In September, I traveled to Morocco to see my (then) boyfriend’s native country and meet his family. And I got engaged!! The most popular question I have been asked is if I knew it was coming. I probably should have read the signs, but I truly was surprised!
I was told ahead of time to bring heels to wear to a “Welcome Party” with his family and that Reda’s mom, Rachida, had a Caftan made for me to wear. Reda completely played it down, saying they rented out a space because they couldn’t host everyone at his brother’s apartment. Made sense to me! He told me that when you wear a Caftan you’re supposed to have your hair done a certain way (apparently a lie), so I was supposed to go with his mom to get our hair and makeup done. I was so excited to get pampered, I didn’t even think twice!
I was super nervous about going off with his mother alone, because I wasn’t feeling confident in my French speaking abilities (his family doesn’t speak English fluently). Despite my limited vocabulary, my nerves disappeared almost immediately. His family is so easy to get along with, it just feels natural! I was so relaxed while they did my hair and makeup, I nearly took a nap.
The dress Rachida had made for me was absolutely gorgeous – simple but intricate at the same time. She even had matching earrings for me to wear! Rachida had to help me get dressed because I had never put on a Caftan before. I repeat: My future mother-in-law, whom I met in person for the first time the day before, had to help me put on a dress. It was very comical to say the least!
The venue was just outside of Marrakech in the Palmeraie, a palm tree forest. As Rachida pulled into the venue, I noticed a sign that said “Salle de mariage” meaning “wedding room.” Initially, I was thinking that’s a little odd. However, I figured that it was just an event space. The entrance had a red carpet with lanterns on each side, lined with lit palm trees. I was thinking wow, this is a fancy spot.
I thought they had rented a room in a building, so I’d assumed this was just the general entrance. Then Rachida asked me if I liked it, and I noticed beautiful outdoor seating that looked like it was set up for a wedding! My mouth immediately dropped open in confusion and awe. I was excited to show Reda how fancy I looked, but of course I asked him what in the heck was happening. He just laughed it off and offered to show me around the venue.
We started walking in, following Rachida towards a prepping room. As we approached the door, Reda and his brother had a quick exchange in Arabic and all of a sudden Reda redirected me in the opposite direction. I’m thinking ohhh there is a surprise for me in that room, and it’s not ready yet. Detective Shelby! As we walked towards the lawn, I was telling Reda how funny it was for his mother to dress me. He wasn’t really reacting to what I was saying, so I just kept repeating myself. I was confused why he wasn’t laughing with me! Reda helped me step into the lawn, because I was wearing ginormous heels.
The next thing I knew, Reda was standing in front of me holding this off-white ring box and I swear I halfway blacked out. I was immediately ugly-laugh-crying. He was standing when he proposed so my initial response was “you didn’t get down on one knee!” But then I realized he was wearing a light pink suit and we were standing in a lawn, so I spared him the knee stain. 🙂 I didn’t even look at the ring before putting it on! It’s a beautiful family ring, with diamonds in the shape of a flower and a band full of smaller diamonds.
It was perfect because I got the American proposal custom as well as the experience of a Moroccan engagement party! I feel like it’s a perfect reflection of our relationship – two cultures combined.
The Engagement Party
Moroccan engagement parties are not unlike an American wedding reception. The venue was absolutely stunning, with palm trees lit up around the lawn, gorgeous flower arrangements, and fancy chairs and tables. As guests walked in, a Gnawa band greeted them playing traditional Moroccan instruments and singing. Near the tables and seating areas, there was an open area with a DJ and live saxophone player. They alternated between the sax playing songs and the DJ playing music throughout the evening.
I was very timid at first, but his family was very welcoming. I started to relax as I spoke with his family. When a song came on that everyone knew, one of Reda’s cousins had me get up and dance with her. I immediately felt more comfortable, laughing and having fun. Of course, I was super awkward because I have no idea how to dance to Arabic music, but I didn’t even care!
We arrived at about 8:15pm, and guests continued to arrive for another hour and a half. Juice and appetizers were passed around through the evening before the sit-down dinner. We finally sat down for dinner after 12:30am. Apparently this is totally normal! We started with a seafood bastilla – seafood and noodles inside a crust of phyllo dough. I don’t normally eat much seafood, but I ate a large serving! The bastilla took up the whole table, and we were each served slices. Next they brought out half-lambs for each table! Much to my enjoyment, they put the lamb on the table for us to take a picture before they cut up the meat. The lamb was served with traditional Moroccan sides – zaalouk, chakchouka, and bakoula. The meal was finished with a delicious cake and hot Moroccan tea.
We didn’t leave until after 3:00am – this party was no joke! So much planning went into surprising me and Reda’s family members came from hours away to celebrate with us.
It was definitely a “pinch-me” moment. I still can’t believe how amazing it was!
More pictures of the stunning event: