|The bride, Cissy, and I at the ceremony|
Today Jane, Cissy and I attended the wedding introduction of Teacher Grace’s sister. In Africa it is tradition to have the groom’s family come and introduce himself to the bride’s family and ask for permission for marriage before the wedding. The dowry is also presented at the introduction. This was my first time attending an introduction and I was curious to see what exactly goes on. The ceremony was supposed to start at noon so the three of us hopped on a boda (motorcycle) around 1:30 expecting to arrive on time. Although all the guests were present and seated when we arrived bit of rearranging took place when they saw us arrive and we were quickly given the front row like we were VIPS even though I had never even met the bride. (Being a white female in an African dress with plaited hair, having a Sister with you, and having our night watchmen as the spokesperson I think all contributed to that.) At 3pm the groom finally arrived and the ceremony began. Atwooki, our watchmen, was the spokesperson for the bride’s family and conversations went back and forth between Atwooki and the groom’s family as he bargained for a dowry. At one point I was able to follow the groom and his entourage into the bride’s house where the bridesmaids offered milk and roasted peanuts to the men. The room was very dark and bridesmaids had to keep their heads down at all times. No eye contact was allowed and they were not allowed to turn their back towards any of the men. I was seated in the corner by a curtain and I heard some small rustling behind it. Curiously I took a quick peek behind the curtian and saw about eight young girls huddled together smiling at me. They had small baskets in front of them and were not allowed to come out yet and instead were supposed to keep quiet.
I had brought a camera with me and soon became the photographer for the wedding. After exiting the house three separate groups of girls- primary school girls, teenagers, and maidens came out walking onto a matted walkway. Each group was dressed differently and presented different things to the groom’s family. For example, one group came out with firewood, vegetables and millet baskets representing the hard work they have done while another group came out dancing. Each group was still not allowed to make eye contact or turn their back towards the groom’s family. At one point the groom had to search among the bridal party and guess which one was his wife, it’s a good thing he got it right! There was no handholding or kissing between the couple, only an awkward hug, but by the way the groom brightened up when he saw his bride you could tell he was happy. The ceremony ended with a big feast of matooke, millet, chicken, rice, Irish potatoes, and several sauces. I think in the past few weeks I have seen almost the whole life spectrum of celebrations- a birth, a baptism, a wedding introduction, a wedding, and a burial. Next up, a profession of final vows and deaconate ordination of six brothers of the Holy Cross.