We were off to a wedding yesterday. Getting married in Rwanda is no quick affair and with the civil ceremony over with during the week, yesterday was the big day at church.
The morning was taken up by the giving of the dowry, a tradition long past at home. In this part of the world, the dowry is made up of the basics in life - cows, goats, hens and the like. When driving through Uganda, we met a young lad who had just come from his brother's wedding. In the back of his pick-up were large baskets containing the poultry that had been given to the newly-weds.
Cavalcade style, the family and guests proceed to the church for the traditional ceremony. We were entertained by the children's choir for an hour before they danced the couple down the aisle. Services here are a little longer than at home which possible explains the seats placed in front of the altar for the wedding party.
The service itself contained many of the elements we recognised. The vows are a little longer than our own and given nervously by the pair into microphones held by the best man and bridesmaid. Churches in Rwanda don't usually have powerpoint (everyone knows the hymns by heart anyway), but what they do always have is a an amplifier and very large loudspeakers. At the 'just impediment' bit, the pastor seemed a little concerned that the couple hadn't been pushed into the arrangement by their parents. They hadn't, which satisfied everybody, and with protocol out of the way, the pastor proceeded to have the rings exchanged and a blessing given.
Afterwards we had been invited to the reception at a local restaurant. The room is arranged like a conference with the two families sitting facing each other across the room. There are no tables except in the centre where the wedding party were given their place of honour. Either side of them, four men from each family sat facing each other as if ready for a grand debate.
Speeches were made, each family choosing a representative to speak on their behalf and welcome their new kinsfolk. Bottles of Fanta were passed around along with a meal, served Chinese takeaway style in aluminium containers. By this time, the couple must have been on the go for something like twelve hours but they put a brave face on it and lasted well.
Which is probably more than we did. By the time we had driven home and negotiated our dirt track in the dark, we knew we had seen a long day.