A traditional Tunisian wedding spans 7 days with many different festivities. Last week I participated in two traditions – the henna party and the nzoul.
The henna party took place on Thursday and I arrived at the bride’s family home around 3pm. She had already received her henna tattoos and had both of her hands and feet covered in silk wrappings, thus rendered completely immobilized, while she waited for the tattoos to set. The rest of the women and children were having henna applied to their hands and fingers while the men mingled outside.
Next, everyone gathered around the bride and the three women who had given us our tattoos started singing and playing tambourines while everyone placed money on the bride’s lap in the form of 10s, 20s and 50s.
After the song had finished, to get your money back you must give the women 1 dinar for a 10, 2 dinars for a 20 and 5 dinars for a 50. This was repeated twice and then everyone returned to socializing. A delicious dinner was served around 9pm and the bride, who was still waiting for her tattoos to set, needed some help with eating it.
The next night I returned to her home for a very old tradition, the nzoul. In the past (when marriages were arranged) this festivity centered around the bride and the bridegroom seeing eachother for the first time, but the ritual is still performed today: as a special song is played the bride, dressed head-to-toe in gold, spins in a circle slowly revealing her face to her future husband. It was something so beautiful to witness.
After the big reveal, and this is the part I’m not so clear on, the bride and groom take pictures with money shaped into crowns, fans, flowers, necklaces, etc. I asked if they kept the money after and was told no… so unfortunately for them the money is meant to be symbolic and not a wedding gift (notice the henna on her hands and feet!).