Wednesday 21 February 2018

Wedding Lore

Modern marriages in Malta are quite similar to those in other European countries, but this was not the case in the past.

The daughter was not always consulted in the choice of her future husband. When the girl's parents realised that it was time for their daughter to get married, they would display a pot of sweets on a stone bracket on the outer wall of their house.

Once a young man would notice the pot, he would then go to find an older man who could act as a marriage broker (ħuttab) so that his message could reach the girl's parents. If they agreed, a contract would be settled upon and the girl's dowry stipulated. the young man would send his beloved a fish with a gold ring in its mouth. The betrothal feast would then be celebrated. This was referred to as "Ir-Rabta".

During this feast the bride used to be introduced to her future husband in the presence of both sets of parents. She would be presented with an engagement ring in the form of two engraved hands joined together, as a symbol of fidelity. She would reciprocate by presenting her future husband with a handkerchief edged with lace.

On the wedding day, a group of musicians and singers would accompany the couple to church singing verses of praise to the new couple. Grain, nuts and wheat were showered on them on their return from the church. The guests would stay on for the wedding banquet to which they often contributed by offering wine as well as food. The bride would dine in a separate room but at the end of the meal she would join her husband by sitting near him and even drink from his glass.

Sometimes there would be dancing with castanets, a custom which may have originated during Aragonese rule in the 15th century. During the meal the guests placed gifts on the bride's lap while she sat at the top end of the room.
Eight days after the wedding day the bride would leave her father's house. This is referred to as " Il-Ħarġa ". She used to be received with pomp by her husband in their new home.

During the first year of marriage, the husband accepted to take his wife to two major fesats - namely the feast of
St. Gregory , which is celebrated on the first Wednesday after Easter at Zejtun and Marsaxlokk, and to the "L-Imnarja " at the end of June. This feast commemorates the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul. On the eve of this feast day, many people gather at Buskett, a small forested area outside Rabat, to eat rabbit stew and drink wine as well as to listen to folk singing, known as "l-għana ".

The bride used to wear a different headdress for her wedding. If she wore the "għonnella", also known as
"faldetta' , this meant that the bride had already been married. During those times, many women became widows as men usually were employed as soldiers or seamen and many lost their lives when still young. If the bride was a maiden, she would wear either a hat ( kappell ) or a veil (mant ). The hat was usually fawn while she wore a silver-grey dress. The veil and the dress were usually white.

*culled from

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