Don’t you find different marriage customs interesting throughout the world? My ears perk up when a guide says, “Let me tell you a little about marriage customs in my country.” Below is the history of these customs in Morocco related to us by Aziz on one of the longer bus ride days. According to him, these were the customs in the “olden days”, pre-2002. Modern men and women now arrange their own marriages but the old ways still linger in isolated areas of Morocco:
- The prospective Groom must first ask his parent’s permission to marry. If too shy to ask directly, an uncle or other relative will intercede and do the asking. If they say no, it’s no;
- If yes, parents visit the Brides parents to discuss dowry and agree on a price. A marriage contract is then written by a Moroccan government employee with the Bride price and other agreements included. For example, the prospective Bride may be in college, want to finish her education and then work. That will be included in the marriage contract. A normally well-off Berber family that owns a car and house will include gold. Gold belts will be then part of the dowry. A thin Bride makes the Groom’s family happy. Why? Less gold in the belt. True, and not a joke; and
- A date is chosen for the marriage ceremony. It could be six months, one year, whatever. In the meantime, the Groom begins buying the dowry. Everything has to be in threes. Three caftans, three perfumes, etc. Whatever is bought must always be in threes. If the Bride-to-be changes her mind during the engagement, the Groom’s family gets everything back. If they are married and divorced, she gets to keep it all.
Wedding Day in Morocco:
- The Groom and family bring the entire dowry to an open space, lay everything out and check off against the marriage contract to make sure nothing is forgotten. Checked off the list, everything is loaded on to several horse carriages and taken to the Bride’s house in a procession, accompanied by friends and relatives, singing and dancing. Always included are one or two big sheep or a cow (definitely not intended to sit around make merry). Oh no, around 6:00-7:00 p.m. the animals are slaughtered, cooked, and eaten for dinner and the remainder of the night is spent at the Bride’s house celebrating;
- The wedding takes place over three days. On the third night, the Bride and Groom are escorted to a room to consummate the marriage. Both families wait a short distance away outside the door while the best man or best woman sits directly outside the door with a silver platter. When the marriage is consummated, the blood-stained white sheet is passed outside and put on the silver platter to show the family that she is indeed a virgin. This old tradition is only carried out in perhaps 50% of all marriages;
- The happy families (the Bride’s family probably relieved and jubilant that their daughter was a virgin) breakfast together and the guests go home with the exception of the Bride’s mother. She usually stays a few days with her newly married daughter until the Bride goes to live with the Groom’s family. The woman always lives with the man’s family and spends the rest of her life subjected to verbal and physical abuse by both her new mother-in-law and possibly her husband. Morocco now has initiatives for battered women but customs haven’t changed in rural areas. The number one topic of conversation among the women in a hamman is about how their mothers-in-law treat them; and
- Men can have four wives but the first wife must give written permission before he can take a second wive. If he has two wives, they must both give written permission before he can take a third wife. And so on. One last fact blew my mind —
Moroccans must carry their marriage contract with them at all times. If a man is innocently walking in a park or talking to a woman, he can be stopped and asked for proof that the woman is his wife. A Moroccan man can sit in a cafe with a woman but that is the only place that the police will not hassle you. Otherwise, the police can haul you off to a police station, question you and, horror of horrors, threaten to call your parents. Can you just imagine the look on an American man’s face of legal age if the police said, “I’m going to call your mother”?