The groom and his family has it only slightly easier when it comes to wedding preparations. For one thing, they have to pay dowry. And for another, they have to sponsor the religious ceremony and the reception.
The actual wedding is done at a church, mosque, or government office, followed by a photo session. Wedding ceremonies are usually performed after midday, while the late afternoon is dedicated to photos, leaving the evening free for the wedding reception, which is also hosted by the man’s family, and also comes with the champagne, speeches, and wedding cake. And gifts.
Generally, the budget for a marriage is met by … the guests. When an acquaintance is getting married, they will give you a wedding invitation. If your friend is the groom, you will receive a invite to the wedding and reception, while friends of the bride will receive invites to the Kitchen Party and Send-off.
The card requests that you contribute towards the cost of the wedding, and sometimes [but not always] suggests the minimum amount that you are expected to contribute. This figure is decided during vikao – wedding committee meetings where the budget and other matters are decided. As a general rule, if you do not meet the minimum contribution, you may not attend the festivities.
Contributing to the cost, however, does not exempt you from bringing gifts.
In addition, since there are four ceremonies, the line-up generally needs four separate sets of outfits, transportation, and beautification regimes. The bride and her entourage will therefore need a dress each for the Kitchen Party, Send-off, and Wedding. Usually she will wear the same dress to the reception. Every wedding therefore takes a minimum of three days.
Guests bring separate sets of gifts, one for each ceremony they attend.
In addition, there are dowry ceremonies, though I have not been privvy to these, but I imagine they are quite elaborate and only partially cultural.
Also, no wedding is complete without a brass band.
I have attended one wedding on the groom’s side and another on the bride’s side. Both were elaborate and beautiful.
At the bridal wedding, I was still fresh and green, so I fussed about the ‘payment’, provided no presents, showed up in jeans, arrived without a proof-of-contribution-invitation-card [and was subsequently frozen at the gate]. Also, never-ending trauma re: mduara dance.
The groomal wedding was a good year later, and I knew enough to have a painful facial and got prettified. I skipped the church since I was busy getting dolled up, and I arrived at the reception at 7.00 p.m. [the card said 6.30] even though the ceremony didn’t start till 8 and I was *cough*cough*forced* to find comfort in my book.
Yes, I carried a book to a wedding.
The ceremony was beautiful. The card had a red ribbon on it, which made everyone in attendance wear … you know … red. Which was weird, because all that red in one place was a little freaky. Fortunately, I had ditched my red dress for purple at the last minute. Phew!
The line-up was large: five pre-teen flower girls in red, shoulderless dresses with a white rose; 8 late-teen bridesmaids in the same red dress, but with a white sash; and 8 groomsmen with white shirts and pants and red waistcoats. There were also a couple of little girls in white and red dresses, and a page boy or two.
The groom’s father and uncles wore black suits with red shirts and red ties, while his elder sisters wore white dresses with red sashes. The groom and best man wore white suits and shirts with a red waistcoat and red tie, while the bride and matron [best maid] wore white dresses with red detail. The girls danced in to P-squares ‘No one like you’ while the maids did a funky routine to some song that I can’t quite remember.
Everyone else, and I do mean everyone else, wore varying shades of white and red. Mostly red. The brass band wore white suits with red shirts and trimming, and the only female in the band wore pants and played a tambourine. Hmph.
Marriages here are certainly colourful, and are generally a family affair. Even after the wedding, in-laws have a big say in all matters, and extended families are very close-knit. I’m not sure not if the fanfair is all good or bad, but they certainly give you something to watch.
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Crystal Ading' is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through threeceebee.com.