Today’s modern practices significantly differ from the marriage customs back in the colonial days of New Zealand. Suitors ask for permission to marry the one they love from the father of their bride-to-be, for example.
It was also customary for weddings to be arranged between and within tribes in the native Maori society. Of course, there were also couples who naturally fell in love with each other, but they had to first gain the blessings of tribal elders before they could marry. Given this, various marriages were organised to help maintain the status and wealth of high-ranking families.
While many of today’s wedding practices have already drawn inspiration from Western culture, some of the ancient traditions above have found their way into modern ones. Read this article to learn more about wedding traditions in New Zealand and their various aspects.
The most common ones you will see in New Zealand are traditional church weddings with a format resembling that of Christian and European settlers. Given this, many couples believe the British superstition that it may bring bad luck if the groom sees his bride before the actual wedding. The couple should only meet at the church on the wedding day when she will be customarily given away by her father or father figure.
Traditional weddings associated with Maori culture, on the other hand, may still adhere to deeply rooted ceremonies and customs. However, a marriage can only be deemed legal in New Zealand if performed by a religion minister recognised in the country’s Marriage Act of 1908.
Additionally, the Maori Purposes Act in 1951 stipulates that native weddings are recognised less by society. All citizens must conduct a church service ceremony for their marriage to be legal and their offspring to have legitimate status.
If one or both of the couple have Maori ancestry, they can include traditional elements into the wedding ceremony and Maori-style exchange of rings, which can be bones or greenstones instead of gold bands. This practice is an integral part of Maori heritage because these rings, called the “infinity loops”, are carved into perfect circles to represent the enduring cycle of love.
Civil wedding ceremonies are another option in the country. They have unique customs that date back to the 19th century, when settlers had better access to civil offices compared to churches and ministers. In this ceremony, the couple must get a licence and attend a registrar office with their two witnesses.
Socialising with other guests is an essential part of any New Zealand wedding. It has always been believed that the party lets both families of the new couple bond and is a chance to bless and congratulate them on the significant milestone. In fact, weddings in the country have since developed a new tradition of adding an extra celebration day, with the families getting together even after the day of the wedding!
Influence by British traditions, the meal after the actual ceremony is called the “wedding breakfast” and is eaten in the morning. But nowadays, many weddings are held later in the day, and their parties continue into the evening.
As with most ceremonies around the world, New Zealand weddings also practice having the couple do a customary first dance on the floor. The couple can always add their special twist, especially if they have unique hobbies or have Maori heritage.
These are primarily influenced by white weddings, with the bride wearing a full white gown and the groom wearing a black or grey suit. If one or both of the couple have Maori ancestry, you may also see them donning the traditional white wedding attire before changing into native clothing for their reception.
New Zealand weddings have distinct customs and traditions, and it helps to know them if you are attending or having one. Whether a family member or friend is holding a traditional or modern New Zealand wedding, what’s sure is you will definitely have a good time observing the practices and bonding with other guests!
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