25 October 2015
We went to a big party Friday, our first Polynesian wedding. Elder Tito, an Assistant to the President when we arrived, included us in the invitations to the reception. The venue was a big sports club and was packed with over 30 large round tables for 12. There were fresh roses at each table. Everyone in the wedding party was introduced by the emcee then they danced in to LOUD music the full length of the hall. That included all the bridesmaids and groomsmen. There were 6 or 7 of each and they came down in couples. It was as if they were competing for the craziest dance down the red carpet. There were also the flower girls and boys, both sets of parents, then last, the bride and groom. The bride and groom’s entrance included fireworks!
The bride and groom and the bridesmaids and groomsmen were all seated on a stage at the end of the hall. We were seated right at the front in the middle in a place of honor at one of the ‘leaders’ tables. It was because we were with President and Sister Back and President and Sister Hows, former president of the Sydney North Mission. Elder Tito served with both of them because the mission was split and he was assigned to the new Sydney South Mission. People traveled from all over Australia to attend. Elder Phillips came all the way from Perth.
They started with a ring ceremony conducted by the bride’s bishop for those who could not be in the temple in the morning. He became emotional as he talked about knowing the bride since she was a little girl.
The cake was very elaborate. There were 11cakes on pedestals of inverted wine glasses connected by stairways and decorated with flowers. The cakes were given by the bridesmaids to the honored guests; bishops, stake presidents and mission presidents.
The emcee, Elder Tito’s brother was dressed traditionally in a lavalava “skirt” and lei.
Both families are Australian, but the bride’s family is Tongan, and Elder Tito’s family is Samoan. Both sides of their families paraded beautiful quilts down the red carpet and presented them to the mothers of the bride and groom. They also presented big woven mats for their home.
Dinner was a large buffet of salads, seafood, vegetables and meat. I tried some starchy pieces of vegetable I think was taro root. The prawns were tricky to peel, but were so fresh and delicious. The seafood salad was especially good. For dessert there was fruit, trifle, brownies and mini lemon cream pies.
When the emcee first invited us to dance, some of the aunts were the first to come to the dance floor. No one danced in couples. We were the only non-Polynesians that danced! When the bride and groom danced, there were fireworks again.
The bride changed to traditional Tongan dress and while she danced, the guests stuck money on her oily arms and tucked it in her dress. I think that was their wedding gifts. There was no gift table like you see in Utah. President Back put our cards in Elder Tito’s coat pocket.
An uncle from New Zealand gave a speech in both Tongan and English talking of traditions. We learned later that there were many more speeches, but we slipped away at 10:30 pm. It didn’t end until 1:30 am! It was really nice to be included and to experience a Tongan/Samoan wedding.