I was invited to a wedding last week, on a Friday night. Now, you Americans think of weddings in a very different way than South Africans do. So, here’s how a typical wedding goes.
An invite to a wedding is rarely extended in an invitation form. Basically, if you hear of a wedding and decide you want to go, you go. They are very much open to the community, and I could have gone without my principal, but that probably would have been a very awkward and confusing experience.
Wedding receptions are nearly always held at the house, in a big tent in the yard, and this one was no exception. Cooking is done in huge black pots with three legs, over a woodfire. The menu is usually a variation of: beef, goat/sheep, chicken, rice, pap, sour pap, samp, squash/pumpkin, a spicy cold salad, a not spicy cold salad, and some sort of gravy. Give or take a few dishes and you have about every wedding in SA. 🙂
Cars park all willy-nilly outside the family compound, and you wait for the bridal party to come from the church, or wherever the ceremony was heard. In my case, this time was spent being stared at intensely and being shuffled from one area to another. Once the bridal party arrived, an older woman lead the way, sweeping the ground, and an older man walked in front dancing, carrying a stick, and wearing a bloody animal skin. Don’t ask me why, I have not learned what this means. The bridal party dances in, with the bride in a stunning white dress. They head into the tent, and then, as honored guest, Lorato and I are shoved through the crowd and pushed through the mosh pit of people to arrive (slightly beaten down) in the bridal tent where we merit a seat near the center.
Oops, I forgot the part where I was chased down by the brass band, almost trampled by them, and probably received some permanent hearing loss. Oh well.
Next comes a plethora of speeches-all in Tswana-along with songs and dance. A few prayers later and suddenly the place explodes into motion as people rush towards the buffet. Lorato and I elbow our way through the crowd and manage to get some delicious food. In my absence my seat has been taken, my cup disappeared, and my fork went missing as well. The seat thief hops up, I pilfer a fork from someone else’s plate, and steal sips from Lorato’s cup as I down my food-SO GOOD!! The food is always a reason to accept an invite to anywhere, as it is always very good.
As darkness descends, we prepare to leave, but are held up by the prospect of seeing the traditional dance of the bridal party, all in traditional clothes. They finally dance out to some more crazy (but good) brass band music. This time the bride is in a strapless dress, done up in traditional colors and patterns. The guy wearing the bloody skin is nowhere to be found, but the dancing continues. We make it out well after dark (oops), but full and happy at being exposed to another incredible SA experience. I shall post pictures in the next post, so check them out.