Rabat – Ever since my first high school prom in 2014, I knew I would not fare well in situations that required me to dress up, get my hair and makeup done, take pictures, dance, and socialize.
I remember crying in my bedroom that brisk spring afternoon while my date for the dance waited downstairs, making awkward small talk with my mom and step-dad.
I stared at my 16-year-old self in the mirror, hating what I saw. I looked like I hadn’t put any effort into my appearance, but I was too insecure to make any noticeable changes with my hair or makeup. I dreaded going to the group photoshoot at my friend’s house, knowing that I would hate every single picture of myself.
“My wedding is going to be a nightmare,” I declared on May 2, 2014.
Despite how I might describe it, my Moroccan wedding ceremony was not the worst experience of my life. Not by any means.
It was, however, one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life thus far. And that’s not because it was colored by a different religion or culture than my own. It was because I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
I can blame myself and my linguistic deficiencies. But I can also blame my wonderful husband, Amine, who did not adequately prepare me for this day.
When we first began discussing marriage, Amine and I agreed that we wanted a winter wedding. We both get hot easily, and we both hate sweating.
Well, sometimes things just don’t go as planned.
The dog days of August
So here we were, on the day of our wedding ceremony, which had been planned by his parents just a few days prior.
It was August 30, 2019. The hottest day of the summer. Look it up, I’m not kidding.
We were supposed to have a “small” ceremony at his parents’ apartment in Temara, a suburb of Rabat. I was expecting to see his parents, his brother, a couple of cousins, and a few aunts—15 people at most.
After climbing four flights of stairs, sweating buckets, I approached the door to the apartment. The door was open, but there was barely any noise coming from inside. Imagine my surprise when I walked in, glanced to the right, and saw about 20 women sitting in silence.
I smiled awkwardly, and they stared back. I gave a little wave, and they did their high-pitched ululations. The first of many more to come.
“Am I supposed to know these women?” I whispered to my husband, as I didn’t recognize any of them.
“No,” he replied simply.
He then ushered me into a bedroom, where I found my Aunt Saida and her two sons, my Aunt Bouchra and her two sons, and my brother-in-law. After greeting everyone, all I could do was stand there and smile while Amine interacted with his family.
When it was about time to eat, I learned that there were another 20 guests, all men, waiting for my husband in a neighbor’s apartment downstairs. Apparently, a “small” Moroccan gathering includes 50 plus people. Who knew?
I was on my own for the next 45 minutes, though it felt like hours.
I sat at one of the round tables and smiled at the women who were already there, trying to figure out if I knew any of them. I didn’t. I was dripping sweat and fanning myself profusely—so profusely that the fan actually broke, and I needed to borrow another from one of my aunts.
The food was delicious, although I struggled to eat with my hands and made a mess. Nothing new there.
After finishing the meal, I stared at the door, pining for my husband. I was relieved when he finally arrived and we sat together in another room with his best friend, brother, and cousins.
My brother-in-law, Aymane, put on some traditional music and started to dance. Some of my aunts and cousins joined him. It was lovely until they insisted Amine and I dance, too.
I am a very bad dancer, and so is my husband. I won’t go into detail. Just know we did our best.
The woman who was supposed to do everyone’s henna, who I will henceforth refer to as “the henna lady,” was more than an hour late. After my mother-in-law ripped her a new one over the phone, she finally showed up, which meant it was time to put on my kaftan.
The henna lady and my two aunts escorted me into a bedroom and told me to undress. They helped me put on the garment, which was a beautiful jade green color with gold details, but I felt sad that I didn’t have a say in choosing it. Even though it was huge, they remarked that it fit me perfectly.
The instant I looked at myself in the mirror, I began having flashbacks to my high school prom.
I had already sweat nearly all of my makeup off, and my hair had gone flat. My aunts tried to give my hair a half-up, half-down type of look. It didn’t work, and I ended up leaving my hair as it was.
Just like my first prom, I looked like I didn’t put any effort into my appearance. Stumbling around in my giant sparkly frock, I felt like a little girl playing dress-up.
The bedroom door opened and I was greeted by a blur of ululations and loud music. I smiled and waved to the 30 people who faced me. Now what?
I looked back at my aunts, hoping for some instruction. All they offered was ululations. Perhaps they thought I knew what to do next. I didn’t.
Nervous thoughts swirled around in my head. Where am I supposed to go? Should I just stand here? Do they want me to dance? Are we doing something? Why didn’t Amine tell me what to do?
I cautiously walked down the aisle of trilling women until I entered another room. I looked back for assistance, and the henna lady pointed to a couch that had been adorned with a blanket and pillows that resembled my kaftan.
Fair enough. I shuffled over and sat down, and the guests filled in the couches around me.
My husband finally joined me, and I felt relieved again. But the embarrassment didn’t stop here.
The henna lady did my henna, which was great, except I could no longer move my hair out of my face, adjust my kaftan, or wipe the sweat off my face. Did I mention how hot it was that day?
There was also some confusion regarding where I was supposed to get henna, since I couldn’t communicate with the henna lady and my husband was too distracted to translate for me. I’m sure I offended her when I said I didn’t want it on the palms of my hands or on my feet. In my defense, I didn’t know what was expected of me.
I did end up getting henna on my feet, so everyone got a good look at—and pictures of—my weird-looking, un-pedicured toes.
Smile, you’re married!
I spent the next two hours sitting on that couch and smiling for pictures. Oh, and sweating.
This was probably the worst part of the entire experience. I didn’t feel beautiful, I couldn’t fix my unstyled hair, I was stiff from having my henna’d feet elevated, and I didn’t understand the instructions people were giving me for poses.
To be honest, I really don’t care that the ceremony was uncomfortable for me or that none of my family were present. Everyone else had a good time, and I think that’s more important. If anything, it’s a funny story to tell.
What I do care about, though, is those damn pictures and how underwhelming I look in them. I’m a bride, for goodness sake! I should look like a princess, not a child performing in a school play.
Your wedding pictures are supposed to help you remember one of the most important and happiest days of your life. As much as it hurts to say, I absolutely hate mine.
I don’t want to show my future children my wedding photos. I’m even reluctant to show them to my family and friends. I posted one on Instagram, but I feel embarrassed every time I look at it.
I want to reflect on my wedding and smile. Instead, I think about it and cringe.
Are there bigger problems in the world? Yes. Do I have more important things to care about? Absolutely. Are my wedding pictures really that bad? Probably not.
But am I allowed to be sad that I hate them? Yes, and I will not be told otherwise.
What really matters
Despite my frustration and embarrassment, I do not resent anyone for my flop of a wedding. My personal regrets are no one’s responsibility but my own.
Sure, I would have appreciated having a say in the dress, the date, or the guest list, but ultimately my fairytale experience was ruined by my own unpreparedness and insecurities.
But I have to remind myself that disappointing pictures are not the end of the world. They can be redone.
Wedding photos, no matter how special they are, will never be able to capture the love I feel from my husband and his family. The memories I make with them will always be more valuable than my memories of the ceremony, and I am eternally grateful for this truth.
As my father-in-law would say, “Alhamdulillah.”
Photo Credit: Morgan Hekking/MWN