Sunday, 15 February 2009

The big day has finally arrived. Everyone is up early to get prepared and help prepare. If the event is held in ones garden tents for the guests will be set up, facing each other with a good clearance in the middle. A smaller tent for bride and groom will be placed at right angles to the others to one side of the centre space. Chairs will be placed in straight rows facing the centre where a table will be placed to hold the dowry. A smaller table is put beside it for the celebration cake.

In one suitable corner the DJ will arrange his equipment. The decorator is busy and her helpers assist in blowing up balloons. Everything has to match the colour scheme of the day, which was chosen way back by both bride and groom.

To really treat guests well, the cooking will be done at home by women hired for the occasion. They will cook all night long in the backyard with firewood and missionary pots. The food will be outstanding, better than what one can get from catering companies. A long row of tables will be set up with tablecloths, plates, cutlery, napkins, drinking glasses, straws etc. As it is the serving station it will be kept out of view from the guests. People hired to do the serving are in charge of it as well as giant cooling drums holding drinks and water.

Meanwhile inside the house the bride will have a leisurely bath, lay out her finery and relax. By this time her friends should have arrived to keep her company. There will be much hilarity as will happen when girls meet who might not have seen each other for a while. They will all dress up in the bride’s room, since they came in their ordinary clothes.

Manicure and pedicure would have been done the day before as well as the hair. Now the make-up artist arrives and transforms the bride into a real beauty. She will also assist with the dressing, especially the intricate tying of the gele (headtie). For an additional fee she will also tie it for any other female who needs this service. All this will take a few hours.

Family members and friends will start arriving about an hour before the time set. They will mingle and chat, enjoy the music. Then it is time to sit down because the groom’s family is arriving. And they arrive in style! All of them together accompanied by drummers and the alaga. Now the alaga of the girl’s family takes over. After much ceremony they will be ushered in and seated in the opposite tent. Those carrying the dowry will place the items on or in front of the table. Again the visiting family will be asked the purpose of their mission by the alaga. Thealaga from that family will respond. In fact they are now the MCs. Introductions are made all over again and then it is time for the groom to arrive with his supporters. Mats are spread in front of the girl’s parents are spread out because the groom and his men are all expected to prostrate themselves flat on the ground as a mark of respect and to receive the blessings of parents and elders after which he takes his seat in the bridal tent.

Now the bride will be brought out, her head and face covered by a cloth, escorted by the youngest married woman in her family and her friends. She will be taken to the groom’s parents, sit on their laps in turn to receive their blessing. Then she will be taken to the dowry table where she is expected to pick out the bible/Koran and the ring. With these items she will be led to the groom and officially handed over. The groom will lift the cloth from her face and head and confirm that she is his wife to be. The bride will then give him the box with the ring which he will then place on her finger.

In days gone by that concluded the wedding ceremony, but has been changed to engagement now. They will cut the cake together and feed each other with a piece of it. Toasts will be made, food will be served, music will play and dancing commences. By early evening everyone is getting tired and goes home. Next day or the following week the legal wedding will take place after which the bride is finally carried to her husband’s house. And hopefully they will live happily ever after!

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