In Tunisia, many couples still choose to have a traditional wedding ceremony, with traditional wedding rituals and activities. It usually lasts up to a week and is a very cheerful, loud, and colorful event. A lot of rituals are centuries-old and occur in other countries of the Arab world as well. But the most impressive feature of a Tunisian wedding is that the bride is practically covered with gold jewelry – she wears so many gold jewels that you keep wondering how she manages to stand upright with such a weight.
A typical Tunisian wedding can last from 3 days to a week or even longer. During this time, some wedding guests stay in the groom’s and bride’s homes, so you can imagine how noisy and full of vigor these days are for the couple.
But before the official wedding ceremony, the bride and groom do a lot of preparation for their marriage and future life together.
Shopping furniture and household items
It is the groom’s responsibility to provide a place to live for the future family, so he buys or inherits a house or apartment. But the bride’s responsibility is to furnish their home and make it cozy. That’s why years before the wedding, she starts shopping for furniture, fabrics, carpets, different household items, kitchen utensils, and everything her future home will need. A few days before the wedding day, the bride and her bridal party organize a small gathering where they demonstrate to the guests all of the things she has in store so that the groom knows his wife-to-be is capable of creating a cozy and comfortable home for them both.
Hammam and henna party
Both the bride and the groom prepare their bodies thoroughly for the wedding. Days before the event, they go to the hammam – separately, of course. The bride takes her girls (girl-friends, sisters, and other relatives) and the groom his boys and they relax in a spa, have a massage, skincare treatment, and so on.
After that, the ladies have a henna party. They invite a professional henna tattoo artist and have their hands and feet painted. This is a Tunisian variant of a bachelorette party.
The groom also has a bachelor party the same evening. He spends time in a restaurant or at home with his friends and family members.
On the morning of the event, the groom with a procession of cars and musicians playing folk music goes to the bride’s house to take his bride to the wedding ceremony. Car horns, ululating (Tunisian weddings always are accompanied by high-pitched sounds made by people), singing, and music are heard. The groom carries a number of gifts for his wife-to-be – clothing, fabrics, perfumes, jewels, etc.
This is the day when the marriage papers are signed.
Tunisian couples often wear white traditional garments on the first day of the wedding celebration, during the wedding contract signing. The bride is dressed in a long white kaftan dress and a white veil, the groom wears a white harir jebba robe. Both outfits are embellished with gold embroidery. If a couple wants to wear something more modern, they can be dressed in Western-style wedding clothes – a white gown and a suit.
Tunisian couple in white wedding outfits
During the wedding reception and celebration, the newlyweds change into other wedding garments. The bride wears a brightly colored or gold-colored attire with plenty of jewelry and adornments. Sometimes, her whole upper body, down to the waist, is practically covered with gold jewels and beaded jewels – necklaces, earrings, temple rings, pendants, chokers, finger rings, bracelets, etc. And don’t forget about Tunisian traditional kholkhal anklets, a gift from the groom.
After the marriage license is signed, a cheerful celebration begins. People eat, dance, sing, hug and congratulate each other and the newlyweds. Arab weddings are usually very noisy and accompanied by extremely loud music.
The bride dances a special wedding dance and shows off her henna tattoos and jewels. The other guests also dance for hours.
Tunisian bride in traditional gold wedding attire dancing wedding dance
Most of the night, the newlyweds sit on their ornate chairs on a stage, receive congratulations, and take photos with a never-ending flow of wedding guests.
The celebration lasts to the late hours or even dawn. Sometimes, the feast may continue a few days in a row.
After the wedding festivities at least are over, the husband and wife go on their honeymoon.