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Wedding Bliss: Tourists wed in traditional Fijian costumes made from tapa.

... eaten.

The next ceremony, na loku bogi, occurs when elder mata from the mans mataqali visit the girls family to announce the proposed marriage date.

In the past, in formally arranged marriages, courtship was not allowed. The bride and groom only met on the wedding day itself.

The traditional marriage ceremony is called vakawati which means taking a husband or wife.

The religious (church) ceremony is called vakamau derived from the Tongan word fakamau meaning to confirm. The way the ceremony is performed varies in different social circles.

At a chiefly wedding, mats are spread on the floor of a house specially built for the couple or a house loaned for the occasion.

The house usually belongs to someone from the mans mataqali. This custom i butubutu is performed on the day itself.

When the ceremony is held in a church, the i butubutu is placed before the altar or communion table and the couple stand on this. After the Christian ceremony is over, any masi worn by the bride and bridegroom are removed and left on the i butubutu. The masi and i butubutu are given to the minister.

More traditional ceremonies are held after the wedding ceremony. Usually there is a wedding feast or as is the norm nowadays, a reception.

Wedding customs and ceremonies differ in different parts of Fiji. In Lau, for example, a long piece of gatu (Tongan tapa or masi cloth) is spread between the brides parents house and her husbands.

If she comes from another village, it is spread between the house where she is staying and her husbands.

The man, together with his male relatives, then goes to the girls house and presents a long piece of masi and a tabua to her relatives.

He does this in silence her relatives accept it with cobo and saying vinaka. The visitors return home and the ceremony is repeated by the girls relatives. They exchange gifts back and forth until one side runs out.

At dusk, women from the girls mataqali go to the newly weds house where they perform a ceremony called i tevutevu or i tevu ibe.

Each person (in the order of their social standing) places a mat on the floor where the couple will sleep, one mat on top of the other. The brides mother is usually the last to spread a mat.

These days, bedding pillows, blankets, sheets and mosquito nets are also given. The girls close relatives also present mats and tabua. And they hang up a large gatu to separate the sleeping area from the rest of the house.

The mans female relatives present similar gifts after the girls relatives have returned home.

The mans mataqali prepare feasts which they present (with tabuas) to the girls family. There are two feasts one, i vola ni yalewa, is presented to the girls mother.

The other, magiti ni tevutevu is presented to her mataqali. They then invite the bride to occupy her new home by presenting her mataqali with tabua called i lakovi ni yalewa.

Clothed in masi, she is formally taken to her new home carrying a tabua known as i kaukau. Meanwhile, her husband waits for (a tabua in hand) in their new home. Once she crosses the threshold, the masi and tabua are exchanged.

The couple then sit down to their first evening meal (i vakayakavi) together. This is a small meal of the magiti ni tevutevu. After eating, they wash their hands in sweet scented coconut oil (waiwai).

This is the signal for her relatives to claim anything used in the meal. Entertainment usually follows after which the newly weds retire behind the gatu.

Another feast is prepared the next morning by the mans mataqali. Called the i dola ni duba, it is presented to the girls people. It is done to dertermine the girls virginity.

This is done by looking at a baked pig. A hole in the pigs rump means the girl was not a virgin when she married. This leads to bitter words between the two mataqali and the ceremony ends abruptly as the girls mataqali go home.

But if there are no such signs, there is great rejoicing which lasts four days. During this time, the couple are confined to their house and forbidden to bathe. They are supplied with cooked food.

This is also the time, the girls relatives present a tabua to her husbands people asking them to look after her. Called the i tataulaki, it signifies that the girl has now been handed over to her husband and has become a member of his family. She remains a member of his mataqali until he dies.

On the fifth day, the bride is taken by her husbands female relatives to bathe in the sea or a nearby river.

The women also fish this ceremony is called vakasobusobu. While she is out, her husband and his male relatives prepare vakalolo (a Fijian sweet).

Prior to their return, the women string together all the fish caught. They put the fish and a tabua in the girls fishing basket (noke) which is given to her parents.

Her husbands people then give her dry clothing and a large piece of masi in a ceremony called i vakamamaca.

A final feast called na magiti ni cece ibe ends the wedding ceremonies. Women from both sides divide among themselves all the presents found in the house occupied by the newlyweds. Some of these wedding customs and traditions are no longer followed.

But the majority are still practiced today adding to the pomp and ceremony of the Fijian wedding.





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