Somali wedding- the women's party

Me in my Somali dress at the wedding
One of the most popular blog posts I've done has been about a Somali wedding that my husband attended in Toronto, but it was only about the men's side of the ceremony.  You can read about it here at Somali wedding.  When I was sorting photos the other day, I came across the photos of the women's party for Abdulhamid's sister, Jamila's, wedding.  She was a beautiful bride, but very differently dressed than what most American brides tend to wear.  In fact, all the wedding guests were beautifully dressed in typical Somali garb- lots of silks and gold.  Many had been to beauty parlors for fancy hairdos, and henna places to get some beautiful flowers painted on hands, arms, and even feet.  When there's a wedding, women pull out all their beautiful jewelry.  Gold is a common gift to women in their dowry, and it is often passed down through the generations. It will be typical for a middle aged woman to have a dozen gold bracelets, a hand full of rings, and several necklaces in layers.  For a normal American lady like me, it was fabulous.  I felt like I was at the Academy Awards or something like that.

I've tried to choose a few photos that convey the festivity of the women's party, but it's difficult because the whole idea behind having a separate party is that they can let their hair down and don't have to cover themselves the way they would do in a public setting.  There were no men here.  I had to find a few photos where they had head scarves, out of respect.  Not all women cover their heads, but many do.

Typical henna for partygoers
The women's party was scheduled for the night of the wedding.  The invitation said 6 pm, but people didn't really start to show up until much later...maybe 9 or 10 pm.  That's pretty normal because, as it was explained to me by a Somali woman, most Somali women have incredible responsibilities when it comes to work or family.  Most have children that still need care and they have to wait until after the family is fed, work is done, and kids are put to bed.  The bride is the last to arrive, so she showed up with much pomp and circumstance (think red carpet Hollywood style).  There was to be a buffet dinner, but I have to say, it had to be held nearly 5 hours after the planned eating time due to the late arrival of guests, and by the time we ate, there were probably 200 additional guests that showed up who were not on the original guest list so we ran out of food.  Apparently this is also expected.  A Somali wedding is a big deal.  Guests came from England, Canada, Sweden, and all corners of the US.  Women love to dress up and have fun so if there's a party, everyone wants to come.  

Usually there is dancing.  In our case, there was a DJ who played music and a singer who did traditional Somali songs.  Somali women can make this fascinating noise with their tongues that sounds a little bit like chickens clucking and they do it to celebrate weddings.  I have tried and my tongue will never work quite that way.  To hear it with several hundred women makes quite an impression.  Then there's the clapping and singing.  I didn't understand most of the words, but it makes a person feel very upbeat.  Women dance in couples and in small groups.  Everyone wants an opportunity to dance with the bride and to have a family photo made with the bride.  

I left the party at about 3 am.  It was quite a night!   In most American weddings, the bride and groom spend their first night together and leave the wedding at the same time.  In the Somali tradition, often the bride stays with the women until the next day.  The men had already had their luncheon together with just men, earlier in the day.

I can't say that I've been to anything as interesting either before or after this party.  It was a really fun time with all my sisters.
Dancing with scarves flowing overhead

Jamila, the beautiful bride


  1. So unique and beautiful, it looks like a great time! :)

  2. beautiful story i love the somali cultural clothing, music and food


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