This year has certainly brought its adventures for me. More than ever, I have been invited, exposed, and helped celebrate marriages of multiple religions and ethnicities. Just this past month, I photographed my first Muslim wedding. One of the most interesting contrasts I have found is the richness and symbolism in all of the traditions. That, and it seems that everyone has more rhythm than me. (For now, my two left feet will stick to photography).
Months ago, I received a call from Francis, the bride’s cousin. Francis was a ball of energy, positivity, and enthusiasm that couldn’t be contained. By the time our call ended and wedding details were discussed, I felt like I had just gotten off the phone a long lost friend. She assured me that it was going to be a fun and crazy night. I didn’t expect anything less.
The morning of the wedding was filled with friends, food, family, food, and more food. Did I mention there was food? With the unseasonable hot summer we have been having, we decided to take some of the photos inside. Before the bridal party arrived, Salha and Mohamad shared a First Look. The moment couldn’t have been scripted better. Salha gracefully walked down the stairs while Mohamad waited in anticipation. His mom and sister anxiously peeked around the corner, waiting to see both his reaction and the bride. Salha looked radiant in her dress and her elegance was evident. She made a beautiful bride.
As family arrived, the house filled with laughter, hugs, chaos, and flashes. Everyone was excited for Mohamad and Salha. The party started when we arrived at the reception hall and the zaffa, or wedding processional, began. Dancers, drums, and traditional songs and chants led the way as Mohamad and Salha made their way towards the reception. Family crowded the hallways and danced in front of them in a ceremonial welcome. Once inside, everyone danced the debke, or circle dance. Family members took turns leading the dance. At one point, multiple circles formed as the bride was surrounded by her bridesmaids and groom by his groomsmen. The night ended with the candle dance, a ritual where the bride slowly dances around the female guests and they grace her with rose pedals while the groom sits in the middle of the dancefloor. Later, he joins his bride and it ends with them blowing out the candles. I was interested in the meaning of it and found some information from the book “La Milenaria Danza del Vientre, el lenguaje oculto… de Amir Thaleb.”
“This dance was inherited from ancient rites and ceremonies that took place in sealed religious temples, the lighting of the candles have a purely mystical significance and is a way to provide spiritual light to the various events and deities. Today this dance is usually performed at weddings or baptisms as being a symbolic way of illuminating the newly betrothed or newborn in his new path to take.”