I Went to an African Wedding. Here’s What I Thought of It:
First, let me add a disclaimer saying that what I’m about to write is from a Western perspective and I in no way mean to offend anyone who may be reading this. Also, this is NOT indicative of all or even most African weddings, as every African wedding I’ve seen has been the total opposite of this experience.
So most of my closest friends know this secret about me- I used to really want to marry an African man so we could have this beautiful amazingly fun, bright, colorful, and festive African wedding. I’m a little past that now, but it was on my bucket list to attend an African wedding, so I was super excited when one of the teachers at the school that I volunteer at invited me to his wedding this past Sunday. I figured that if I was going to go to an African wedding, I had to dress the part. So I went shopping for some bright colored material and got this baby:
As soon as I put it on I felt very African Queen-y. I paid my 100 cedis (that’s’ equivalent to about 22 dollars) happily.
The day of the wedding, after I got dressed, I thought to myself: “Yeah, I’ll be getting one of these custom made again for my own wedding reception one day.”
Flo is from Ghana and lives in the volunteer house with us. She’s also one of the teachers at the school. You know we had to do a little photoshoot real quick because I mean, just look at us.
On the way to the wedding, I was super excited, thinking about all the good music and dancing – the DANCING. I was so excited.
When we got to the church, the first thing I noticed was how laid back it was. It was definitely a no frills type of event. People were dressed nicely, but many wore their Sunday best. There wasn’t a bridal party. Just a maid of honor and a best man. Decorations were minimal – faux flowers at the alter and a few arrangements in between the aisles. And there were A LOT of kids.
After vows were exchanged, a box was brought out and everyone got up by row, danced to the front, and dropped some money in the box. I thought it was nice to have a part where people could gift the newlyweds with some funds to start their new life together, rather than the usual household item wedding gift that is typical of Western weddings. The thing is, I thought this was nice the FIRST time.
After the ceremony, we walked next door to where the reception was to be held. Again, it was simple, with lots of chairs lined up and a stage at the front where the bride groom, and closest friends and family were to sit. On the table, there were also about ten bottles of champagne, some bottles of water, and cans of soda. I thought, “Oh nice, they have champagne for us.” I also was curious as to where all the food was.
As the second part of the ceremony commenced, I was getting pretty hungry and antsy, but I just knew good food, drinks, music, and dancing was yet to come. As the wedding was all in Twi, I didn’t understand much of anything that was said. What I DID understand though, was every time the speaker requested guests to come up and give the bride and groom more money. Like I said, I didn’t see much wrong with that the first time, during the initial part of the ceremony. Then it happened again, and again and again, and again. Literally, I lost count after the 8th time that money was collected.
Mostly, it was done in a way where women were called up to “drop 1 cedi.” Then men. Then the bride’s friends and family. Then the groom’s friends and family. Then they AUCTIONED off the champagne bottles. And the cans of soda. And the water bottles. Yes, even the water bottles.
By this time, I was pretty put off by how the entire reception appeared to be only for the sake of collecting money and taking a few pictures. Where was the food? And the DANCING?!!
Well, finally it was food time. A young girl passed around a bag with a Styrofoam container filled with rice, a piece of chicken, and a soda can. I thought to myself, “hmm, this is very different, but hey, food is food and this is definitely a lot cheaper than a three course dinner. Ok well now we can get to the fun part.”
Except the “fun” part never came. Don’t get me wrong, there was fun at the wedding. People had a good time laughing every time the speaker said “you may kiss your bride” and the kids would run up in anticipation, then scramble away laughing after the couple had kissed. But it just wasn’t at all what I was expecting. After food was handed out and a few more pictures taken, the wedding was over. That was it. No good music, no dancing into the night, nothing. We headed home.
On the way home, I asked Flo how come there was no dancing like I had thought there would be and she told me that some couples choose to be more traditional by keeping the wedding and reception in the church only, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to have that fun music and dancing in church. Had this been a less traditional couple, we would have had the dancing and fun like in the African weddings I always see on YouTube. Also, she said, some couples opt to keep it simple and inexpensive.
I can understand that, but then I don’t understand all the money collections. Because if people are paying money basically, I feel there should have been a bit more entertainment and some basic refreshments. And there was no wedding cake. Also, there were VERY little decorations so I’m confused what the – in the words of the groom- “SO much money” was spent on.
In the end, I had to realize that different people in different places do things differently. Fair enough. In all honesty, what matters is that this beautiful couple got married in the presence of family and friends, and they did it their way. And that is all that matters.