A wedding is a big deal in any culture, but this it’s an especially meaningful occasion for Samoans. The ceremony is usually huge and generally turns into a large (and expensive) party with distant family member, friends and neighbours invited from near and far.
Almost half of Samoans are religious (Christian and Catholic), so the ceremony is officiated by a minister or a priest, however that’s where the similarities end with a traditional Christian wedding…
Here’s what type of customs you can expect if you’re heading to a Samoan wedding, or you’re marrying a Samoan bride or groom!
1. A Wedding Dress From the In-Laws
It’s traditionally a sign of respect to the groom’s family that the bride wears one of her in-laws’ dresses to the ceremony. The dress can be from the groom’s mother or sister, depending on what size fits. After the ceremony, the bride is free to change into her own choice of gown for the reception, but many opt for a tradition Samoan floral gown that shows respect to her own heritage.
The groom generally wears a lavalava (wrap-around skirt) with a long white shirt over the top. If the wedding is outdoors, then the groom can be shirtless. Some of the female guests will wear a muumuus which is a loose and brightly coloured dress with a tropical Samoan floral pattern.
2. A Traditional Feast
The main course of a Samoan wedding feast usually includes a delicious menu of roast chicken and pork that is often cooked in an underground rock-lined oven called an umu. The menu can also include canned corn beef, boiled taro in coconut juice, Samoan chop suey (which is made from bean noodles, soy sauce and corned beef) and a Macaroni salad is often added as a side dish.
3. Entertainment (Lots of It)!
After the guests finish eating, the bride is invited up in a floral skirt and a flower crown or a rose in her hair. She then dances and the guests are expected to stick paper money to her body as a sign of wealth in their marriage. She is usually moisturised in coconut oil to make her body glow, making the money sticks to her better. Her new husband also dances close to her as a sign of support and care.
While guests are eating their delicious home-cooked meal, they are entertained by performers who are either hired or part of the family. They perform dances called the Taualuga (male) and the Siva, which is performed by the daughter or sisters of the couple.
The Samoan Hulu is also performed by the bride for her new husband. It is a sign of respect and love for the husband. The Taualuga dance is performed by the woman of the couple’s family, can be the sisters and the mother. It is performed very elegantly and looks effortless to do. The dance is a sign of beauty for the bride and how she will become a great mother.
4. Everyone’s Invited (or not)!
It is common to have more than 100 uninvited guests at your wedding, as nearly everyone will bring two or three extra family members. Even though in some other cultures this might see impolite, it’s perfectly normal in the Samoan culture.
5. Heavy Duty Cakes
Before the couple cut their cake, they first have to acknowledge their priest, family and performers. A Samoan wedding is seen as a huge social event where family and friends come together to enjoy the union of two lives. One Fairy reveals that at her Samoan wedding, she had more than 300 people attend (with many who hadn’t RSVPed) and she had to cut 29 layers of cake!
Images from Avelima’s wedding. Photography by Rodney Macuja and The Paris Photographer