Old Time Wedding

Every bride wants to be the centre of attention on her wedding day, to hear the specially invited guests ooh and aah over the entire affair. Imagine having an entire village turn out for your wedding and a street procession, and a feast to make a king blush.

For the community of Moriah, there is no need for imagination since the bride on her special day does indeed become the centre of attention.

The re-enactment of the Old Time Wedding takes place at the old Moravian Church in Spring Garden. Every element of the nuptial celebration is planned to the last detail from the selection of the scripture passages to the members of the wedding party.

The occasion is indeed a grand one, especially so because the finery of the wedding party is displayed. Society being the way that it is, this procession often attracts "mauvais langue" (literally bad talk (Fr.)). On-lookers often feel free to pass malicious remarks about the character of the bride and / or groom for the sheer thrill of creating confusion on this very important day. The Village Macos are often in their element, being unable to dampen the overall joy of the event with a few well placed remarks.

Despite these few detractors there is nothing that can lessen the impact of this day, the ceremony and the pageantry of the procession. In a typical Tobago Wedding, you are most likely to find colourfully dressed guests and several traditional items, each of which has a symbolic meaning:

  • breadfruit (known also as breadnut): which signifies the virginity of the bride.
  • throwing of rice and corn: symbolises the best wishes for sufficient food and nourishment for the new family. Often there is a display of animals, such as chickens, to further reinforce that this new groom can adequately provide for his bride.
  • cannister: which contains some portions of the bride’s trousseau which she has painstakingly put together for her new life as a wife. It usually contains some clothing and a pillow or two, indicating that the bride is not leaving her parents’ home unclothed. The colour red signifies the desire for a fruitful marriage.
  • coal pot and iron: indicating that the bride was not hungry at home and could have been supported by her parents. The coal pot was the principal cooking implement whereas the iron (which was often referred to as a coal iron) was used to tend to the ironing of clothing. A formidable task in itself, ladies with a skill for ironing were very much valued in the then society.
  • village maco: usually someone who is not invited by one who gate crashes the affair and while there reveals to any within earshot all the juicy tidbits of gossip and scandal that either relate directly to the bride, groom or members of their bridal party, and any other soul who may be at the function.

After the village church's ceremony, the wedding procession winds its way along the streets, dancing the "brush back" to the sweet sounds of the tambrin and fiddle. The procession stops along the way to enjoy offerings of cake and wine before moving on to the reception venue.

The Procession

The procession moves off from the church to the accompaniment of music, provided by a Tambrin band (several large goatskin covered instruments that resemble a tambourine, a fiddle and voices) singing traditional songs. Such is the joy and the infectious music that the entire procession dances their way over to the venue for the cake and wine. A popular dance step for the procession is the brushback, other steps such as the jig and reel may often be danced.

The Feast

Every good wedding deserves a feast, but Tobago does their wedding feast in the grand style of the old days. Every imaginable dish is prepared in vast quantities for the specially invited guests, who can number 500 or more. The accepted norm is the larger the wedding the better it is, from a social status point that is.

The feast is usually the time when all of the speeches are made by the best man, father of the bride, the groom, some feast event open the floor to the invited guests to add their two cents to the praises being heaped on the couple. This can often lead to a bit of trouble since everyone wants to have their say.

All in all the entire Old Time Tobago Wedding is an event that can rarely be surpassed, what with the procession, the cuisine, the atmosphere and the ceremony. Perhaps some day you too may want to view the event in person or even have a real Tobago Wedding of your own.