This week I was able to attend not just one, but two weddings! I still do not understand all of the elements of a Tongan wedding, but I will try to explain the things that I do understand. Also, there are many parts of the pre-wedding rituals that I don't know, so I will just stick to the day of.
Most Tongan weddings are done in two parts. First, the couple goes to the courthouse and to a minister to fill out all of the official paperwork for a wedding. For this part, only close family and friends attend. The second part is the couple's Sapate Taha (first Sunday). This is the first Sunday they attend church as a married couple. Lots of family and friends attend, and there is a big feast after the service.
The first wedding I attended this week was a mix of palangi and Tongan, which made for a super fun day. This couple was leaving for Australia the day after the wedding, so instead of a big celebration on Sunday after church, they did it all on the same day. There were lots of things that I am used to at wedding; exchanging rings, saying vows, cutting the wedding cake, bridesmaids and groomsmen, etc. However, it was undeniably a Tongan wedding, too. There were flower necklaces, gifts of traditional Tongan mats, roasted pigs, Tongan dances, etc. It was a great time!
The second wedding wasn't an actual wedding ceremony, just the Sunday service. At the service, the couple sat in the front, wearing white clothes with lots of fancy mats covered in shells, beads, and feathers. Their clothes were so beautiful! After church, we went to a huge feast at the groom's house. During the feast, there were fakamalo speeches (thank-you speeches) from many family members. During these speeches they offered well-wishes and advice for the new couple.
I'm so thankful I got to be a part of these weddings, they were super interesting. I have at least one more Tongan wedding to attend soon...the wedding of my friends Pa and Ashley in December. Can't wait!