Wedding 2: Cows, goats, and mistaken identities
It took about three hours of travelling across pothole-ridden roads to arrive at a small village in the district of Palissa. Along the way, we merrily discussed my own status as ‘bachelor’; ‘What would your parents think if you brought home a black wife?’ I was asked. ‘I think they would have more questions over me bringing home a wife in the first place’ was my response. We all laughed. It was a witty little joke with witty little consequence.
Or so I thought. Or so I thought.
But first, the wedding. In an Eteso wedding, it is the groom who comes to the bride’s village, rather than the other way round (as in some other cultures I have been to, such as South India). The groom enters the village ‘square’ with his whole family (essentially most of his village); after cutting a ribbon, nearly a hundred people streamed through a little archway. What is more, there was a bubble machine. (I say this was a ‘traditional’ wedding: it had a traditionalist ritual and was next to a few mud-huts. Other than that, it had a DJ blasting out Ugandan Christian RnB Afro-pop - which is quite an interesting concept, to say the least). Nevertheless, it turns out the groom was late; accordingly, the Master of Ceremonies called for him to pay a fine to compensate the guests, which I think is an excellent idea. In Western weddings, brides so often turn up late that I think it is high time they gave financial compensation to us the poor and miserable waiting guests.
Once the groom was seated (hidden in the crowd of his family - we’ll see why in a bit), the bridal procession began. Sorry, did I say ‘procession’? I meant ‘processions’. You see, at an Eteso wedding, there is not one, nor two, but five bridal processions. And the bride only turns up in the last one. To explain: in the first procession, the bridesmaids (who effectively act as servants throughout the whole service) processed up, and knelt before the groom’s family. To the sound of Afro-pop, the groom’s aunts then got up and circled round the bridesmaids, looking for the bride (it felt akin to a marital version of pass-the-parcel). When they finally realised she was not there, aunts decided upon whether the bridesmaids themselves should be the bride. (I like this idea of having alternative brides in case the bride doesn’t turn up. Perhaps I shall include it in my wedding liturgy). Nevertheless, the gathering wholeheartedly said, ‘No’, after which the bridesmaids responded, ‘We shall go look for the bride, but we need money for transport!’ The groom proceeded to give them money.
|Is the bride amongst these |
|Is the bride amongst these|
‘Who is that girl there?’ said I. ‘She is very beautiful! Is she married?’
He laughed. ‘Ah, no, no, no, she is not.’
He was then silent for a while.
|In an alternative universe, this girl|
is now my wife.
‘Well… maybe…’ said I, still naively flirtatious.
‘Ok…’ he said, more serious and sombre previously. ‘Shall I ask for her parents to be brought as well?’
I was confused. ‘But why should you bring her par-’ And then I realised. In the Ugandan cultures, if you are considering marrying a girl, you would meet her parents at the same time. ‘Er…’ said I, ‘probably not! We do marriage a little differently in England…and my parents would be somewhat upset…’ I added hastily. He seemed disappointed. For my thought, it was a very close call.
|The bride is found|
The song I want sung at my wedding, as I enter the church [the song begins after one minute, though the music video is objectively the greatest ever made): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2XZAc_TMk8
The groom subsequently discussed the dowry with his father-in-law (once again, unlike in other cultures, here the groom, not the bride, pays the dowry), which added up to a total of nine cows, nine goats and three million Ugandan shillings (just less than a thousand pounds). ‘Why nine cows and not eight?’ I hear the full multitude of you cry (for you are well acquainted with Eteso culture). Well, it because the groom had had a baby with the bride without the bride’s parents permission, and thus had to pay for the dishonour. Naughty boy.
|The price of impatience: an extra|
cow for the dowry
|You're getting engaged?|
Congratulations! Have a lollipop
And that, ladies and gentlemen (in an unusually long entry for my Ugandan blog) is an Eteso wedding. It is also the story of how I narrowly missed getting hitched myself. What does tomorrow’s entry have in stall? Let’s just say it involves dozens of people paying me homage whilst I sit upon a throne…
|'Different cultures, different customs'|
Coca Cola as a wedding gift