Getting married on the Fijian islands is a girl’s dream – clear blue water, white sand, and beautiful traditions can make for an unforgettable wedding.
Though modern Fijians rarely participate in arranged marriages, brides were traditionally chosen by the groom’s parents based on her tribal background. For them, the partnership was more than two people getting married, it was two families being bonded economically and socially, forever. The traditional Fijian wedding ceremony is called tevutevu. “Tevu” means to spread, and describes how Fijian families shower the new couple and in-laws with a spread of gifts like mats, cloth, pigs, whale’s teeth, and root crops.
The bride is dressed and prepared in traditional costume by her new in-laws to enter her husband’s family home for the first time on the wedding day. Her kuta, or handwoven decorated mat garment, is kept by the women dressing her to be shared with the extended family for years to come. Guests might wear masi garments, which are made of cloth from the bark of a mulberry tree hand-decorated with Fijian designs.
Like so many wedding traditions across the world, the bride makes a dramatic entrance. She can float in on a Fijian bili bili, which is a beautifully decorated raft paddled by men dressed in warrior attire. Once she’s entered her new husband’s home for the first time, the bride is given away in the Fijian nai soli tradition. This is where it gets emotional! Similarly to when a western father gives away his daughter, the Fijian bride’s uncles present a whale tooth, or tabua, and give their blessings to give her over to her new family. The groom’s uncles thank the bride’s parents and extended family for raising her and welcome her.
Afterward, the two families feast together as one. They will most certainly drink Fiji’s national drink, kava. It’s a spicy, mouth-numbing drink made from the dried roots of a pepper tree that is present at all important social gatherings. It’s painstakingly prepared by hand, and guests are expected to drink it all in one sip without spilling any. Food might be cooked by lovo, where it’s wrapped in banana leaves and heated over and pit of burning coconut husks. At their feast, it’s common to have meke entertainment. Meke is the custom where people sing and dance with traditional instruments like gongs or bamboo pipes. They tell stories of love, warriors, and tradition as a tribute to their beautiful islands. Meke is also a beautiful way to add a touch of early Fijian tradition to your otherwise modern wedding.
Photo Credit: Chloe Jackman Photography – http://188.8.131.52/chloejackman.com/public/filimoni-maca-fijian-celebration-part-1-siga-ni-sosoi-yau-fiji/
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