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An Account of Samoan History up to 1918

Samoan Marriage Customs

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Samoan Marriage Customs.

It is customary in Samoan marriages for the family of the the bride to supply fine mats, mats and tapa cloths for the family of the bridegroom. The family of the bridegroom supply food and money for the family of the bride.

Many Marriages are brought about from the desire to obtain fine mats.

If it comes to the notice of the Orators of a village that there is a Taupo (virgin daughter of a High Chief.) in another village from whose family they will obtain many fine mats should she be married to one of their chiefs, they discuss the matter and approach a chief of their village and a conversation on the following lines takes place. “Get ready, O chief, our Moega (party who make proposals of marriage to a lady) will go to the Taupo” (mentioning name.) It does not make any difference whether the Chief is already married. If so the Orators will say “O chief, throw this old women away, she has lived with you for a long time and she has nothing more to give you (if his present wifes marriage dowry has all been received by him.) Send her back to her family and find a way to render null and void your marriage with her, you have had children by her- let us go to the Taupo who has many riches - let us get some fine mats for the Orators.” What the Orators wish will be brought about irrespective of whether the chief is an old man who should not marry a young girl or not. It is all due to the desire to obtain fine mats. The whole village, chiefs and common people go on this visit and they take many pigs with them to provide a feast for the village of the Taupo and their own people. These pigs or other food are termed “Tauga” (food presents of a marriage proposal given to the lady.) The orators of the party and also the chiefs talk to the Taupo andexplain the reason of their visit. The Taupo and her parents and the people of the village then discuss the matter whilst the visiting party wait in the village for a day or two for the answer. The first answer given is “Faatau saili” - which means “Look for another girl to be your wife and the Taupo will look for a different man to be her husband. This is tantamount to saying that the wish is refused. page 2 The party departs and waits for a week or two and then returns with further presents, this time with more food than on the first occasion. If the village of the visiting party is distant from the village of the Taupo they will probably rest in some village handy to the girl's home and from there prepare for the different visits they pay to the Taupo. Occasionally a marriage party is quickly received by the Taupo and she agrees to their request but the majority of such requests have to be made four or five times before success is attained and on each visit the food presents must be given. It is very seldom that less than two such visits must be paid. Notwithstanding the fact that the girl expresses her unwillingness to become the wife of the chief of the visiting party, the Orators of the party will continue their efforts and they rely on the influence of the Orators of the Taupo's village to assist them to gain their ends. Should the visiting party continue their efforts and treat the people of the Taupo's village to large quantities of food, the Orators of the Taupo's village will hand the girl over to become the wife of the chief. They will appoint one Orator to stand before the visiting party and he will exclaim “O la outou ava lena.” (This is your wife.) The visiting party then exhibit great joy and express their thanks with loud shouts. This is what happens when the visiting party is received. It happens sometimes that although the party make repeated visits to the village of a Taupo they are not accepted, or at least their desire to marry their chief to the Taupo is refused. If this happens the visiting party becomes angry with their chief for causing so much waste time and food. In addition he has sent his first wife away uselessly.

If the Taupo accepts the cheif and marries him and returns with him to his village she takes with her some fine mats (2–5) as a marriage portion. This is called “ie avaga”. Should the marriage not take place at once the visiting party all return to their village with the exception of come orators who remain behind to guard the Taupo and work for her family until the marriage takes place. They will then be given some fine mats from the number collected for the marriage.

The above is one of the marriage customs of Samoan chiefs. “O le Nunu.” (Feasting and interchange of property or goods at a marriage.)

If the marriage is held in the village of the Chief, the Taupo and her party take with them fine mats and these mats are called “Nunu ave Toga” (party taking fine mats.) If the marriage takes place in the village of