Thursday, December 13, 2007

Part Seven: The Wedding

I love weddings.

I'll watch weddings on TV. I'll browse wedding planning websites. I'll beg to be invited to weddings, because I LOVE WEDDINGS.

Part of my time in Namibia included attending a semi-traditional Oshiwambo wedding. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I couldn't wait. A wedding!

The night before the wedding, our team helped decorate the church. We didn't have much with which to decorate. Toilet paper. Food coloring. Balloons. But somehow, we made the church look amazing. Toilet paper and green food coloring turned into polka-dot crepe paper. We ran toilet paper bows down the aisle. We hung balloons from the ceiling; Jerome balanced on a ladder while a whole crew of guys held onto it.

The most amazing part of the night before the wedding was when Rico, Jerome, and Ashwin sat in the middle of the church and started singing hymns in flawless harmony. At that second, I thought I'd never be able to go home. How had I lived for nineteen years without this?

The morning of the wedding found the girls' house in complete excitement. We swapped clothes, eager to dress up, even though "dressing up" only meant showering and trying to find something semi-clean/not-too-wrinkly to wear.

The ceremony was lovely. There was at least an hour and a half of worship music, then a sermon, and then the actual wedding ceremony. The wedding party DANCED down the aisle. I don't think that I've ever been to a more beautiful wedding. I loved every second of it. (True to the concept of "Namibian time", some guests were still arriving after the kiss!)

After the church, everyone headed to a local water park to take pictures with the bride and groom. The park had waterslides, a mini zoo with monkeys, and springbok roaming the grounds.

After taking pictures, we waited headed home, changed into jeans, went to the reception site, and waited for everything to start. We waited. And waited. And waited. In Namibia, the new couple goes to the bride's reception first, and then to the groom's reception. We were guests of the groom, so our reception was delayed a little bit...about two hours. At this point, it was late afternoon, and we hadn't eaten since breakfast, but we were too excited to complain.

The couple finally showed up, accompanied by Oshiwambo women in their traditional dress. According to custom, the groom must wait at the gate for his father to come and welcome him in. Evidently, it's also a custom that the father make the son and his new bride wait. At this point, the guests were going wild, ululating, dancing, singing.

The bride and groom made their way into the tents. There were gigantic plates of food, and more types of meat than I've ever seen in one place at one time. We ate and laughed and drank too many Cokes and danced with complete strangers. It was the simplest, most beautiful, most joyful wedding I've ever had the honor of attending.

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