Somali weddings are big and plentiful, and even more so in the diaspora. A modern Somali wedding held in America or Europe may cost up to $500,000. And it’s understandable because it’s common for a wedding to last for 7 days – 7 days of celebrating, eating, drinking, dancing, singing, communicating, performing wedding rituals, etc. All this with chic and on a large scale. But except for huge wedding expenses, there are many other interesting things about Somali weddings.
Week of celebrating, together and separately
A Somalian wedding typically lasts for 7 days. The first day is for the wedding ceremony itself, during the next 3 days, the guests celebrate at the bride’s house, and the last 3 days are spent at the groom’s house. On some of these nights, all of the wedding guests are feasting in the same space, but there are nights when men and women celebrate separately. They sing, dance, eat, joke, and have fun doing whatever activities they prefer. Usually, the festivities start in the afternoon and last until midnight.
Imam as wedding officiant
Most Somali people are Muslims, so it’s traditional to invite an imam as a wedding officiant. He leads the traditional Islamic wedding ceremony, reads the Koran, and gives the couple a blessing from the Koran.
No alcohol and fresh slices of beef for guests
Somalian weddings usually include a large feast. Plenty of different foods and drinks are served, although the drinks are non-alcoholic because Muslims don’t drink alcohol. There is a unique Somali tradition for the couple to serve each wedding guest fresh slices of just slaughtered beef.
For wealthier Somalians, it’s important to show off their grand wedding. So, the usual tradition of exchanging gifts often turns into a fancy occasion, with presenting jewelry, money, and various costly gifts. The bride’s family prepares presents for the groom’s family and vice versa. And the guests offer wedding gifts to the couple while receiving wedding favors in return.
Bride comes first
Unlike American brides who come to the wedding venue together with their grooms, Somali brides come to the reception hall first. The bride and her wedding party (her mother, sisters, female friends and relatives) enters the reception and the bride takes her seat facing the guest tables. After a few hours, the groom and his groomsmen arrive. He sits next to his bride and the feast begins.
Shaash Saar ceremony
On the last day of the wedding, the bride and her half of the wedding guests celebrate separately from the groom and his relatives. One specific wedding ritual is held on this night. The bride, dressed in Somali traditional attire, is circled by the guests, each of them sings and places a scarf on her head to show their respect for her becoming a married woman. This event is called “Shaash Saar”. The bride gets to keep all these scarves and wear them in her married life.