Articles, Weddings

Jamaican Wedding: The Wedding Ceremony

The wedding ceremony is a huge part of a traditional Jamaican wedding celebration; involving the family in the wedding ceremony is also a key aspect of the big day so cutting corners when it comes to this isn’t an option.

Food, and keeping the guests satisfied is also a substantial part of Jamaican weddings. Food is often provided before and after the wedding ceremony, therefore the cost of catering can creep up and test the limits of your budget. A great way to get around this, which involves the family further, is to ask various family members to contribute one or two dishes that they specialize in; this can act as both their wedding gift to you and help with the wedding itself.

The wedding cake is particularly important in a Jamaican wedding and the responsibility of the grandmother and mother of the bride. The huge, rum-soaked cake is taken on a procession to the wedding by the women of the village. If you need to save money, you can simply cut down on the size of the cake or the amount of rum used to make it.

If you’re planning on getting married, this guide has several tips on how you can save money and not run into sneaky wedding costs.

The Wedding Cake

The wedding cake is of great significance in the Jamaican culture. Traditionally, the Jamaican wedding cake is a fruit cake laced with a dizzying amount of rum. As soon as the engagement is announced, it is the responsibility of the grandmother of the groom to soak dried fruit in white overproof rum for the duration of the engagement. The grandmother or mother of the bride then bakes the cake a week before the wedding. It is then carried to the venue, in a procession led by the matriarchs of the village, on the morning of the wedding.

The Wedding Dress

A piece of lace from the bride’s mother’s wedding gown is typically incorporated into the bride’s gown, which, along with those of the bridesmaids, is made by a local seamstress. It is from the bride’s wedding gown that her children’s christening gowns are made.

Building the Venue

As with raising children, secure and healthy marriages are considered as much the responsibility of the community as the couple. To this end, the construction of the venue is a community endeavour.

Prior to the wedding, the men of the community construct a marquee using coconut boughs. The groom is forbidden from participating in the construction of the structure, but obliged to supervise the work and subject to many taunts and jokes! The construction of the marquee is an all day event, accompanied by food and music.

Selecting the Goat

Curried goat is a staple on the menu of traditional Jamaican weddings. The prospective bride and groom select the family who owns the herd from which the goat to be eaten will be taken. The choice – which signifies trust and ‘good vibes’ – is of great significance and often fuels much gossip! Once chosen, a kid from the herd is isolated and tended on the bride’s familial land.

Night Before the Wedding

The mother of the bride prepares a relaxing ‘bush tea’ made out of locally grown lemon grass and lavender for the bride. The bride’s mother then hosts all women of marriageable age to an evening of laughter, where the married women tell risqué stories about their wedding night!

At the best man’s home, the groom and male villagers play dominoes and drink rum.

Wedding Day

Whilst the bride is getting ready, unmarried women sing humorous and tongue in cheek songs bemoaning the bride’s soon to be married status, and removal from their group.

Jamaican weddings are colourful and jovial all-day affairs. The marriage ceremony itself is typically Christian and held in the village church. After the ceremony, guests are provided with “mannish water” (a goat broth) before a lavish buffet meal. Following the meal, attention shifts to the dance-floor where first a mento band, then a DJ give attendees (usually the whole village!) the chance to showcase the latest dance moves, hairstyles and fashions! The bride and groom often leave their wedding by 1am, but the ‘afterparty’ often continues until well into the morning, with a breakfast of Ackee and Saltfish – Jamaica’s national dish – sometimes being served!

This information is generously provided by Alisha Fuller of Hummingbird Hall in Jamaica. If you are considering getting married in Jamaica, please visit their website for wedding options.

You are welcome to email us at with any suggestions for changes, additions or deletions.

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