Relationships, Marriage, & Family Life in Tonga
Dating in Tonga generally begins at faikava (a kava
making and serving event), when a man asks a woman he is interested in to make kava.
All are welcome to this event in the girl's home and rarely will a girl refuse
a request. The young man and woman at the center of the event will remain in the
girl's house as everyone else slowly leaves so they are given some privacy (although
the girl's mother or father is generally watching). Later the young man may
pursue the girl by visiting her home and asking her parents for permission to speak
with the girl. Most of the dating process takes place in the girl's home under
the supervision of her parents and generally it is a short process from this first
faikava to either marriage or the ending of the relationship. If the relationship
progresses he can request permission to marry her from her father (or her uncle,
depending on who is the head of the family).
The wedding itself is a multi-day event with both families getting together the
night before the ceremony. The groom's family traditionally brings gifts to
the bride's family and a kava ceremony is held as gifts are exchanged.
On the day of the ceremony itself the wedding couple will dress in traditional clothing
and the groom will pick up his bride from her house; they will get married by a
government official then are immediately married in a church (both these marriages
are required for the marriage to be legal). After the marriage the celebration begins
with a kava ceremony. It is expected the bride is a virgin on her wedding
night and in some groups it is expected that she prove this by displaying the bloody
bed sheet the couple uses on their wedding night. If she proves her virginity the
groom's family will likely hold a banquet to honor the bride and her family.
The following Sunday the couple is celebrated in the local church; this is followed
by a large feast and ends the long marriage ceremonies.