Marriage is an evolving institution in Morocco. With less and less arranged marriages, but remaining family involvement and social taboos in regards to dating, Morocco is a culture trying to live on both sides of a massive generation gap. While most young people now have the right to choose their own partners, many have little opportunity to meet or get to know members of the opposite sex. This leaves courtship in an awkward state of telephone dating or asking people to marry them after having seen them on the street. While this whole process is in a state of confusion, one thing is still clear, family is first and foremost important. Families must agree and bless the marriage, and the wedding marks the joining of the two families. However, there has been some change in this, too, as the nuclear family is much more recognized as an identity, and many people choose not to live in their parents house after marriage. The extended family remains a clearly tight-nit and fundamental value in Morocco, though.
With family being so fundamental, and therefore marriage being such a central part of culture, the wedding is an elaborate affair. The actual marriage day, called the milk and dates ceremony, is a party often limited to family. The wedding is usually a few months later, and involves the whole community. Each region has unique traditions for the wedding. Usually preparations start in the week leading up to the wedding, with all the women in the family working feverishly in the kitchen preparing traditional Moroccan cookies and pastries for the guests that will come. All the community and friends are invited, and family come from all over the country. A day or two before the wedding, the bride will take a trip to the hammam (public bath house) with some female friends and family members, to get ready for her wedding. Some time after the hammam, more women will come and the bride will celebrate a henna party. During this party, she gets elaborate henna on her hands and feet to adorn herself for her wedding, while her friends talk and laugh and dance to very loud music.
The day of the wedding is a frenzied day; with all the women trying to get their hair all done up and make sure that everything is just right. Some weddings start in the afternoons; however, most only start at night. Guests start arriving anywhere from 8pm till 10pm , always at least a couple of hours after the stated invite time. Women arrive looking like princesses in beautiful kaftans, stunning hair, and traditional shoes. At some point, the guests are gathered around tables to provide them with dinner. They are usually served with two very delicious meals of chicken and meat; always served in a mouth-watering sauce, and accompanied with bread for dipping. After dinner, the tables are cleared away and people are rearranged around the dance floor and the thrones for the bride and groom. At some point, loud Arabic music will start, and some will begin dancing. Others will try screaming to talk to each other, while waiters begin bringing around Moroccan cookies and tea. No one is ever quite sure when a wedding will start as people just kind of drift in, and it starts when it starts.
At the same time, the bride is in some other house eating dinner with her closer family. Then people start getting her ready. There never seems to be any rush. At some point she will be taken outside and put on a special carrying device called a table, and carried high in the air by four men or women. She will be accompanied by her close family, loud trumpets, and huge flowers, as she is carried slowly to the place of the wedding party. Sometimes she does not arrive at the party until around midnight . When she arrives she is paraded around on her table, to the obvious delight of all the guests. Then she is sat on the throne. The groom will also arrive at a similar time, sometimes with the bride, sometimes with his own set of people. In the city, the bride usually enters the party in a Western white traditional dress. Throughout the party, the bride changes several times. In addition to the white wedding dress, her repertoire usually includes several beautiful kaftans with the beautiful colour-coded jewellery that compliments it, and the tradition wedding costume for her region. The wedding party usually lasts all night, while the bride and groom rotate between sitting on the throne, changing clothes, being paraded around on their tables, and a little dancing. The guests enjoy a night full of traditional Moroccan dancing, and the traditional treats that keep being passed around. By the morning, guests are usually quite ready for their beds, and the bride and groom are seen off with great noise and celebration, much to the delight of sleeping neighbours.