On our first weekend in the Congo, we attended the first of three ceremonies that made up my brother's wedding.
We used to wonder which sibling would get married first and what it would be like for us to be all grown-up, and what our behavior would be like at the wedding. We certainly didn't expect the first wedding to take place in Africa!
When Nate first invited us to travel to Congo for the event, he described this cultural ceremony as my younger brothers carrying in the goats that would be part of the bride-price. That sounded pretty interesting and was not something that I wanted to miss.
I felt fairly calm and relaxed before the cultural ceremony. I knew that the preparations had taken a lot of work, but the hard parts were over. My brother had gotten to know his future in-laws and had made his intentions clear. He had followed their traditions as closely as possible, including going through the engagement ceremony which had consisted of long speeches by representatives of both sides negotiating the couple's future. The bride's parents are Christians and asked for a reasonable bride-price, their goal not being to ask more than Nate could afford, which sometimes happens to young Congolese men.
I think my sister would agree with me that one of the more complicated parts for us as guests was our clothing! We had all had outfits made from matching material, as is the custom, and this was definitely unusual for us!
Since this was the final step, it was up to the bride's family to receive all the guests (200+), check the payment for the bride to see if it was all there, reveal the bride to her groom, and then feed everyone.
All we had to do was sit back and "do as we were told" (in my dad's words).
So we watched as my brother processed to his place, accompanied by the bride's friends who laid down some clothes for him like a red carpet.
Then we were invited into the house and had the final "face-off" with the bride's family, while Nate's representative, Uncle Martin, revealed the items that were being presented. Part of the price was a certain amount of cash, which was counted and then given to the bride once she had entered the room.
The bride then walked across the room and gave the envelope to her father. I was told that this meant everything was in order and the price was paid, and also that she respected her father in giving him control of the gifts.
Once the envelope was delivered, they were now considered married according to the local tradition. It seemed a bit lacking in terms of vows and all (neither the bride nor groom had to speak during the ceremony), but then you have to remember that there had been plenty of words spoken during the courtship and engagement, which had been taken fairly seriously.
Check out my sister's blog for more details.
To be continued...