I was invited to another wedding at the Catholic Church. I had met the father of the groom, but no one else in the wedding party. This wedding was on a Saturday at 10 in the morning. When I arrived at the church there were lots of cars and motos, and even a bus. In the front of the church was a small band, consisting of two keyboards, a bass guitar, a drum set and a trombone, playing rather up beat music that sounded like it could be European popular music. There were orange and white balloons at the ends of some of the rows of benches, like you might see flowers or bows at the ends of the pews at an American wedding. There were six or eight men running around with video cameras. I think one was an official videographer and the rest were friends of the bride and groom, but they went around like a swarm of bees, filming every moment. There were at least that many people with cameras clicking away so I kept my camera in my back pack until the reception, when I felt more comfortable taking pictures of these folks I did not know.
There were eight girls in matching pagnes with matching peach colored satin tops with a strip of the pagne material sewed on them diagonally. You can see two of them in the picture below that I snapped at the reception.
The procession started with a boy carrying the crucifix, followed by a flower girl in an orange dress, the girls I described above, and the bride and groom arm in arm, the bride in a flowing white dress and veil like you might see at an American wedding and the groom in suit and tie. Here they are at the reception
They were followed by 10 priests. The processional music was Mendelson’s wedding march, the one that is often played as the recessional music at American weddings. After getting the bride and groom settled in their chairs in the front row, the girls all rushed off the join the choir that was seated in the front four or five rows. Throughout the Mass, the choir, over 50 voices strong, sang many songs that were literally music to my ears. They used beautiful European style singing for some anthems that were probably from the classical repertoire, and enthusiastic and joyful voices on some other numbers that sounded like gospel music. There was not a screeching voice to be heard.
The service was entirely in French, so I could follow most of what was said. The bride read from one of John’s letters and the groom did a reading that, if I understood correctly, was from the writings on one of the Saints, although I did not catch the reference. His reading was accompanied by background music from one of the keyboards. This had clearly been carefully planned and rehearsed. This church is quite large and has a good sound system. Microphones were used throughout so it was easy to hear the bride and groom say their vows. They had either memorized or were reading them, but they did not do the “repeat after the Priest” type. After the Eucharist, the bride and groom said a prayer together, and then the groom ran over to join the choir for the Hallelujah chorus from the Messiah. It was clear he was a popular member of the this choir that had come from Ouagadougo (on that bus I saw) to sing at his wedding. They ended with another song that sounded like it could also have come from the Messiah, and they sang it in English. The main part was “forever and ever” repeated a lot. Then the band broke out in another upbeat tune and the bride and groom lead a line of dancers around the church. All of this lasted about two and a half hours.
There was not the traditional receiving line at the church. People just left the church and headed down the road into town to the reception. The midwife who does the sex ed presentations with me met me there and guided me through proper behavior for this part of the event. We started out walking to town, wheeling my bike. Eventually someone picked her up on a moto, I hopped on my bike, and we joined the long line of cars and motos going to the reception.
There was a head table for the newlyweds and their parents, and another table for special guests, mostly the priests and nuns.
The bridal party and special guests were served from platters onto china dishes, but the rest of the crowd (a couple of hundred, I would guess) were given Styrofoam boxes packed with two kinds of rice and sauce, a very small piece of chicken, lentils, some kind of meatloaf thing that may have been sausage, and, of course, tô and sauce. No silverware, unless you were special, like me. I ended up taking the box with me and passing most of the food on to the family of my community homologue, who had given me the message that I was invited to the wedding.
There was a time for a toast to the newlyweds and remarks from the families. The bride’s father talked for her family, all in Moore, so I have no idea what he was saying. The groom’s brother told a story, in French, that was the story of the romance. It seems that the groom started in school at the “petite seminary” at the center where we had language training, which I wrote about before. When it came time to decide whether to go to the university or “la grande seminary,” he chose to go to the university, where he studied philosophy. The bride was in her last year at the lycée and needed a tutor in philosophy. That is how they met. Even though the groom decided not to be a priest, it was clear that he is very active in the choir at the Ouaga church.
The wedding cake was actually three little cakes, which were put on a stand designed for this purpose. There were crowds of people with cameras around the cake cutting. They did not do the “feed a piece of the cake to your new spouse” ritual you see at American receptions, however. In the picture below you see the cakes and, in the background, a guy eating from ome of the Styrofoam boxes
The choir gathered in front of the bridal party table and sang a couple of numbers to the bride and groom, ending with the “forever and ever” one. That got a big laugh. Then they began the process of presenting the gifts to the bride and groom. The bride and groom stood in front of the table and people filed past to present their gifts. The guy with the microphone announced the name of the donor for each one. They you could congratulate the bride and groom, and one of the attendants gave you a little net sachet with a couple of nuts and a mint, kind of like the table favors you might have at an American wedding. At that point people started to drift away and helpers started taking down the decorations. Party over. All in all, it was very interesting.
As I rode home I passed the house of the groom’s parents, and there was a big party going on there, too. I think it was the party for the neighbors and that the bride and groom would appear there later for the singing and dancing, but I did not stop so I am not sure.
As you can tell from the description, these are relatively well to do people, and the bride and groom have adopted a lot of European culture. It was quite a contrast to the other wedding I described last fall, and was also very different from a Moslem wedding I (sort of) attended recently. More about this in a future blog...