NEW ZEALAND — A distinctly Kiwi wedding surprise went down a storm — and not just at the reception.
Wedding guests performed a haka, or traditional Maori war dance, at the reception of Aaliya and Benjamin Armstrong, moving the bride to tears and inspiring the happy couple to join in.
Since posting it on social media less than 24 hours ago at time of writing, they have seen it viewed more than 19 million times.
The performance took place after the best man’s speech, Aaliya Armstong told CNN. “We knew that they’d organized a haka, but not that scale. And with my best friend jumping in as well, it turned out to be a bit of a surprise.
“I love my Maori side but this time (watching a haka) was different, knowing they were doing it for me and my husband. It was a blessing to be part of it.”
Once she saw her best friend and maid of honor jump in, Aaliyah and Benjamin also decided to join.
“For us, we wanted to show our love and respect back,” she said. “(It’s) such an honor to have these amazing men and this amazing woman in my life show their love for us like this.”
After the haka is finished, Benjamin can be seen thanking the dancers by touching his forehead to theirs, a traditional Maori greeting.
Best known on the rugby pitch, where it is used by the national team to psyche out opponents, the haka is commonplace at special occasions in New Zealand, according to one of the shooters of the wedding version.
“We do hakas all the time in New Zealand, (but) we never expected that reaction,” Heinrich Hetting, co-owner of Westone Productions, the Auckland production company that produced the video, told CNN.
He and his brother, who is his business partner, shot the celebration for the couple as a wedding present.
“The haka was extra-special,” Hetting, who is also Aaliya Armstrong’s cousin, said. “They were like ‘woah, this is so cool’ and posted it.
“It’s mind boggling, (you) don’t expect it from a small video that you upload. You don’t expect anything. It’s crazy, the reaction that has happened. We’re humbled by it.”