When Aaliyah and Ben Armstrong’s Best Man planned a Maori wedding haka, they knew how important it was to recognize their Polynesian heritage, but when they shared the video online they had no clue it would instantly go viral!
The groom, Ben, shared the video of the wedding reception haka captured and edited by Westone Productions on his Facebook page on Wednesday, January 20, and within three days the clip has gathered over 22 million views thanks to a share from another Facebook page called “I’m Proud to be Tongan.” Though Tongans are not the same as Maori, the two groups have similar traditions. As evidenced by its quick popularity, the wedding reception haka video was too beautiful not to share.
For those unfamiliar with what a haka is, it is described as an intimidation tactic, an ancient war dance of the Maori people. Each haka has its own set of chanted lyrics, synchronized stomping and slapping of the body and facial expressions – like flashing one’s tongue or teeth and going bug-eyed – to intimidate on the battlefield.
The bride and groom exclusively shared with The Knot that “cultural wise” it is common for a haka to be performed at a New Zealand wedding ceremony and explained why it was important for the performance to occur at their reception.
“For Polynesians and Maori’s, a traditional haka is usually performed in their traditional language and has different aspects to it, depending on where they are from,” Aaliyah and Ben tell The Knot. “We both have some Maori Ancestry in our families.”
Present-day haka, pulled from the traditions of the Polynesian people, have now been transformed into shows of cultural pride, honor, and unity. Even the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team performs a rousing haka before each rugby match!
At the reception Ben’s Best Man kicked off the call and response chant after his speech, and though it was planned in advance the couple said it, “was somewhat of a surprise to who had joined in on the haka.” Groomsmen, bridesmaids, wedding guests and even the guests of honor themselves – the bride and groom – participated in the intense display.
Along with the wedding reception haka the couple included other aspects of Polynesian heritage in their special day telling The Knot, “We had some Maori Songs (Waiata) shared from both sides of the family.”
“It was important because it was a sign of love and respect for our culture,” Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong explained. “We find it very important that we keep family traditions and our culture very strong within our families.”
Keeping the family connection alive on her wedding day, Aaliyah also tells The Knot that her stunning 3-quarter sleeved, fitted white lace wedding dress was the product of her talented Aunty Debbie.
“I have always dreamed of that dress since I was a young girl and I knew I was going to have my Aunty make it from the get go,” the bride said. “My aunty made my gymnastics leotards for me when I was growing up, did my ball dresses for high school and so much more. But I knew she was going to be the one to make my wedding dress.”
Describing her dream dress, which her Aunty Debbie successfully sewed, Aaliyah said, “I’ve always wanted something in full lace and somewhat of a mermaid fit. The sleeves were perfect for me and to top it off the boat neck was simple but elegant.”
Aaliyah said she found her bridesmaid’s dresses in a pattern book and then stumbled upon the beautiful fabric to match, “acting in the spirit of the moment really.” But the credit doesn’t stop there for her familial seamstress, the bride shared with The Knot, “She not only did my dress, she also did the bridesmaids dresses and my mum’s outfit, all within a matter of weeks. So in a nutshell, her talent is amazing and without her I don’t think my wedding wouldn’t have been the same.”
We’d like to give a special thanks to the New Zealand couple for answering our exclusive questions about their wedding reception haka and sharing their story with The Knot. Now take a peek below to watch Aaliyah and Ben Armstrong’s incredible Maori wedding reception haka, and try not to cry!