On Saturday November 3, we were invited to a wedding. The bride is the daughter of a family that belongs to the Mennonite Church of Ouagadougou. It is always fun to attend a wedding, particularly when there is the opportunity to observe cultural differences. While Christian weddings here bring with them Western traditions; we noticed a few differences.
One day in October, we heard a knock on our door around lunch time. It was the bride’s father who came to drop off our invitation to the wedding. Yes, in Burkina Faso, wedding invitations are hand delivered rather than mailed. Along with hand delivered invitations, there was no need to RSVP. In North America wedding planners advise couples to subtract 15% from the number of invitations sent out to have a rough estimate of the number of actual guests. Here it is better to prepare for more guests than invitations. In other words, plan for a lot of food!
On the day of the wedding, we drove to City Hall for the civil ceremony which was scheduled for 1:30 PM. When we arrived at 1:33, the doors were already locked. We stood outside with the rest of the crowd, but we could hear the ceremony via speakers. The person directing the service took his time to carefully read the names and to give a little bit of information about the bride and groom. Even though this was a legal matter – the couple had already filled out the forms ahead of time – it was also a ceremonial event. Afterward, several people spoke, including the Mayor. The groom works at City Hall, so the Mayor honored his employee by attending the service and giving the couple some words of advice.
After the civil ceremony ended, everyone headed over to the Catholic Church where the religious service was held. The groom is part of the Roman Catholic charismatic movement, so their marriage crosses confessional boundaries. The service was a typical wedding ceremony with celebration of the Eucharist. It included a lot of music; well over half the hour-long service was conducted through songs. The music – a soft rock/pop style — was presented by a five person choral group with accompaniment. There was also an opportunity to dance around the sanctuary in a line led by the bride and groom who danced arm in arm. Dancing is an important way to express joy!
After the service came the procession to the reception hall. It was led by a uniformed official on a motorcycle to warn everyone to give way. This is not typical but likely arranged due to the groom’s contacts at City Hall. The reception is not the end of the festivities. The groom’s extended family along with close friends continue on to the groom’s parental home; the bride’s family and friends go to her parents’ home. We were privileged to be invited to the home of parents of the bride where more food was served. The couple always makes the rounds, going first to the bride’s home and then to the groom’s home to greet their guests one more time.
Unfortunately, the couple was delayed. Otherwise, we would have been present for the final leave-taking as the bride took her belongings and moved them to her new home. As she takes her luggage the bride is symbolically as well as literally leaving her father’s house. From now on, she will only visit. We were sorry to miss this important step, but the next morning we were also grateful for the extra hours of sleep!