A few weeks ago, our friends Lopeyok Simon and Nakwang Rose got married in a church. They are the first in Timu to be married in a church building. We went to the wedding hoping to learn a little more about Ik tradition and culture. What we really saw was how the Ik believers are now mixing old traditions with new western ones. This sign welcomed us at the door. We were two out of few people who could actually read this message. Before the couple appeared, we gathered in the church to have a time of singing and dancing. Below is Rose's mom, Regina, dressed up with beads and a covered head.
After a few songs, we went to collect the couple from a house next door where they were waiting to be called. They don't follow the tradition where the groom can't see the bride before the wedding. The actually sit together and walk out in a crowd together when called out. A few people will hold a 'canopy' (sheet) over the couple's heads as they walk to the church. We sang as we went..."We are marching in the light of God"...Pastor Luka (in the blue shirt on the right) got the crowd excited and danced the whole way. The couple are joined by two attendants (Lopeyok's brother and his wife) who stand on each side of them.
All four of them looked solemn as they walked. They did not display joyful smiles. They are supposed to be in mourning for leaving their parents' households. In fact, we didn't see them crack a smile until after the ceremony.
They walked into the church and up to their seats under the canopy with much dancing and singing around them.
Rose stood on one side with her family and Lopeyok on the other with his family. They walked forward slowly and became disconnected from their family units. It was symbolic of a man & woman leaving the family and being joined together to form a new family unit. These are new rituals for the Ik that have not been performed in wedding ceremonies traditionally. It was interesting to see their response to these new rituals. They giggled a lot at being asked to do things they weren't used to.
Pastor Luka gave the couple this battery-powered light to hold up as a sign of their new life together. Don't ask me why he chose this symbol.
Then they put rings on each other's fingers. This is also a new ritual for the Ik. They haven't used rings before to symbolize marriage and commitment.
A prayer is said over the new couple. Pastor Luka is on the right and Pastor Jacob (the Ik pastor) on the left.
I made a small cake for the occasion and it was also used symbolically in the service. They took turns feeding each other to signify how they will care for each other. The Ik congregation laughed hysterically over this. It was obviously awkward and intimate.
Then the couple took two platters of cake and started serving family members. This signified how they would continue to serve their families in the future despite having broken away from the family unit.
Then they went into the congregation and started serving their tribe.
Next was a time of gift-giving and donation towards the new couple. People marched up to the front and placed their gifts at the altar. Gifts included hoe heads, money, beans and dried maize.
This precious child is named Lolem Mary. She is sister to the bride. It took two hours for me to get her to smile. Her mother had told her to be solemn about her sister leaving the household. But finally, I prevailed with some tickling.
When the wedding ceremony was finished, the couple trooped outside for some landscape pictures. In the first few pictures, they were standing two feet apart and looking sad....as is expected...as tradition dictates. But then I asked them to move a little closer and that is when Lopeyok grabbed Rose's hand. It was the first physical sign of affection I've seen among married couples in Timu.
The next day after church, we had one more ritual to attend to. The believers followed Lopeyok & Rose to their new home where Pastor Luka prayed over the couple and blessed the home. I especially liked this part of the wedding ceremonies and found it very appropriate. Maybe we could learn something from these gestures.
And that...was a modern Ik wedding.