Just a few weeks ago I attended my first ever Christian wedding here. Since it was a 9 hour trip by road, I combined the visit with an opportunity to hang out with some friends in the area for a few days and help with some of the wedding preparations. Heidi and Kay still had school, so Ian held down the fort at home and it was a Mom's long weekend out! It was a fun time and a great chance to have a break from being on call 24/7 at the guest house and at our house!
After a few days of helping make ribbon roses for the cake, sample the cake :), giving decorating opinions and making name tags for the "top table" (as my British friend called it), we were ready to prepare ourselves! Here in Niger, the bride usually picks a material for the wedding and the guests will buy the material and make outfits for themselves to wear to the wedding. It is not required, but it is fun to see many of the people attending in "uniform." Because I was outside of the capitol, and because it was a more formal occasion, I had to wear a head scarf. In everyday life in the city, I don't bother, so in preparation, a friend of mine in the office had given me remedial head scarf lessons. Poor Ouma had a very head scarf challanged student! I was thankful that Leng, who I was staying with was the head scarf queen and could tie mine so it would look normal and stay on all morning! The wedding party and friends also often have henna designs done on their hands and feet. Here is a picture of my henna next to the wedding material.
Here is a picture of the bride and groom. Louise and her family have worked and been associated with SIM for many years in many different capacities. Aaron grew up in Nigeria and worked short term with SIM here in Niger for a while. And a picture of the entire wedding party... these pictures were taken before hand, as at the church, the wedding party does not stand at the front, and for the most part, neither do the bride and groom, more on that later. The bridesmaids with the hats are two of Louise's sisters. Aaron's two brothers are standing on either side of the couple.
There were several non-traditional things that happened in relation to the wedding and some traditional things as well. It is not traditional here for brides to smile. They are supposed to look properly sad at the thought of leaving their mother and father. In a break with tradition, Louise did smile, which was nice as hers is such a beautiful one! Also in break with tradition, Louise's parents did come to the wedding. Normally the bride's parents are not in attendance. Following tradition, Aaron's "father" figure here in Niger negotiated the bride price. After the wedding party arrived at the church, the bridesmaids danced up the aisle- very fun! It definitely portrays the joy of a wedding day more than our calm walking into the church. They stayed lining the aisle for the entire ceremony. They were standing for the processional, but when the ceremony got underway, they had chairs placed for them along the aisle. After the bridesmaids, the men entered walking sedately up the aisle rather like a bride does at a North American wedding. Here they are entering the church. Then came the beautiful bride with her sisters following her. They went up to the top of the aisle. The groom was waiting there and they sat facing the front of the church in a loveseat in the middle of the aisle until it was time for the vows. I LOVED that touch! The weddings here may be long, but they are practical!
After the choir (in the pink robes above) singing a number of songs (including a goodbye song for Louise as she had been a member for many years and is moving), the message, making sure there were no objections to the wedding (this a more relevant point here in a country where poligomy is common), the vows were said in English (This was one of the only parts of the wedding I could understand as most of it was in Haussa!), and we moved en masse outside for the reception.
It was a very nice reception. Some of Louise's friends (below) had decorated the head table to match the bridesmaids' dresses. Another friend had made the cake, and her sisters and family worked really hard on the meal. Most of us sat in chairs facing a raised area where the head table and some special guests were seated. They brought around peanuts and chin-chin (a kind of fried dough that tastes like tiny sugar cookies), then bowls of a nice rice and sauce, and bottles of local soda. After visiting with that for a while, then the cake was presented and significance explained and the couple cut the cake. There weren't as many people by this time. Apparently people aren't used to getting cake, so many didn't stay for the whole time. Of course, by then it was the afternoon and the wedding had started at 9:30, and you had to come much earlier to get a seat inside, so perhaps some were just tired as well. Loveth did a beautiful job with the cake. It was yummy too!
So there you have it! My excitement for the month of March. It was really good the kids weren't with me as they wouldn't have lasted the whole wedding. I was glad I got the chance to go, be off mom duty and my extra sleeping and reading time were nice as well.