Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Daniel marries Kristin

Our good friend and house helper, Kristin, got married last Saturday and I wanted to give you a glimpse of a Karamojong wedding. I call this a 'town' wedding because she got married in a church and it wasn't a 'village' celebration like some weddings are. Both she & her new husband, Daniel, are Christians who attend the Church of Uganda (Anglican) in Kaabong. I won't go over all the details of the wedding, but maybe bring up some interesting traditions. The day started at 4am for the cooks but 7am for me & Terrill. Above: Daniel is sitting on the left with a friend and having his breakfast before going to the church. Breakfast included hot, sweet tea and fresh chapatis (flat bread). The wedding party had a base of operations at a friend's house. Both bride & groom were there early, interacting and dressing. They don't have any superstitions about seeing each other before the ceremony. The bride was getting her hair curled and plastered to her head by a local hairdresser, and the groom was pacing restlessly most of the morning. As is typical in Africa, everything was running late. They planned to start the wedding at 10am but didn't leave for the church until 11:30am.
These flowers are borrowed and used by many a bride in Kaabong. I'm sure they were cleaned and hung on the line to dry.
Kristin was a beautiful, glowing bride. When dressed, Kristin sat quietly in a dark room until she was called out to the wedding cars. She had one attendant (bridesmaid) who was instructing her what to do and when to do it. I mentioned above that her hair was plastered to her head. What I meant by that is that the hairdresser applied finger nail polish to certain parts of her hair to make it sparkle and stay in place. I would not suggest this for a westerner's hair.
Being good friends, the couple requested that we allow them to use our vehicle to transport their wedding party to the church. There were two vehicles that got decorated with multi-colored ribbons and bows. During our first trip to the church, the vehicles were loaded with men only. We were asked to drive through town and pass all the government buildings, honking our horn constantly and waving to everyone we passed. It was quite a show. Next we took the women of the wedding party and did the same thing, going a bit slower so everyone could admire the bride. When we got to the church, people were inside and out, shouting and dancing. There must have been at least 300 people in attendance, spilling out of a small church. The wedding party lined up in pairs. There were nine flower girls, followed by the bride, followed by her attendant who faithfully held up her veil. The procession walked slowly and in rhythm. It took a good twenty minutes to get the bride to the front of the church.

The wedding coordinator instructed the girls on how to walk.

The church was decorated with streamers, ribbons & bows of all colors. People didn't want to sit down, even when instructed to because they wanted to see what was happening at the front. Relatives and honored guests were escorted to seats in the front to witness the ceremony. Terrill & I chose to sit in the back so as not to make a spectacle of ourselves. We were reprimanded later by the couple because they wanted us in the front as well. Although I was taking a few pictures, three other men also had video cameras, so I figured they'd get enough coverage. The vows themselves were concise and over quickly. When the microphone was handed to the couple for them to confirm what was being said, women broke out in the typical African ululation. The people cheered and ululated at every important moment of the ceremony. An elder of Kristin's family went forward to lift her veil over her face. Daniel was asked if this was really the woman he wanted to marry. He confirmed it was and more cheers were heard. (It reminded me of the Bible story retelling the events of Jacob's marriage to Leah instead of Rachel. I wonder if this practice is a safe-guard from that happening again?)

After an hour-long sermon, the couple stepped forward to sign their marriage certificate at a table in front of everyone. More cheering. Then it was time for gifts. A practice that I've seen more than once in Uganda is this: people get in a line and present their gifts to the couple while they are giving congratulations. I don't know why it's so important that the couple receives the gift directly from the hands of the giver, but it seems to be. I had forgotten my gift and it was the first thing I heard from Kristin after the ceremony. She was hoping for us to come forward as well.
We had to giggle to ourselves when seeing multiple goats and chickens presented to the couple at the alter. The mother of one young goat had to brought in as well because it was still nursing.
And then the ceremony came to an end. It was 3pm.
The lady on the left is wearing traditional Karamojong dress. It is considered appropriate and even desired to come to a wedding like this: your skirt must swish as you dance and your beads must be piled high in adorning your waist, neck, arms, ears and head.
The groom & bride both had one attendant each. They were beside the couple throughout the ceremony.
Just as they entered, they exited in procession. Walking very slowly and to a rhythm, no smiles were seen on these faces. All were solemn.
The new couple weren't allowed to smile yet....until they got into the wedding vehicles.

We drove back to the base of operations so the bride could change clothes for the reception. But first, yhey wanted to take a few pictures. One of the required photos was Daniel picking Kristin up while in her wedding dress.

When Kristin went inside to change, the sodas were brought out. Each child in the party received 1/2 a liter of soda (mostly fanta orange) to guzzle down before returning to the church, where the reception was held. I laughed when the wedding coordinator ordered the children to drink quickly so they could return to the church quickly. In my mind, drinking quickly meant that all 14 children would need the bathroom soon after and it would not make things go quickly.

Kristin re-emerged in a lovely blue evening gown and everyone piled into the vehicles to return to the reception. I'll admit it...I didn't go to the reception. It was already 3:30pm by reception time and I was tired. Since Terrill was driving the wedding party, he had to go but did it graciously. The procession walked slowly into the church once again and sat at the front while waiting for food. Since I don't know many details about this part, I'll stick with the basics. Food was brought out on platters and people rushed for it. Some didn't even use plates but grabbed handfuls. A cow had been slaughtered for the occasion and this was very special, something that happens rarely for people. There was also a cake, decorated with the words "Daniel marries Kristin". I heard that the couple cut a piece and fed it to each other. As Daniel & Kristin returned again to the base of operations to change again and head to their first honeymoon location, the party really got going. Daniel's relatives were said to go heavy on the homebrew and sing and dance until the following morning. That's celebration Karamojong style! They know how to party!

If you think this blog post is loooonnnggg, you should've been at this wedding!


Mark & Jennie said...

THANK YOU for putting this on, I was so excited to read it this mornign!!! Please pass Huge Congrats to Kristin, tell her I love her so much and am so very happy for her. She looks beautiful!!!

Cassidy said...

I love this blog entry, Amber. I have thought of Kristin often throughout the past year and a half. I enjoyed her presence and sweet singing voice in your Kaabong house. Will you wish her a "Congratulations!" from me?

Lots of love,

ikpeople@hotmail.com said...

Arakana Noi for this wonderful narrative! Although we ourselves have never met Daniel and Kristin, we hope to one day if the Lord chooses to bring us back to Karamoja to visit you there in this lifetime. If not, then we will have the pleasure of doing so at the great Marriage Supper which NEVER ends, in which the Bridegroom HIMSELF has paid the bride-price for us ALL:-D
Much love.
Sally & Rich