An African Wedding
We were fortunate to be invited to a wedding in a small rural town in the middle of Limpopo Province about 5 hours drive from Johannesburg.
This little town, Ruth Furse, was named after a hospital built to honour a young girl. When accompanying her priest father around the country, Ruth saw so many sickly people, that she was determined to become a doctor. She died of scarlet fever before realising her dream.
We were extremely conspicuous by being the only whites amongst 50000 inhabitants.
The bride and groom had both previously worked for us in Cape Town. Soni worked part time on weekends
whilst completing his Mechanical Engineering degree and Lebo was part of the sales team. It was love at first site! Getting Soni to work every weekend was never a problem!
A marriage in South Africa is not about 2 people joining in harmony, but 2 whole families joining together. Families are not small here!!
Lobola, a dowry, is an extremely important part of the marriage negotiations. Here the uncles and not the fathers meet to discuss the price for the bride. It is very expensive and can cost a groom many many cattle (the currency of the dowry). The uncles come together and spend many a hour settling on the price of the bride. The money generated is then used by the bride’s parents to pay for the wedding. The groom pays for his own wedding so it can seen that this is a very costly occasion for a man!!
Here is where the difference to conventional weddings comes in.
The bride and groom marry twice, once in the village of the bride and again in the grooms village. Everything is duplicated right down to new outfits for everyone. Normally the 2 weddings take place over 2 days, but because the couple came from villages very far apart, they delayed the second wedding a month.
We attended the second wedding after Soni and Lebo had married the first time some months previously in Kuruman in the Northern Cape.
Lebo arrives at the house of the groom the night before the wedding, her face covered and accompanied by her sister or aunt. The groom is not in the house on this night and the time is spent with the aunts instructing the bride how to behave, love, care and treat her husband.
The following morning the groom and his wedding party ( up to 6 good friends) drive to the house to collect the bride. Parking the wedding cars at least a 100m down the road the groom and best men dance their way to the house to songs played by a brass band. As they enter the grounds the bridal party comes out and does a slow dance to meet the groom.
The uncle hands Lebo over to Soni and they then dance out to the cars and drive to the church.
This area of the country had many Lutheran mission stations and so we found ourselves in a Lutheran church surrounded with quotes from the bible in German.
The brass band plays many old German folk songs, mixed with African languages.
During the ceremony the priest gets very animated and encourages the couple to love and care for each other constantly. It is more like a marriage counselling session.
That over the couple dance down the aisle and everyone heads back to the grooms house.
Here there is a huge marque with seating for 200 specially invited guests. Outside there are hundreds of people sitting around. It is the culture that everyone is invited and they are all given a plate of food and something to drink. For this purpose they slaughtered a cow, 4 sheep and a goat. Many helpers cook enormous amounts of food in huge pots which will feed 500 people.
When the wedding couple arrive they again dance their way into the tent. Outside there is a big TV screen so that the many hundred villagers can watch the speeches that are taking place in the tent. During the speeches, there is a lot of singing and dancing. Many traditional songs are sung, including one which tells the story of the son taking a new bride where the bride is now the boss of the mother in law’s kitchen. The mother in law must now take a back seat as the new bride starts to run the kitchen.
A delicious buffet lunch is served after many long speeches and it is only once the speeches are finished that the guests are allowed to drink.
During the reception the uncles of the bride present the family of the groom the head of the cow , which is cooked and eaten the next day.
Lebo is lead away later and dressed in traditional Pedi clothes and she and Soni then leave.
Meantime the wedding goes on and on and everyone who arrives is fed and given something to drink. The reception spills over into neighbouring properties with more people, more dancing, more drinking and lots of fun for everyone. No such thing as a wedding crasher here!! Altogether a very festive and wonderful day in the life of an African village.