A distinctly Kiwi wedding surprise moved the bride to tears — and a video of the emotional moment has gone viral.
Wedding guests performed a haka, or traditional Maori war dance, at the reception of Aaliyah and Benjamin Armstrong, 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, Aaliyah 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.
The haka is a posture dance of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Accompanied by rhythmic chanting, it is popular on the rugby field, where it is used by the national team to psyche out opponents. The dance is also 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 Hettig, 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,” Hettig, who is also Aaliyah 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.”