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Today's marriages in Malta are more or less similar to those in other European countries, but this was not the case in the past. Traditionally, when the girl's parents realized that it was time for their daughter to get married, they would display a plant on their balcony. Once a man noticed the pot, he would then find an older man who could act as a marriage broker, known as ħuttab, so that he could pass on his expression of interest to the girl's parents. If the parents agreed, a contract would be settled upon and the girl's dowry would be stipulated. The betrothal feast was then celebrated known as the ‘Rabta’.
During this feast, the bride was introduced to her future husband in the presence of his and her parents. The young man presented an engagement ring, in the form of two engraved hands joined together as a symbol of fidelity. She reciprocated by presenting her future husband with a handkerchief edged with lace.
On the wedding day, a group of musicians and singers accompanied the couple to church singing verses of praise. After the return from church, the newlyweds were showered with grains, nuts and wheat. Guests stayed for the wedding banquet to which they often contributed by offering wine and food. The bride dined in a separate room but at the end of the meal she would join her husband by sitting near him and would even drink from his glass. During the meal the guests placed gifts on the bride's lap while she sat at the top end of the room.
Brides wore different headdresses for their wedding. If they wore the Ghonnella it meant that the bride was already married, since during those days many women became widows early, as men were usually employed as soldiers or sea-faring pirates and thus lost their lives when still young. If the bride was a maiden she would wear a hat or a veil. The hat was usually fawn and worn with a silver grey dress, whilst the veil and the dress were usually white.
Eight days after the wedding the bride left her parent's house and was received by her husband in their new home. During the first year of marriage the husband accepted to take his wife to two major feasts being the feast of St Gregory, celebrated on the first Wednesday after Easter, and the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul on the 29th of June, known as ‘L-Imnarja’.
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