Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tying the knot

I was lucky enough to attend a wedding last weekend with my host family and it was quite an ordeal! Weddings are not very common in Botswana due to the lebola, or bride price, a man has to pay before marriage (see my previous blog post for more information). When a wedding does occur, it last for four days. My understanding of it is that the first day (Thursday), it's like signing your papers at the court. Here in Botswana, the bride and groom go to the kgotla to talk to the kgosi and they get all of that squared away. Other friends and family members can go to the kgotla, but only married people can go on this day. The men and the women separate and the bride and groom receive advice for their marriage as well. On the second day (Friday), there is a big combined celebration. Anyone is allowed to come, whether you are married or not. On the third day (Saturday), there is a wedding ceremony held at the bride's house. On the fourth day (Sunday), there is a wedding ceremony held at the groom's house. These are HUGE events. We're talking hundreds of people. And there is no such thing as invitations here, everyone just shows up. It's expected for the guests to bring other friends and family, so it was perfectly normal for me to show up there. The Batswana say that "party crashing" is just a way of life here. You can show up to just about anything unannounced and you will be welcomed and served food. Not a bad deal, right?

At the beginning of day on Sunday, I went with my host sister and her cousins to help do the dishes and cook. It was neat to be helping the family and they enjoyed hearing the few phrases I can actually say in Setswana. The most exciting part of the day for everyone is in the morning... the groom walks with his side of the family/friends, etc and the bride walks with her side of the family/friends. They walk down a road toward each other, everyone is singing and dancing behind them, and when they finally meet, the couple kisses. It's a HUGE deal because it is not common to see any public displays of affection between Batswana. This was the only time I saw them kiss all day! 
After that, everyone heads to a big wedding tent where the actual ceremony is. I was surprised that the wedding party situation was very similar to the states. Bridesmaids are all wearing fancy dresses and the men are dressed in suits. The bride wore a white dress and the groom wore a suit too. It looked very western to me! There was a lot of praying, singing, and talking about how they met. They never actually exchanged "vows", but they do stand up and say how they met, how they knew they should be together, etc.
Once the big ceremony was over, everyone separated into the bride and groom's family and ate lunch. I helped with the younger women to serve the dishes and give food to our elders. Everyone is very well fed, no matter how many people are there. Isn't that great? No need to RSVP to anything, there is always extra food for everyone. At this point, the bride and groom change their outfits three different times. Following every dress change, the wedding party choreographs a dance for entertainment. All of the outfit changes, dances, and talking took hours to complete! Weddings are very social events. 
It was wonderful to be a part of such a rich culture and people were very welcoming to me. I was the only white woman there, so people were asking me about why I was in Botswana all day long :o) I got there at 8 to help set up, and I finally left around 5. I left early too. Can you imagine doing all of that for a wedding back home? We think one day of planning is a lot... try four! 

Love & Light,

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