I feel compelled to write a little more than I ordinarily do for this post, as this was such a unique event for me. The range of interactions between the two families was rich and deep in this fascinating ceremony at the B.C. Connors Family Retreat Center.
The room was set up on Thursday evening with the grooms family (of Jewish American descent) on one side, and the bride’s family from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa on the other. Intense negotiations for bride and dowry, began in this traditional African Gusaba in a Jewish American setting. As the negotiations began, the bride and her retinue were upstairs in another part of the venue getting ready in traditional clothing.
The character of the Groom was extolled by his family, and consequently defended by playful attacks by the brides side. The price of the transportation for the Aunties and Uncles who came from so far were hotly negotiated as were many other points. The grooms spokesperson assured them that she had a friend in the travel agency business who could get them a great deal on plane tickets. Assurance was needed that the families would be able to come together in the future. Everyone played along with this grand theatrical display, only with occasional bursts of laughter, or a smile ineffectively hidden behind a poker faced expression.
Each new item of negotiation presented by the spokespersons, would be taken back to an intense consult with the Aunties and Uncles, or within the grooms side. The marriage needed to be thoroughly tested, and investigated before proceeding. The many questions seemed to ask one overall question; “was this a union that would benefit the entire community?” Finally an agreement was settled upon, the Grooms family paid the price, and the bills were passed around and their authenticity examined by the Aunties and Uncles.
Then very glibly, the African spokesperson asked,
“So when do you think we should arrange a wedding, in one year, maybe two?”
(Of course everyone knew the wedding would be in two days which just heightened the drama).
“Well, we think we should have the wedding quite soon” said the grooms spokesperson.
“OK, maybe six months from today?”
Finally it was negotiated that the wedding would be this coming Saturday, and everyone sighed a great sigh of relief. Amidst great anticipation and awe, the bride was then brought into the room, covered in many veils of exquisite African fabrics.
Negotiations began anew, bargaining a price for each layer of fabric to be removed. The grooms side wanted to be sure this was the real bride, and they could hardly wait to see who was really under there! In fact at one point she accidently peaked under the veils and everyone just couldn’t contain themselves and burst out in gleeful laughter. At last the breathtakingly beautiful bride was revealed. Ecstatic outbursts of pure joy, tears and hugs were made all around.
Various gifts and heartfelt offerings were made to the parents and various guests by the bride and groom. And the bride presented her groom with a beautiful hand crafted African walking stick, symbolic of his power in the family.
The families then enjoyed a sumptuous feast of traditional African food, so beautiful and tasty!!
The joy and love that was on display as the two families played out this drama was amazing. Each side played out the negotiations; how would the interests of the entire family be met, would the well being of their daughter be supported by the entire family? So many questions asked, showing a broader perspective than only the interests of just bride and groom. I was truly so grateful to see this interesting dramatic interchange, and the coming together of these two cultures was particularly poignant. There’s nothing like that moment when you see a face light up with so much joy and love. Thank you for allowing me to be your artistic witness.
Please feel free to leave your best wishes and comments for the couple, thanks.
Event Coordinator, Paula Marrero of Marrero Events
Florist, John LaRoche of BlueGuava
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