we slept in the salon where we got to hear her brother and his wife all night, their baby crying, and the usual yelling from neighbors, loud demands that Hanane help find things (after we’ve gone to sleep, mind you), and more, total sleep time for me….about an hour.
Back to the cramped grand taxi and back to Fez where I had a fairly fun time teaching my classes. After 12 hours, a small taxi to a big taxi to a small taxi to Sefrou where I arrived at about 9:30 hoping I had missed most of the wedding. No such luck. The bride hadn’t even returned from the beauty salon yet. I was hungry and starting to feel really tired and incredibly grumpy too. Most of the guests were sitting in the olive press warehouse next door, but even so I tried to find a place to take a catnap and each time I started to doze a relative or new guest would wander in and wake me up in order to salaam a leykum and ask me questions I either didn’t understand or pretended not to understand. Hanane was in full slave mode making candy sachets, doing every woman’s makeup, and in general getting treated like a scullery maid in addition to getting called every time her sister’s new step daughter would run amuk.
Three hours after this hellish waiting period, the bride finally arrived and after a short time we were all told to go to the warehouse for dinner, but a problem developed, in that the requisite bride kaftan dress rentals never showed up since they were booked for another wedding and were running late. Let me explain.
The party requires a few things, a huge dinner hall, rented plastic tables and chairs, rented decorations, a big pair of thrones, blaring music, gargantuan amounts of food, and secondary to all of this are the bride and groom. The bride changes into four different kaftans through the evening, most families rent the dresses so along with the hall, the tables, chairs, table covers, chair covers, thrones, wall coverings, sound equipment, and ornaments, the dress rental and renter are required. This particular event took place in a big concrete olive press warehouse that is something straight out of a slasher movie or a Russian soviet torture drama. They did do a nice job of sprucing it up though with all the same materials that every Sefroui wedding uses. During the time I was trying to nap, the guests, mostly old women in their nicest kaftans who had been invited by other old women that were in turn actually invited by the bride, sat at tables as the music blared too loud for anyone to talk. The dress renter wasn’t answering her phone and the bride was freaking out. Meanwhile, half the people at the tables got to eat, while those of us on the other side sat and thought about running across the room to snatch a chicken to gnaw on. Finally around 12:30 the food appeared but as is usual with mass produced dinners, it wasn’t the most delicious versions of olive roast chicken or prune roasted mutton I’ve had in Morocco. It’s hard to make things perfect when you are making a hundred of them.
Almost right after eating, the dresses showed up and I admit, the entrance of the bride was pretty spectacular. Certainly the most beautiful part of the whole day. She arrived in a car and six guys in big white cloaks surrounded the car and opened their capes so no one could see her. She got out and got into a palanquin which four of the guys carried while they did an amazing amount of dancing at the same time. A band with six foot bugles and awesome percussion followed the procession. Poor F. was trying to look serene and beautiful as a princess (which she did pretty well considering that the guys carrying her were doing this amazing dance) and everyone crowded around. From the crown to the palanquin to the escort to the music, she was a princess. This wonderful and really spectacular part lasted about ten minutes and then they lowered her so she and her Belgian man could ascend the big throne set up overlooking the olive press warehouse.
From this point on, the bride and groom were forced to sit wtih stony faces and observe everyone else have fun dancing and getting pictures with them. For four hours the only movement was of F. getting down once in a while to change kaftans. Meanwhile everyone else danced (or really, mostly they sat on the sides watching the dancers) while the sound system blared all the contemporary Moroccan music at mega decibel volume, groups of young men smoked kif outside, women stared and resented each other for beauty, husbands, or what have you, and I got more and more and more tired of having my ears forced to ring more than they do naturally.
Young guys brought cookies, the special daughter kept getting into mischief and dragging my bride (the only person there who speaks English, i might add, other than me) away to help her, and finally after trying to get Hanane to escape with me for hours, I dragged her away just before dawn so that we could get at least a moment’s sleep. The house was crowded with people, many of them were having loud conversations, and Hanane’s brother had the nerve to demand that she wash his babies dirty diapers while his wife stood right next to him. She’s a married woman now and doesn’t have to be anyone’s slave…thank God she knows it.
Through the night, I expressed how horrid the entire wedding process is to Hanane, pointing out that the bride and groom don’t get to have a good time and I got her to dream with me about a fantasy wedding in the Sahara with just a few people and where we would get to enjoy it too….of course every old woman there demanded that we invite them to our wedding and protested when she told them that we were thinking of going to Turkey or elsewhere, they all love the party and want the next girl to suffer being the bride.
As I said though, the bride did get her ten minutes. i want Hanane to get that too, except I want her to enjoy the rest of the night too. I’ve refused to go to another olive warehouse party even if it is our wedding and I think Hanane is growing on the idea of the Sahara, Amazigh tents, and moonlight kisses while the camels groan and grunt.
Really, I don’t want to hate my own wedding. I don’t want to remember it as a day of hell. I’ll keep you posted.