traditional wedding

lots of ceremonies this month. of note was the marriage of felicity, the school secretary, to theophile, the chemistry teacher. all teachers and some students were invited, and i felt it was important to attend (as opposed to the other 50-or-so marriages i’ve been invited to as the local celebrity, for example the prefet’s brother’s friend’s son’s wedding i skipped in july).what does one wear to a rwandan wedding? even my best isn’t really appropriate, but i can usually get away with minor dress-code violations. this is what i should have worn:

grace and chantal she’s not the bride though you’d never guess unknown rwandan lady felicity herself

the school organized a bus to take us all from musha to the ceremonies (supposed to have left at 9am, actually left at 11am – didn’t matter because the bride and groom were late anyway from the civil ceremony in the morning – nothing new really). the dowry ceremony finally started around 2pm, at which point everyone was already famished. it took place under a makeshift tent set up in the banana plantation behind the bride’s parents’ house. speeches from leaders of both families kicked it off, followed by a traditional sign of mutual respect – to drink sorghum beer through bamboo straws from the same gourd. it is custom here that all drinks, even soda, must be opened in the presence of the drinker to show that they haven’t been poisoned. thus the shared act of drinking signifiies trust and is used to open many ceremonies here.

after that the leader of the groom’s family offered a cow in exchange for the bride and a man in a cowboy hat was sent to inspect the cow. he returned shortly, singing of the cow’s beauty and worth, then grabbed one of the gourds of beer which were being passed around and retreated to a corner to get drunk.

the value of the cow having been agreed upon, the bride then appeared with the bridesmaids, and offered flashily wrapped gifts to the groom’s family. fanta and beer were handed out, and pictures taken. here’s a wonderful example of rwandan’s not smiling in photos.

family leaders drinking together (sorghum beer is actually sort of scary looking) bride and groom sharing a beer mother of the bride (these smaller gourds were passed around among all the guests, though some folks held on a bit longer than others)

hair all done up bride and groom in their moment of joy bridesmaids offering gifts
we then piled back in the bus and drove to the church for an awkward catholic ceremony. felicity looked like she might cry, with her swollen belly showing in her beautiful gown. then it was off to the reception where there were more speeches, traditional dancers, and a singing sparkling cake. the cake was cut into bite-size pieces by the happy couple, shoveled onto a platter and passed around, with more fanta of course. after all the delays we didn’t get home until ten at night having drunk two fantas and eaten only a sliver of the wedding cake in thirteen hours.

while academically interesting and opportunity for lots of photos, i went home tired and hungry. honestly, mikey’s wedding was a lot more fun.

dancers and wedding party at the reception singing cake the cow dance, a must at any wedding

the guests - the peanut gallery (this guy was definitely not sharing his beer gourd) the guests - chantal (of painted eyebrow fame) and ildephonse (of spitting translator fame) the guests - scratching chins (on the left is the director)

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~ by aliciawolcott on October 13, 2007.

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