A Somali Wedding in London

In my last post I mentioned that one of my cousins living in London was getting married. It was wonderful. More in “look at all this great food” sense rather than “aww, what a sweet couple they make” sense. To be fair, they seemed like a very nice couple together, but my main concern was pigging out on the impressive feast of Somali food there. My mum and sister told me off a couple of times for snatching up all the sambusas and I left with one heck of a food baby, which no one could see under my guntiino (loose fitting Somali dress).

While I won’t add any photos from my cousin’s wedding, I found quite a few photos from other UK based Somali weddings (and elsewhere) to give you all a picture of what it was like. Also, you can take a look at 2nukollection’s post on Blogspot where she has some several photos of a British-Somali wedding. Another nice post with some info plus a video can be found on worldinmybackyard.com.

If you are ever invited to a Somali wedding, the first thing to take care of is finding the right dirac or guntiino to wear for the occasion. Some women use it as an excuse for a trip to Dubai (lucky bitches), but sadly we didn’t have enough prep time (or funds) to do such a thing.

A dirac is more commonly worn, especially by older women. They’re large, colourful and made of soft, silky material.

 

The other most popular option is the guntiino, as mentioned, which is also made of nice silky material and is wrapped over one shoulder. With a guntiino you would normally leave your hair uncovered and your shoulders bare, but I’ve seen them worn in a variety of ways before.

 

Sometimes men and women will celebrate together in one aroos (after party) and other times the men and women celebrate separately. The ceremony itself is nearly always mixed. My cousin’s had the men and women party separately. The aroos is also something that starts late in the evening (say 9pm-ish) and goes on into the night. Sometimes they last only one night, others they last for days. My guess is that they tend to be shorter in the UK since work is less flexible and people need to be somewhere in the morning.

Weddings that take place in the UK and probably many other Western countries where Somalis live usually take a more Western approach than in Somalia. For example, it’s uncommon for the groom’s family to pay meher (dowry) to the brides’s family, or at least in the cases I’m aware of. I’ve sometimes heard of ‘meher’ being used to talk about the engagement, but I’m more used to it meaning dowry.  Also the ceremonies in the UK focus more on the couple rather than the family as a whole. In a traditional Somali wedding, neither the bride nor groom actually has to attend; their families can arrange it all on their behalf.A bride might also wear a Western style wedding dress and there may be a wedding cake. I’ve never actually been to a wedding in Somalia (or Kenya or Ethiopia for that matter), but I know many who have and they’re always keen to describe every detail.

In both the West and Somalia the bride is decorated in wonderful henna designs. My sister and I wore a little henna ourselves, but were careful not to make it too elaborate. To have nicer henna than the bride would probably be similar to wearing a white dress at a Western wedding i.e. not recommended.

 

No matter where the wedding is being held, there will likely be an abundance in Somali treats! Lots of xalwo (Somali sweets) and sambusas (otherwise known as samosas) plus much more.

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I’m no longer in London, so perhaps the updates will be more frequent from now on (hopefully). That said, I have exams soon and should be spending as much time as I can bare hitting the books. A nice update now and again could make a decent study break though.

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4 responses to “A Somali Wedding in London

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