Wedding Bells

By Savannah Swanner | Aug 28, 2012
The wedding/send-off scene

My time here in Tarime is flying by…I only have about two months left!  Thank you all for your letters of support I have received in the last month.  They have been an amazing reminder that it is not just I on this mission but a whole family of believers behind me!  It is way past time for a new blog post, so I thought I would write about the wedding Rachel and I went to a couple of weeks ago.

August 15th, Rachel and I were invited to a “send-off” which is a celebration party hosted by the bride’s family, giving her away to the groom’s family.  The night was very African even down to the time it started.  Here in Tarime, time is relative.  Often when a time is set to meet, the person may not show up until 30-45 minutes later (drastically different than the U.S.).  The send-off was suppose to start at 6:30 pm.  Rachel and I didn’t arrive with Anna (the supervisor at Angel House and our dear friend) until 7:30 p.m. and even then we were actually some of the first guests to arrive.  Most of the other people didn’t arrive until 8:30-9:00 pm, and the bride arrived around 9:45 pm!  To just clarify, that is 3.5 hours after the invitation said the party was suppose to start.  Pretty different than what I am use to at home!

Once we had settled into our table, I asked Anna if it was strange that we were going to someone’s party when we did not even know the bride.  Her response was wonderful!  She said that the bride was actually excited we were going to be there because we would add some “color” to the crowd on the video recording.  After that confirmation, my worries of intruding were settled and I dove into the celebration.  The room was fairly large and decorated with the colors the bride would be wearing when she arrived, blue and white.  Christmas lights were hung up, along with tons of fabric.  In the front was a stage with two white thrones.  On each side of the thrones were two tented areas for the bridal party.  At about 9:30 pm, the fun began!  The bride’s family arrived dancing and greeting everyone.  All the female guests began dancing so, of course, when you are in Africa at a stranger’s send-off what would you do?  Dance!  Rachel and I followed Anna onto the dance floor where everyone welcomed and hugged us.  I actually picked up two dance partners.  In fact, they were the only two males on the dance floor.  Two really cute three or four year old boys who thought I was the strangest thing in the whole room.  The song quickly ended with the groom’s family’s arrival.  In Tanzanian weddings, no one walks.  Really, truly, no one walks from place to place.  Instead, they dance!  Once the groom’s family arrived they began dancing towards the bride’s family who began dancing towards the groom’s family.  They met in the middle, embracing and shouting.  Once this finished, everyone danced to his or her seats and the bridal party arrived.  The bride was dressed in an aqua blue gown, as was her maid-of-honor.  The matron of honor danced around everyone, spraying fake snow and shouting in celebration.  Behind the two girls in aqua, the bridesmaids wore periwinkle colored dresses and danced in two lines.  This was their job in the wedding and the send-off.  They were to dance for the bride.  This procession of dancing, shouting, and congratulating continued for about twenty minutes.  From here the bride and her maid of honor cut the cake and shared a bite.  Then the Champaign man came and danced with the Champaign bottle for about five minutes before opening it to spray everywhere.  (This was possibly my favorite part of the whole night…I cannot even describe the moves this Champaign man pulled with the Champaign bottle).  Then it was time for the Kuria dance.  This is the tribal dance that all the Kurian women love.  I did not get to try but next time I’ll be ready!  The dance involves moving your neck forward and back very fast while moving your chest in the opposite direction…quite challenging!  During all of this I kept wondering, “where’s the groom?”  At this point, I had asked Anna several times when the groom would arrive but she also did not know.  Finally, the MC called the bride and maid-of-honor forward and told them to go and find her husband.  The groom had been in the audience the whole time, watching the procession and hiding from his bride!  This search, of course, meant more dancing/swaying around the room until the bride found her groom.  Then…they danced!  Dinner soon followed (you had to dance to the dinner line) then gift giving came.  The bride had many family members who worked in the nearby gold mines so gold was given several times as well as other, everyday gifts.  Rachel and I along with Anna danced to the front (with everyone watching the “mzungus”) and gave our gift.  We returned home at about 12:30 am!

As I think about this experience, it is amazing to me to remember the differences in our cultures.  People all over the world live differently, dance differently, hug differently, and eat differently.  One thing I am learning though, is that when you find those who love Jesus like you do the differences do not matter as much.  You can worship together, study together, and love together because they are no longer strangers with different cultures.  They are your brothers and sisters in Christ!  What an amazing God!  He brings us together – traversing cultures and differences – to love one another, mirroring the way He loves us!