In Morocco, it is fruit that distinguishes a big-budget wedding from a more modest one. Bananas from Cuba, three kinds of apples from France, mangoes from South America and pineapples from Hawaii are paraded around under gauzy tents — nothing from inside the country.
For 35,000 dirham (4,170.07 US dollars) Brahim Hafalat’s traiteur company will plan, decorate and supervise a wedding or party for 100 people that pulls out all the stops. “You start with … the tables, the servers, the napkins,” Hafalat said. “Then you have the appetizers — pistachios, mineral water. After the entrance of the couple, the servers distribute three or four kinds of juice and cakes.”
The feeding continues, punctuated by servings of mint tea and cookies, until late into the night. At the most expensive weddings in Morocco an open-face half of a lamb graces each table, and the traditional meat pastry pastillah is served in individual pies. But for the vast majority of Moroccans, such a show is out of reach.
The average national income in Morocco is 5,300 dirham (631.47 US dollars), according to the Middle East North Africa Financial Network, and even a bare-bones celebration planned by Brahim Hafalat Traiteur, at 3,000 dirham, costs more than half of the year’s earnings. The price includes service and transportation, but lower class families buy fruit from stands and make huge bowls of cheap meat and vegetables that guests eat with their hands. Brahim Hafalat Traiteur will cater a funeral for 1,200 dirham. “[We serve] the very rich and the very poor,” Hafalat said. “We work with everyone.”
Even so, the event planning business is booming. It is a fairly new enterprise Hafalat said, adding that until the 1980’s there was no demand for table arrangements or multiple kinds of pie, but that’s not to say that big celebrations were less important before. In an online article from Al Arabiya, it is estimated that an average wedding in Morocco costs 10,000 dirham (1,125 US dollars), proving that the event is crucial enough that a family will go well beyond their means to display wealth and status.
In an article on PRI’s The World, the increased average age of marriage for men is attributed to the rising cost of putting on a wedding. “A generation ago, the average age of a Moroccan man on his wedding day was 24,” the article states.“Today, it’s 32.”
The cost of importing fruit from around the world and being able to seat guests at tables set with silverware and water chilled in silver holders seems to be taking its toll, but has not yet outweighed the traditional value of a very fancy wedding.
Image 1: Brahim Hafalat of Brahim Hafalat Traiteur holds up a picture of half a lamb, the main course at a wedding he organized.
Image 2: Displaying a nicely set table and upholstered chairs, Hafalat’s shop on Avenue Laalou in Rabat gives big-budget customers a chance to visualize their event.
Image 3: Asked for a picture of one of his events, Hafalat eagerly pulled out an album full of his work. Here, Hafalat shows off a picture of the fruit and dessert course he served at a wedding.