I really feel like I have been initiated into society now because I have now been to the pre-wedding introduction ceremony. This was such a unique experience that I feel like my words and photos will fail me to fully portray what all happens and what all it means.
First off, the introduction ceremony is where the bride’s family hosts the grooms family (and friends) for the official meeting of the 2 sides. It is following the tradition of the old village ways. In the past, before the institution of church marriage was established, it was after this introduction ceremony that the couple was declared married and she would leave her family that night to go stay in his home. Well today, it is a little different, seeing as the official church marriage ceremony is important for believers here. But the main purpose of the introduction ceremony now is to bring together the family and friends of both sides, to pay the bride price (yes this is still something practiced here, whether in the village or the town), and to offer gifts to the brides family.
I will pause a little because you might be thinking… the bride’s family? Counter to American tradition, it is the groom who plans and pays for the bride and the wedding. The culture here say that since the parents have spent much time, effort, and money in raising and training the woman up to keep her own house one day, and since the groom is taking a hard worker from the father’s home, then he must pay. Like a re-compensation. So, the usually bride price is about 2-5 cows and some goats. And like I said gifts are also given to the bride’s family in appreciation. Things such as baskets of fresh produce, a lantern, crates of soda, a hoe, sack of rice, salt to last for a long while… the list goes on.
So, back to the ceremony… I went on the side of the groom because he is one of the pastors here. There were about 70 of us that went. For the ceremony, each side has an MC that represents the bride or groom, or their family. First off, all things are in good fun at this ceremony, but things can seem a little bazaar if you don’t know that. The groom’s side gathered together to receive “instructions” before we boarded the taxis to drive to the village, Peteti. Here were a few of the rules:
- the MC is the only one to talk for the family
- When we first arrive, we need to walk in humbly
- Those not wearing “gomas” (the traditional dress with big shoulders) must stand in the back because we are going to cause him much trouble for not being in proper attire (and that would be me and one other girl)
- Do not sit down when you first get to you seat, only when they officially invite us to sit
Again, all of this is in good fun, but these rules are established to avoid “fines” that the brides family might give. But you go in knowing that it is like a game and you bring money to pay the “fines”
So, like anything in
Africa that has to do with time, the grooms side arrived late. We stood outside the fence while our MC was negotiating our late arrival and the “fine” it would cost us. There were many people sitting under big party tents from the brides side. Everything was decorated nicely with blue and white ribbons and everyone was dressed in the traditional wear. I like that a lot.
The best way to describe the ceremony is as if they were acting and putting on a sort of play. Once we were officially invited to sit down, the bride’s MC told us that they were in the middle of a clan meeting to discuss a new school but we have come late for the meeting so really there was no reason for us to remain. Our MC talked and explained that there was another reason we had come. Then through some more friendly banter our MC told the other MC that we had come for a bride.
From there things got even more interesting. The bride MC went to get the girls in the house that we might have come for. The first group to come out, so that we can choose which girl we had come for (mind you that the real bride and groom have been in a courtship relationship for a while so this is NOT a pre-arranged marriage- only part of the fun of the ceremony). So the first group of girls came and were very young, around 6
years. Our MC said that none were the one, so we had to pay a “transport fee” to go to the next village to get some other girls that the bride might be among. This proceeded about 5 times… the young girls, then teenagers, then girls my age, then grandmothers, then there were some ladies that left for another country (for pretend) so we brought them and they were the aunties. Then the final group of girls, our last resort, were brought from a neighboring country and the bride was among them. The aunties said that they recognized us and that she knew us. So we were officially welcome to the “clan meeting” and were then served sodas. (I really hope you are following this at least a little bit.)
Since the aunties recognized us and knew the groom, to prove, they had to find the groom, who was “hiding” in the back of our group. When they found him they brought him out from our tent and put him in the seat of honor (a couch) in the front. Then the groom’s aunties had to go among the last group of girls and point out the bride.
Among other things, there was also a time for the grooms side to present the gifts we brought and for each member of the family to be introduced to the brides side of the family. All in all it was very entertaining. It also seemed like every child living in the village gathered around to on look. At the end of all the talking, presenting, and introducing, the bride a groom cut a cake and then we were served “lunch” (at ).
I attached a few photos of the young “fake brides”, me carrying a gift to present, and a sample of the traditional wear. It was a very fun experience and I hope to be invited to another.