New Horizons

I went to my first Muslim wedding on Saturday. I don't know many people who can say they've been to a Muslim wedding but it was a very enlightening experience. Our friend Chief had recently had his official wedding in Fiji (where he is originally from and his wife lived until very recently) but they wanted to have a ceremony in the U.S. so that all his family could participate.I have to admit, I didn't really know what to expect but I'm always up for new cultural experiences so I was excited about going. We arrived at the hall where the ceremony was to take place and found it lavishly decorated. There two "thrones" at the front of the room for the bride and groom and about 30 tables laid out for guests. We found a table and sat down. We were some of the first to arrive but those that were already there were dressed in beautiful traditional dress; brightly colored saris, ornate henna work on hands, men in kofias (or koffes). As the room filled up, it was clear that they had a very large extended family; there was easily 250 people there. Deanne and I made up the maybe 10 non-muslims attending but we never once felt out of place, everyone was very welcoming. When it looked like everyone had arrived, a family member who was to act as MC for the night, welcome everyone in arabic and then in English. The majority of his speech was in English but he punctuated every now and then with an arabic phrase which I discovered later were deriviatives of "God willing" etc. Afterwards, Chief and his bride Sofiana came in and took their seats facing everyone. Then a tiny young lass, can't have been older than 4 got up and recited, from memory, an arabic blessing that must have lasted at least three minutes. It was incredible. She didn't stumble once or forget a single word or line. Following here was an elderly gentleman who lead everyone in an arabic prayer as well as gave a blessing. Fortunately we had our friend Taz sitting next to us explaining what was going on, otherwise we would have been totally lost as everything "official" was done in arabic. Shortly afterwards, the celebrations began. Everyone went up to greet the bride and groom who were dressed in the most amazing outfits. Sofiana wore a stunning sari and headdress and had henna on her hands and forearms. They both looked very relaxed, all things considered. During the greetings, the MC announced that dinner was served. The food was incredible. Homemade chapatis, dall, chicken curry, rogan josh, lentils, rice. Fantastic! I love Indian food and since Fiji was originally inhabited by Indians, alot of the culture has stayed, especially the cooking. Interestingly, counter to most western weddings, the bride and groom did not eat until after all the guests had been served. After everyone had eaten, and the cake had been cut, the DJ turned off the lights and hit the disco ball. Everyone was up dancing in no time. The music was a mixture of arabic techno, arabic rap, US rap, and fijian dance music. Everyone young and old was up there dancing (except me of course.) It was great to see traditional Indian dance moves sped up to correlate with the music! I'm not sure what time the party ended but we left after about three hours. It was an eye opening experience and definitely a lot of fun. It was a great honor to be invited and I want to thank Chief and Sofiana for including us in their celebrations.