The promised description of the wedding is late for several reasons. One is that the internet has been down for three days. It was back briefly this afternoon, but then the power went out this evening, and while ZESCO is back, the internet still seems to be grumpy. Another is that the bee infestation of The Wooden House 3 got abruptly worse, to the extent that the buzzing kept me awake most of Tuesday night. It’s been fumigated, but now the main room (my room less so, thankfully) stinks of vile chemicals. But for one reason or another, I’ve been somewhat avoiding the house, lately.
But I did go to my boss’s wedding on Saturday — both the ceremony itself, in the church, and the reception that afternoon.
The actual ceremony was not terribly different from weddings in the States, except with extra dancing. I’m told that the wedding party (but not the bride; she’s still not supposed to smile) danced into the church, but I missed that part, because I was escorting the new MCC family, who’d just moved in the day before, and I’d forgotten the amount of time a family of four who have not yet settled into a new house requires to get going in the morning. We had the distinction of being late even by Zambian standards, and could hear the strains of “Here Comes the Bride” as we arrived. We snuck into the church just ahead of Patience and (I assume) her father.
For those who care about clothing things, I will mention that Patience’s dress was very nice: it had a nice quantity of fabric without putting her at risk of being confused with the wedding cake, classy, tasteful embroidery, and none of this strapless business that’s so popular in US wedding dresses these days. I found myself wondering how one keeps such a dress clean in an area with as much prevailing dust as Macha, and what Zambians do with wedding dresses after the wedding, but someone mentioned later that she thinks they’re usually rented.
The ceremony and the vows mostly followed my impression of how such things often go, although the version was slightly different than the one I’m used to (for example, the question about impediments to the match was worded something like ‘be silent from now on,’ and there were other bits where the sense was the same but the wording was not what I expected. On the topic of objections, they read the banns in Zambia. I was really surprised the first time it happened, but it’s become something of an expected oddity. This time, the pastor didn’t specify that it’s necessary to speak to the pastor in person, not just send him a text message, but that’s happened in the past, and makes me wonder if pastors frequently get text messages in response to wedding announcements). The vows didn’t say anything about obedience, which surprised me, considering that this is Zambia, but I’m not sure if that is typical, or if Elton and Patience chose to exclude it. There wasn’t any kissing of the bride, either — and do weddings in the US usually have the involved parties announce their intention to wed (“Do you intend to vow-clause-one, vow-clause-two, etc?” “I will.”) and then in fact say the vows later in the service? I think this was the first wedding I’ve been to since I was eight or so, so my memories are a bit foggy for proper comparison.
And then, of course, the wedding party danced out of the church. Patience still didn’t get to dance — she and Elton merely processed out in a slightly more rhythmic manner, and she was finally allowed to smile — but the bridesmaids, the best man, and the . . . second- and third-best men did a fun little partner thing the whole way back up the aisle, and the matron danced, too. But cutest of all were the flower girls and the ringbearers (I assume. The two little girls in white dresses and little boys in black suits), who danced up the aisle following the matron, in a very clearly memorized and measured walk together, turn out, walk to the edge, walk back in, kick together, kick together . . . No one threw rice — instead the entire party was surrounded by a semi-constant haze of camera flashes (when the internet comes back, I should look to see if someone else’s pictures made it online). And then the attendees half-walked, half-danced out of the church, too.
Of course there was the reception, too. I could hear the music as I walked back to my house to sit down for a bit and eat some bananas (I was sure that there would be plenty of food at the reception. I just wasn’t sure when it would materialize), and by the time I showed up perhaps an hour later, the hall was probably 5/6 full, and it was a BIG place. Children weren’t allowed at the reception, I think just for space concerns. Even without kids, I don’t think there was an empty seat in the place.
And — that was like no wedding reception I’ve ever seen or heard of. The matron danced in, the kids danced in (still adorable), the bridesmaids and groomsmen danced in — much more elaborately this time — Elton and Patience danced in — the bridesmaids and groomsmen danced in again (I guess they slipped out the side and came in the back again?), even more elaborately . . . It felt like a talent show/dance party. Elton and Patience were wearing their wedding clothes, but the bridesmaids were all in little green dresses, the groomsmen were in suits with green shirts, and the matron had changed to a lovely green chitenge-thing.
There were speeches, including one from Patience’s father that hit all of the “Wife obey your husband in everything and learn to apologize even when you’re right” points that I’d expected that morning, and one from the guest of honor (I would have thought that the guests of honor for a wedding reception would be the happy couple, but it seems not) that was a recap of that morning’s “Communication is essential to a good marriage” sermon. There was food, not as good, as plentiful, or as elaborate as the kitchen party, but still enough that I stuffed some in a ziplock bag to take home with me, and ate it the next day. I once again managed to sit at the very end of the line for food, but I’d had bananas to tide me over, so that was all right.
After the food, there was more dance party/presentation of gifts, and people got up and formed a line-cum-dance-mob. I’d brought my present to the kitchen party, so wasn’t sure if I shouldn’t get up, but one of the ladies sitting near me said that it was okay to get up and dance, so I did, to the usual crowd of thrilled onlookers. I have decided that Zambian weddings are like Christian youth camps: there comes a point where you get up and dance around the room and get hugged by random strangers. It’s not how you’d behave in real life, but it can be fun every now and again. Nobody tied chitenges around my waist at the Mennonite youth conference, though.
And presently everyone sat down again (rather less everyone than previously; a number of people had walked out during the dance mob), and then the wedding party danced out, followed/surrounded by a mob of people. I got dragged out by the lady in while who had hugged me, and left after disentangling myself, in order to get home while there was still a decent amount of light.
I got the care package from church yesterday. Thanks to all of you, even the ones I can’t identify because your signatures are illegible!
And on the topic of parcels, if you were intending to send something, you should probably send it in the next week or so, to be sure it gets here. Letters are probably okay until the first week of May, since they don’t take quite as long as packages. After that, send letters to my mom’s address, and I’ll read and appreciate them when I get home.