Samoan culture is based strongly on community, family and friends, so a Samoan wedding is usually quite the affair, with two families becoming one, and a significantly extravagant guestlist.
Whether you have been to Samoa or not, its a beautiful place and it’s very interesting to highlight the unique Samoan wedding traditions and compare them with your own cultural traditions, regardless of where you are from.
Here are 11 amazing Samoan wedding traditions you may not know about already:
Weddings are paid for by both sides:
Both families share the burden of the costs of the wedding, but typically, there are some strings attached to this. In Samoan culture, status is extremely important and not all people are considered equal, unfortunately. This means that not all unions are considered suitable.
Both families must approve the match:
As such, engagements must be approved by both families before a wedding may be planned. Once this approval has occurred, the families exchange various gifts as a symbol of their new unity and the subsequent joining of the families. It is expected for couples to choose their partner based on their similar social status in the community, otherwise, they risk offending their families- which should be avoided.
Receptions are usually held at the brides family home, with a lot of wedding crashers:
And yet because Samoan weddings are usually so large, the guests rarely fit inside and the reception must be held outdoors. A large feast is served to all guests, usually with an extremely generous serving size. The focus is on generosity. It’s not uncommon for guests to bring all of their children and have them fill up baskets full of food to take home as well, and these children are usually expected to take these baskets home before they get a chance to eat anything! It’s actually considered perfectly normal to have many uninvited guests at the wedding, and it is not a faux pas like it is in other cultures. If you happen to be in a Samoan village while a wedding is taking place, it wouldn’t be uncommon to be invited to the event. As such, Samoan weddings are on the more expensive side. The wedding reception feast traditionally features roast chicken or pork, corned beef, boiled taro, Samoan chop suey and macaroni.
Guests are seated based on social status:
Ouch! Guests are seated at the tables based on their status. They are served by representatives of both families, usually the eldest siblings of the marrying couple, in the order they are seated. The most important people to the family and community get their meals first, and their cake first too! Of course, if the wedding is a more modern affair and the reception is held at a reception center, guests would not be served in order like this.
Extreme wedding favours:
Instead of the couple receiving gifts and envelopes of cash from their guests, it’s custom for Samoan couples to gift their guests presents based on their social status as well, right after the feast. That’s part of the reason why Samoan weddings are so expensive, as lavish gift giving is expected from the couple to their many guests. This is said to help the marrying couple to establish themselves as a new family in their community! As a way to offset this cost, it’s common for the couple to ask all of their relatives to help them with this huge expense. So… $5-10 per bomboniere isn’t sounding too bad after all! Let me look at those personalised candles again…
Huge wedding cakes:
Wedding cakes are usually the centrepiece and focal point of wedding receptions in Samoa. The cake is a huge espense. They are usually tiered vertically AND horizontally across the table, and are absolutely huge, to feed the many invited guests… and those who just decided to come along and join the party! The leftover cake is sent home with the people of the highest social status, the officiant for example, would expect to receive a whole tier. And there is always leftovers for this purpose, rather than it all being eaten at the reception. Check out the amazingly elaborate cake below as an example of a massive cake that is customary in Samoa.
Gifted wedding dresses:
Yes, dresses! Brides in Samoa generally wear two dresses, one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Usually, these two dresses come from her family, or her partners family. Each side generally offers her a few options to choose from, and she may pick whichever two she likes. The ceremony dress is generally a white gown, accessorised with a veil.
Lots of bridesmaids:
It’s not uncommon to have a whole group of bridesmaids, 10 or 20 bridesmaids is nothing strange in Samoan culture! Their sisters, cousins, friends and more are expected to be in the bride’s squad. The groom usually matches this number, and his squad usually wear traditional samoan ie-faitaga.
Bride’s traditional dance:
After the ceremony, the reception occurs immediately. The bride changes into her second wedding gown and performs a traditional Samoan dance (Taualuga) for the guests. In Samoan culture, all girls are taught from a young age to do this dance, and are expected to perform it at their wedding. After this dance, the meals may be served to guests.
In Samoan culture, it is expected that any non-Samoan man marries into a Samoan family, then he is expected to provide for the whole family. This may mean bringing ALL of them back to his home country!
It’s not uncommon for Samoan wedding receptions to go on well into the night. Once the dancing is kicked off post meal-time, the whole group parties on, with entertainment all night! It’s not uncommon for the celebrations to last for several days.