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Christian weddings in Lebanon are similar to Western weddings.
People in Lebanon like to celebrate everything, big or small, in a noisy fashion so that the world knows that they are celebrating. But weddings hold a special importance. This was of course before the current economic, political, and health crises.
The current economic crisis has forced the Lebanese people in Lebanon to tone down a lot, even on their regular daily meals, let alone on celebrations. Nevertheless, weddings still retain a special place in Lebanese culture.
The tradition of the wedding cake goes back centuries.
In ancient times, the wedding cake was made of wheat or barley to be broken over the head of the bride as a symbol of her fertility. These days, it has been replaced with the bride and groom cutting a wedding cake.
The bride and groom cut the cake together, his hand over hers, as a symbol of unity and a shared future.
The zaffeh in the Middle East dates back to the 14th century. It is the traditional way of escorting the bride and the groom from their respective family homes to the ceremony location, a church for Christian families.
The zaffeh is a celebratory event with music, dance, and public participation.
The wedding starts with two groups, one in the groom’s home and one in the bride’s home, and ends at the location where the bride and groom walk behind the zaffeh for the first time in front of everyone as husband and wife.
At times, the zaffeh precedes the bride as she enters the church for the wedding ceremony.
It is tradition in Lebanon for the married couple to wait for all their friends and guests to leave the reception venue before they themselves leave for the honeymoon.
If a wedding in Lebanon does not have a zaffeh, it is considered incomplete.
The zalghouta is performed in all Middle Eastern countries. It is a high-pitched tongue trill using the throat and tongue. Few people can hit the high notes it requires.
Usually, the zalghouta is done by an old woman who chants a few rhymes before the loud cry. These rhymes compliment the bride and groom, and highlight their beauty, good family background, and unique and special qualities.
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Women, not men, chant “Ah Weeeee-ha,” and “Lilililililililililililili” as the bride gets on her way to the church. The moment you hear these sounds, you know that a wedding is taking place somewhere even if you cannot see it.
As a little girl, I learned to do the zalghouta and recite a verse. Older women found my performance funny.
Neighbors and onlookers gather on balconies or stand on the pavements and throw rice, candy-coated almonds, and flower petals on the bride, groom, and their families to wish them prosperity and abundance.
Classical Lebanese dancing is often performed at the wedding reception and is part of the entertainment.
Dabkeh is a native Levantine folk dance. It combines a circle dance, line dancing, and stomping the feet.
At most weddings, belly dancing takes place to indicate that the bride is becoming a sensual woman.
The bride and groom kiss once the wedding ceremony is over and after cutting the cake.
The kiss means that the souls of the newly married couple have become united. Some believe that when the couple kisses, part of their soul leaves them to reside in the other one, confirming that they have become soulmates.
In the old days, a wedding tradition in Lebanon was to bang pots and make loud and disturbing noise after the marriage ceremony is over to ward off evil spirits.
These days, a convoy of cars with the couple's families, friends and guests follow the married couple. The cars honk as loud as they can as they follow the couple to the reception venue.
The longest wedding veil worn in Lebanon was 3,358 metres (11,017 feet 0.5 inch) long.
Sandra Mechleb wore it at her wedding to Chady Abi Younis in the Arnaoon village in Batroun, Lebanon, on October 18, 2009. [i]
"The Lebanese Wedding." Karen Karam (June 2016).
[i] “12 Record Breaking Weddings Around the World." The Daily Meal (March 2014).
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Liliane Najm