Samoan Wedding Traditions

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The Samoan culture is all about friendship and family and there are few occasions for celebration which beat a wedding for getting all of those nearest and dearest together, which is why a wedding in Samoa is a truly big deal!

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Samoan Engagements

 Social standing is extremely important in Samoan communities, so although couples might make their own love matches, it has to be with someone of equal social standing so that their families will consent to the match. This approval is absolutely essential, and once granted, gifts will be passed between the families to demonstrate their unity, respect and equality. As such, the whole dating process is much more like ancient courting practices: the couple are usually only together in the presence of other members of the families, until the time of the actual wedding.

Because Samoan families understand the need to have everyone together to bond both of the families, as much as to see their children united in marriage, the costs are usually shared between both families, as a Samoan wedding has a real go large factor and can be extremely expensive!

 Samoan Wedding Ceremonies

Most weddings are faith based usually a range of versions of Christianity, Mormon or Bahai. As such, the wedding may take place in the relevant local church or chapel, or outdoors, with a simple ceremony which usually lasts no longer than an hour.
Its custom for the reception to immediately follow the wedding. This is customarily held at the home of the brides family but because these events can involve so many people, most receptions take place outside.

Just like Cuban and Jamaican weddings, having a large feast served by both families is a key part of celebrating this new whole family unity, but there are several unique customs which come into play with the feasting:

♥ Guests are seated according to their status and once all the guests have arrived, the bride then honors them with a traditional dance, before they can start eating.

♥ Guests are traditionally served by representatives of both families, usually older children. They serve the guests in order of their social status (in relation to the families and to the community, if the weddings a big community affair)!

♥ The emphasis is on plenty as a show of generosity and social standing, so there is usually far too much food. Its fully expected that guests will bring along their own children, not to join the feast, but to bring baskets, which the children fill with food and then take home for later!

♥ The centerpiece of a traditional Samoan wedding feast is the wedding cake. Like the American and European wedding cake, the Samoan wedding cake is also tiered but not just vertically, it also extends horizontally across the table! The custom is that the cake will be cut and served for guests at the wedding, but again in order of social standing. These outward extending layers are kept whole and presented to special guests (usually those of high social standing in the local community).

 Samoan Wedding Partying!

♥ The cake is served after the main feast, but first the best man is required to give his speech to the seated guests. His speech usually includes blessings to the couple.

Instead of the subtle envelopes of wedding gift giving in other cultures, like at Chinese and Japanese weddings, to help off-set the costs of the wedding, the Samoan tradition is for the new couple (and their families) to bestow gifts upon their guests as part of the reception (usually after the feasting). 

 The general custom is that the gifts relate to the social standing of the recipient and help the new couple to establish their own new family position in the community. The range of this gift giving is one of the things which makes a Samoan wedding so expensive for the families involved and its not uncommon for them to ask everyone in the family, including distant relatives, to help by chipping in a donation towards the costs of these celebrations!

Having a bit of gift-giving after the feasting helps the guests to have a bit of quiet digestion time too, because once the gifts are handed over, traditional Samoan music, dancing and celebrations will start in earnest. Its custom for the party to go on well into the night!

Samoan Wedding Clothes

The Samoans have a very distinct tradition in relation to bridal attire on the day, which is fully rooted in both sides of the family wanting to be a part of this important aspect of the brides day and also about wanting her to look her very best! Its customary in Samoa for the bride to have two wedding outfits: one for the ceremony and one for the wedding reception.

 So, tradition holds that the families on both sides will present her with different choices of dresses for the day, as a gift to her. A diplomatic bride will of course choose one dress from either side of the family, one each to wear for the different parts of the day!

As the majority of weddings are versions of a traditional Christian wedding ceremony, the actual ceremony dress is likely to be a white wedding gown and veil. The bride will literally change out of this dress once the ceremony is over, so that she can attend the reception in her second gown.

Unique Traditions

♥ Now then, theres an old tradition which largely no longer exists (although it may in more remote village communities) The thing is, its customary for the bride to be a virgin before her marriage, so of course the wedding night activities are seen as the ultimate test of this. Once the couple go off to bed, it would be on a bed covered with pristine white sheets. 

 It was then customary for women of both families to, er watch the activities (at a discreet distance) and then check the sheets after the event! Because a lack of blood as evidence would bring great shame on the brides family, its not unheard of for one of the brides female relative to carry a small knife and a chicken so that they could ensure some blood would be present!

♥ If you happen to be visiting a Samoan village when a wedding is taking place, its not unexpected to be invited along to join in the fun. The Samoans are tremendously hospitable and happily include visiting tourists in the event, and joining in respectfully is a way of honouring both the families and the Samoan culture.

♥ If youre marrying in Samoa but dont know too much about local wedding traditions, its worth investigating carefully. You need to honor the right guests and not muddle Samoan customs with Hawaiian ones, as failing to honor the right people and reflecting Hawaiians, rather than Samoan customs, is considered something of an insult in Samoan culture!

♥ Its worth being aware that if a non-Samoan man marries into a Samoan family, he is expected to provide for the whole family even if this means bringing all of them, as well as his new bride, back to his homeland with him.