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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Samoan Bridal Toss

I grew up listening to the songs from "South Pacific", especially the haunting tune of Bali Hi, so it's really fun for me to bring you a blog from that colorful, fascinating region of the world. Today our blog takes us to the exotic and romantic South Pacific island of Samoa, off the coast of New Zealand to listen in as Nicole reminisces about some of the fascinating wedding customs of her adopted culture. Unfortunately, the photos never arrived so I’ve substituted some generic pictures of Samoan weddings. Enjoy!

As a missionary to New Zealand, I wasn't too surprised when I met the man of my dreams on the mission field. Jarrett is a native of Samoa, one of the beautiful islands of the South Pacific. I am an All-American girl from the great state of Kentucky, so I guess our relationship has been anything but traditional. I was living in South Africa when we met, but I moved to New Zealand when I realized he was the man I was meant to marry.

We opted to get married in New Zealand, mainly because his family is very large. Jarrett has six siblings and I only have one. Transporting a handful of Kentuckians was by far the simplest solution.

As a little girl, I had planned and dreamed about the ‘perfect’ wedding day, but marrying a Samoan altered my pre-conceived ideas in a hurry!

The wedding ceremony itself was quite American--the church, the dress, the bridesmaids. When it came to the reception I originally wanted a small, intimate gathering, but nothing about a Samoan wedding celebration is small. So I relinquished my "wedding planning duties" to the groom’s family and let them do the reception their way.

I quickly became aware that invitations do not have to be sent for guests by the hundreds to line-up for a fully catered meal (complete with roasted pig). In America it is not kosher for someone to come to a formal wedding uninvited, but my wedding included over 300 uninvited guests! My new in-laws, of course, knew this would happen and were well prepared.
During a wedding ceremony, Samoans believe in honoring the bride and groom, not just once, but over and over again. There are dances and songs and other interesting traditions, including the ‘bride toss’. When the reception began I was hoisted into the air and bounced and bopped around while the family sang and cheered. After a wild ride, Jarrett's brothers came to my rescue and lowered me back to safety.

Later, Jarrett's aunt came out to honor us with a Samoan dance. She laid flat on the floor and began gyrating her body in ways I didn't realize were possible. I was informed that Jarrett and I were to take turns putting a foot on her back as a way to honor our wedding vows (I'm still not really sure what it all meant). I made it through the serenade without laughing or crying...but it wasn't easy.

Next, the groom and all the native Samoans changed out of their "church-appropriate clothes" and put on traditional Samoan clothing. My husband and the groomsman (all of Jarrett's brothers) dressed in something that looked like a sarong and danced for me (It was very sweet)...but they were jumping around like frogs and slapping the ground with their hands. I thoroughly enjoyed the dance but it was one of those moments where I thought, "This wouldn't happen in America...unless there was alcohol."

It is also customary for the Samoan bride (that would be me) to do a traditional dance for her new husband. So, the spotlight and all eyes fell on me and I fought through the embarrassment and did my best impersonation of a Samoan hula. Half-way through the dance my father is suppose to join me in the hula...but being the shy Kentuckian he is, he just couldn't do it. Later, I did get my dad on the dance floor, but it had no association to hula dancing. During our father-daughter dance, my dad and I interjected a little "Kentucky flare" as we cranked up an Alan Jackson tune. I was later told by my Samoan family that this was the highlight of the day!

When the time came to cut the 29 layer cake (Yes, really. twenty-nine layers), the Samoan custom is to first acknowledge family, pastors, and others who had played an instrumental
role in my and Jarrett's relationship. Each person was individually honored and then everyone at the wedding was served a pinky-size sliver of cake, not the big slices like we get in America. Even I was served the pinky sliver! Thank goodness we saved the top layer for our one year anniversary so I can finally get a bigger piece then.

When Samoans do a wedding, they never want to stop. Our wedding started at 10am and the festivities continued until around 11pm. The thirteen hour extravaganza was nothing I could have imagined or dreamed up as a child. It was far greater and certainly more unique.

After one year in New Zealand I'm still learning the culture and adapting to my newlywed life, but I'm more in love with my Samoan husband today than the day I said "I do". And I am happy to say I not only survived my Samoan-American wedding, I can truly say it was a day I will never forget!


Blogger CrystalGB said...

What a wonderful wedding you had. Thank you for sharing. :)

July 24, 2008 at 6:47 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Your cake is just crazy...in a good way, but wow! 29 layers! I have never heard of such a large cake and I am so happy that I was blessed to see your pictures. Best wishes on your new marriage.

July 24, 2008 at 8:41 AM  
Anonymous JoLynn Backes said...

I love learning about different wedding customs. Thanks for sharing!

July 24, 2008 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger robynl said...

a 29 layer cake that stayed upright all day; unbelievable. Wow!! What a long day for the groom and bride and having to be a part of everything. But it sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing.

July 24, 2008 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Brandy said...

The bride toss sounded scary and yet fun at the same time! And twenty-nine layered cake? WOW!
What interesting and FUN wedding cutoms!

July 24, 2008 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Julie Hilton Steele said...

Even things like the license plate request are different and make for great story telling in the future!

Peace, Julie

July 24, 2008 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Cheri2628 said...

This was a very interesting article. The wedding sounds fun, but exhausting. I hope that you can post your wedding pictures at a later date. What a memorable day you had!

July 24, 2008 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Ellen said...

I am always interested in reading about weddings in other societies so I enjoy hearing about yours.

July 25, 2008 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Nathalie said...

That cake is huge! It must have been a hazard to bring it in!

July 27, 2008 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Cynthya said...

Wow, that was some wedding! It's fascinating to hear about the different customs. That is an amazing cake. I'd love to have seen the dancing, too.

July 27, 2008 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger Lily said...

29 layers... What a cake!

July 30, 2008 at 2:34 PM  
OpenID asdf963 said...

definitely more fitted for younger brides who wish to wear something artistic wedding and dresses rich, fun and creative, while the simple and clean silhouettes are more adequate for prom dresses older brides who want something sleek and purely elegant wedding dress You can also find stunning elevated dropped waist silhouettes and modified A-line styles that wedding dresses can be more fitted for off the beat brides who would like to wear something bolder and perhaps more provocative wedding gowns

March 25, 2011 at 12:20 AM  

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