My African Wedding

I should have written this blog a while ago when the events were still fresh in my mind. Oops. Life happened. Fiancés happened. And next thing you know, a month has passed.

Semi funny looking now at my last blog post and how I ranted that I was a million miles from the man I loved and still had it that way for another six weeks.

Since then however, we see the true colors of my future husband.

The week before that blog, Edison ended his job with his then company and was transitioning to a new job. We had talked about the possibility of him coming out to visit but finances were tight, we weren’t sure what the overlap of his old job and his new job was and details kept piling up.

Finally though, it just hit the point where our broken conversations weren’t cutting it. After some prayers and shuffling money around, he made the decision, booked a ticket, confirmed that he could push his start date for his new job and in less than a week, was on a plane to Africa to come visit me.

It was all very exciting and romantic and as I told me Congolese family about it, they seemed more happy than I was! They told me “Sandra, you are Congolese, it is only fitting you have a Congolese wedding.”

“Ok….. what does a Congolese wedding look like?”

And so began the next weekend and my half marriage to Edison Lee.

He arrived in Congo Friday evening and early Saturday morning we started the preparations.

“In Congo we begin with the Dowry ceremony” We were told.

“Edison must go with his best man… we’ll say it’s Jimmy! Jimmy will take him. He will buy a suit for Sunday and then they will go to a farm and buy a goat!

For my daughters a man must pay 12 goats to the father if he wants to marry her.”

So Edison went off one way, and myself and my “African bridesmaids” another. I found shoes with a heel, (apparently a must) we organized the invitations, picked out a “meal” and found a place for “wedding photos”.

When we got home that night our house was already filled with guests.

With clear instructions of what sounded more like a theatrical performance than a simple dowry ceremony, we were given things to say, ways to walk and places to sit in order to be culturally accurate. Then myself and my girls were shuffled to the hall as we peaked in the window of the living room to hear Edison speaking with my “Father” sitting on a couch next to his “father” (both I’d consider my Congo fam) as the performance began.

“I have come to ask to marry one of your daughters” He announced.

“Really? Which daughter have you come for?”

“I have come to marry the one I see most beautiful”

“I have many beautiful daughters” My Congo father said. “Let the aunt bring them out to you”

Then one by one the oldest aunt in the family came to the hall and grabbed one of the 5 sisters hovering by the door to present them to Edison.

The girl would strut out in front of the audience and say “Is it me!? Have you come to marry me??”

Everyone was such troopers as they walked like a model on the catwalk in front of family that had traveled long distances to watch their muzungu daughter wed.

Edison too as he said over and over again “You have many beautiful daughters, but she is not the one”

Finally after my South African, Scottish, American and Congolese sisters had all paraded the living room and finally I was fetched to come and meet him.

“This is my last one. Is this her? Is she the one you want to marry”

“Yes” Edison finally said “She is the one I have come to marry”

We then were allowed the first public contact since arriving in Congo as we had to hug in front of everyone to prove this we both wanted the engagement and everyone screamed and cheered.

He then presented the live goat (that we named Bageera, cause I thought he looked like a panther) (Jungle book anyone!?)

And his “best man” took the financial dowry and counted it out loud for the family to see. With more cheering and screaming.

From there speeches were made from both “his parents” and mine. They went something like “From the time I birthed you….” To “now with this dowry, you are making up for my labor pains”

It was epic.

Cooked goat was then served for everyone as a sign that blood had been shed, there was now a covenant made between families and a wedding was able to take place.

It lasted hours until every smiling face was stuffed full and we were all ready to crash.

The next morning the next festivities were suppose to start by noon.

They call this ceremony the “Going away ceremony” in Congo culture the bride is taken into the grooms family and is usually required to leave the home for about a year. If she returns more than once or twice, they assume she has marital problems. I didn’t like that….

So we renamed this day “The Welcome Ceremony” Saying that our family is embracing a new son. (slight mix of cultures for that one)

As 3pm rolled around we were finally ready and wedding party along with the families were stuffed into elaborately decorated vehicles and driven up and down through town. We were taken for the most awkwardly staged wedding photos and then finally, several hours late, arrived at a feast. Complete with a THREE TIERED wedding cake.

We ate chicken and goat. We were presented with a full cooked chicken, complete with beak and eyeballs still intact as were both sets of parents. We were required to give speeches. Many speeches. And then stood at the front as our guests danced up the aisle to present us our wedding gifts!! I was so humbled. We got pots and spoons. Some people gave us a dollar here or a dollar there. Edison and I are literally going into marriage with nothing more than a muffin tin to our name, so receiving their humble gifts (though we can’t use it in America) meant SO MUCH to us! Uh. I am blown away by the act of wedding gifts and people celebrating our lives.

Technically after that, we should’ve been gearing up for our last and final ceremony that makes the wedding official, but we decided to hold off and do that one in the states. 87 Days to go! But who’s counting.

So as I finish off my last couple weeks in Africa before leaving the continent for a while, I am SO HAPPY I got my traditional wedding in. Even though they still ask us to do the final ceremony (day 3) in the mud hut village when we return next year, for now my heart is full. 

(I was going to fill this blog with photos from the day BUT unfortunately, my internet is from the dark ages and won't load a thing-- sorry!)