Saturday, June 12, 2010


I attended a wedding ceremony this afternoon. My boss was the best man, and I was somewhat the token muzungu for photos.

I didn’t go to the “introduction,” which is the traditional Rwandan ceremony. The wedding in the church was a variation on the familiar ceremony: the bride and groom walked together down the aisle and sat, flanked by their best man and maid of honor (they call them the honorary father of the groom and mother of the bride). There were a few prayers and songs before the couple exchanged vows.

Yes, that’s a Hooters t-shirt in the foreground.

The couple exchanged rings and then knelt and were surrounded by the seven or so ministers for a blessing (yes, they’re Pentacostal). Then they signed their wedding contract in front of the congregation, and finally a basket was placed at the front of the room for donations. Each step of the wedding was photographed and videotaped by everyone in the audience rich enough to have a camera.

Some of the guests piled into cars and proceeded down to the lake for photographs. Two SUVs were decked out with ribbons, and all the cars in the procession had their flashers on and drove through town blowing their horns. Some of the cars zig-zagged wildly across the road, and each time we reached a roundabout or traffic triangle we circled it several times, kicking up dust. When we reached the lake, the wedding party and guests posed for a series of photos.

Most Pentacostal women don’t wear earings or braid their hair, so head wraps and accessories are particularly important.

I was asked to be in several photos – I heard the phrase “take one with me and the muzungu” a few times. At first I felt a little exploited but then I remembered I was photographing things I found strange to share on the internet, so I guess the exploitation goes both ways. For example, multiple members of the wedding party had on name tags declaring their roles: “Time keeper,” “MC,” “Head of Protocole,” “Service,” “Stock,” “Table de Honeur.”

We then went to the reception. At the head of the hall was the wedding party, surrounded by Christmas lights and flanked by the bride’s family on the left and the groom’s family on the right. After a toast by family members (made with Sprite and Fanta Citron), the bride and groom came forward. Champagne (or what looked like it) was uncorked and sprayed on them before they shared a glass. They lit sparklers on top of the cake and were sprayed with whipped cream, which was then cleaned off of them by the best man and maid of honor.

Then they cut the cake – sadly only the wedding party and families got cake! They did serve soda and little boxes with a hard boiled egg, potato, and piece of meat. A group of woman did the traditional Rwandan dance while others sang. Finally, the couple was presented with gifts – quite a few of them! The four cakes that were left were to be eaten at the bride’s house, much to my chagrin.

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