POV: You’re Attending a Palestinian Wedding as a Guest - PaliRoots

POV: You’re Attending a Palestinian Wedding as a Guest

It’s Friday, the day of the wedding. I’m waking up a bit slower this morning because of how exhausted I’m feeling from the Henna and Sahra last night. I think I saw maybe, a thousand faces, thanks to our entire balad (village) considering one another family and attending the fun alongside us. I look at the clock - I must've only gotten four hours of sleep. What time did I come home last night? Did the Sahra really end at 2 a.m.?

I hop in the shower to smell fresh for the day, eat a handful of fresh Teen (figs) for breakfast and ask my Seedo (grandfather) to take me to the dry cleaners to pick up my wardrobe for the night.

When I came back home, I found my Sito (grandmother) wrapping a few extra small wedding favors. Inside them are some candies and chocolates, but the cool part about the favors is the detail from the outside. It’s a round container with traditional Palestinian fabric in warm shades of red, orange, and yellow. My favorite detail has got to be the mini Othmaliyas (faux palestinian gold coins). 

After my family and I are ready and take photos together outside of my grandparents’ home, we get in the car and head towards the groom’s house. It’s Asr time, (4pm) and there are dozens of people ready to eat lunch. It’s traditional that the groom’s house serves a meal to their familial guests, and it can typically be a combination of rice, chicken or meat topped with flavorful Snobar (pine nuts). I said hello to some of my relatives and congratulated my cousin on his big day. You can count on hearing a million voices saying “Alf Mabrook” (a thousand congratulations) throughout the night, as I did the same. Right after we quickly ate and cleaned up, we walked down the street to the bride’s house. In small villages in Palestine, it is so frequent to be within close proximities of one another. Thankfully the bride lived on a downhill street - because climbing those uphill roads on this mountain of a village would have been a mission in my heels.

At the bride’s house, the women gather inside and the men outside. The women typically sing, and clap songs originated from nearly a century ago, while the fathers and brothers of the groom exchange words of final proposals for the bride’s hand to her family. After the bride’s father accepts and says “Ahlan wa Sahlan feekom” (formal welcoming to the families uniting), they shake hands, the women let out a loud zaghroota - a loud and formal sound representing joy. This is how everyone knows it's finally time to celebrate!


We all get in our cars and follow behind the bride and groom in a line. Everyone has their windows down, blasting music and beeping their car horns over and over. Families step outside their homes to watch and wave. The couple’s car can be seen from afar, due to the heavy arrangement of bouquets and flowers wrapped around it. Once we get to the hall, we can already hear the loud drumming by the Zaffah group. My favorite part! I need to get a spot up close. I make my way through the crowd of 100 people and see the pair in the middle, sharing their first dance to the singing and dabke dancing by the group of 7 men, all dressed in matching professional and loose Palestinian dabke clothing with a Hattah wrapped around their heads.


After 20 minutes with the exciting Zaffah, we head inside. As a close cousin of the groom, I welcome as many people as I can to show appreciation on behalf of our family. When everyone is seated, the live DJ blasts a drumming song to welcome the two down the aisle. The entire hall claps with the music and finally the groom lifts the bride's Tahra (veil) and kisses her forehead. They exchange rings and begin dancing. After a song or two, the mothers of the now officially married couple join, and then the sisters, and then the aunts and grandmothers and so on. The rest of the night is spent on the dance floor - How am I not tired yet? My cheeks hurt from all the smiling. After 2 hours of dancing and dabke, cake is served, and extended family and friends say their goodbyes. The most classic party songs are saved for the end when both families join. Palestinians have such big families that there’s barely any space on the dance floor - but everyone’s having so much fun that they don't even think about leaving.

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About the Author - Layan Beirat is a first generation Palestinian American whose family originates from Beit Safafa and Kufer Malik. Growing up in a very Arab environment in the Chicagoland area has made her appreciate the delicate experiences on Palestinian roots - which she longs to visit again soon!