Weddings are probably among the most favourite occasions that people attend. They are times of great rejoicing, of celebration.
Weddings are also fascinating places to be. Fascinating because of the pomp and ceremony involved with customs and traditions that add to the flavour of this special occasion.
No wedding is the same. Wedding customs and traditions vary between races, cultures and countries.
In Fiji, marriage customs differ slightly between different provinces. In most countries, weddings can only go ahead after the father of the bride-to-be has given his permission.
In most cases either the bridegroom or his parents visit the girl’s father to ask for her hand in marriage.
And this is also true for Fiji and Fijian weddings. In fact there are so many ceremonies that take place before, during and after a wedding – these differ from place to place.
Generally before a marriage can take place, the prospective bridegroom seeks permission in the traditional manner from his intended’s father.
In a chiefly wedding, members of the man’s mataqali (clan) approach the girl’s father, taking with them several tabua (whale’s teeth). Each side has a traditional spokesman – known as mata.
The host’s mata speaks first – welcoming the visitors. The visitors’ mata then speaks – explaining the reason for the trip. This formal speech is called Na vakasavu i tukutuku or formal proposal.
When he finishes, the host’s mata then says “Vakavitu!” to which the hosts says “Vakawalu!”
He acknowledges the news saying “may the girl be yours. Mana!” His people immediately say “ye dina!” and all those present cobo (clap).
This reply is called na kena ulivi ni tukutuku. The head of the visiting mataqali then presents a tabua to his host – this is called i duguci. At this point, the girl’s father leaves the place and formally informs his daughter.
The father can, however, refuse the proposal by presenting a tabua in return to the visitors.
This form of refusal is called ai diri. But if the proposal is successful the visitors are served yaqona or kava which is not part of the formalities. Betrothal is completed when the girl has been informed – called na tabai lago or a vosa yalewa. The formal betrothal ceremony if called veimusumusuki.
Members of the girl’s mataqali visit the man’s family shortly after the veimusumusuki. The return visit (called vakadonumata) is to confirm the marriage.
During this visit, members of the host family present a mataqali buta (a feast of baked food) to their visitors. They take it back to their own village where it is divided and...