Wednesday, June 08, 2005

La FĂȘte de Mariage

A couple of weeks after the funeral of the son of one bank member and friend was the wedding of the son of another. Mama Yem has long ago taken me in, hosting my welcoming dinner not long after my arrival, and giving me a big hug everytime she comes into the bank. She also happens to have two attractive daughters of marrying age, but I think Mama's been pretty good about not pressuring me to take one of the off her hands.

So it was that I was invited to the wedding. The week before the ceremony, Mama asked me if I'd like to be a ceremonial member of the family, by asking me to wear the fabric chosen for family members for the occasion. Its actually a great tradition where men and women of the family all wear the same pattern in whatever configuration they choose (blouse, dress, shirt or bou-bou). It certainly makes it easy to identify who's who in the photos. It was a nice honor, and I took it seriously, having a nice long-sleeved shirt made by my favorite tailor.

Weddings here are usually all-day affairs. This one started at 10am, and I finally made it home at 4am the following morning. The son opted (against his mother's wishes) for a civil ceremony (at city hall) rather than a religious one. Perhaps this was because he wanted this to be his first wife of many (there's a box on the marriage certificate here that you check for polygamists). The ceremony was brief and was followed by pictures. This was followed by two small receptions: one at Mama's home, and the other at her estranged husband's home- of course there was food and drink at each. Mama's house, with its cement floor and wood plank walls was dressed up with palm fronds built into a temporary covered porch and all the furniture was outside. The loveseat for the married couple was covered in a white sheet, and their path from the "road" was covered with tiny red flowers - it was really well done.

I returned home to take a nap at about 4pm. After a bit of a rest, I left for part two of the evening which was being held in the multifunction (gym, dance, auditorium, etc.) hall of the largest high school in town with my gift in tow. I decided on giving cutlery (including some nice steak knives), since no new family can have too much of that, packaged in a nice wicker tray. According to the schedule, I was a half-hour late. According to the way things panned out, I was two hours early.

Just as things were about to get started, virtually my entire table was promoted to one of the three tables on the stage- the other two being for the bride and groom and immediate family and the groom's employer. I suppose its one of those benefits of being in the family...

The standard speeches were followed by a massive buffet dinner (including goat, snake and monkey) which was followed by even more standard speeches. Afterwards was the giving of the gifts which consisted of a long line of guests with their gift in hand who gave their gift and received a couple of hugs and words of thanks in return. Gifts were followed by dancing, more specifically the first dance of the married couple. After that, the brothers and sisters of the bride and groom were called out to dance and partners assigned to them. Once again, I was included in this, and was assigned the wife of the groom's employer as my partner. So, there I was, dancing with a women I'd never met to Cameroonian music in front of an audience of about 300 people. I'm going to have a hard time being shy after returning from this country...

I danced quite a bit until the cake finally came out around 2:30am (yes, most people were still there). I finally threw in the towel and got a ride back home at almost 4am.


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