Since arriving here, I have become good friends with Tabbitha who works at the academy. She always seems to have a smile on her face and consistently stops by my classroom to catch up and say hi. She also works to teach me new Chichewa words each day. Early in our friendship, she told me she was getting married in November and that she wanted me to come to her wedding. As our friendship has grown, her wedding has been something I was very much looking forward to. Not only would this be my first Malawian wedding, but I knew Tabbitha had become a close friend who I want to encourage and walk along side as she enters this commitment and relationship with Peter.
This past Saturday the day finally arrived. Tabbitha seemed calm last week and excited for her wedding day. She asked me what my favorite colors were and told me that she would be embarrassing me at the wedding. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by this, but figured it wouldn’t be my first time being embarrassed in Malawi and I would surely survive whatever was coming my way.
The night before the wedding, I started wondering what differences I would see, as I had no idea what to expect. I panicked for a moment when I looked at the invitation and saw that the wedding was at 7:30 AM and the reception was at 2 PM. I found out that here in Malawi, not many people attend the ceremony at the church, but many people attend the reception. In fact, you don’t actually have to be formally invited to attend the reception. It’s a rather large event and all are welcome. I showed up at the reception at 2 and found a place at a table with four other Malawians that I work with, as well as two of the college students. They were all happy to help explain things to me. The wedding party arrived and stood outside the large tent before entering. Then, a rather upbeat song started playing and in danced the wedding party. When I say danced, I truly mean danced! Each bridesmaid and groomsman danced their way up to the front where they would be sitting. After they had made it, the bride and groom came in dancing. They did the same thing as well and everyone took pictures and danced by their tables. I could tell from this entrance that I was in for an exciting wedding! The wedding party sat up at the front and the family members faced them on the other side of the dance floor. Then there were tables scattered around. There was a pastor with a microphone and a DJ playing music. Shortly after the wedding party was seated, the bride and groom were called to the dance floor. The man than announced that it was time for anyone who worked with the bride to come up and dance. Tabbie stood on the dance floor, holding a rather large shallow basket and people came up and danced. Not only did they dance, but they brought their wallets and purses with them and they tossed money in the basket or just at the bride while they danced. They would then turn around and dance back to their seats. This continued throughout the wedding and anytime a category was called up that you fit, you would grab your purse and head up front. There was also a money exchange table where you could take larger bills and have them exchanged for smaller ones. I was amazed at how the money just kept being thrown and how people just kept on dancing! I went up about five different times and just danced my way up to the dance floor, did some dancing and some money tossing, and then danced my way back to my seat. It was a celebration to say the least and a very colorful one at that with all the different patterns and all the small children and babies. After about an hour and a half, there were plates of food brought out to each table. One plate was brought with napkins and then the plate was passed. There were different finger foods. Then high school age boys brought around crates of coke and Fanta. Everyone was given a drink of his or her choice. This was preceded with the cake. The bride and groom danced their way over to the cake table where there was the large cake and smaller cakes. They presented a small cake to both of their parents and then fed one another a piece. There was cake that could be auctioned off or purchased, but not everyone is served a piece of cake.
After the cake eating, the pastor started to call out people’s names. He was calling out the names of close friends of the bride. Each girl went up front and stood next to the bride and groom. It was then that I heard my name called out. I went up and was told to stand next to the groom. Apparently the bride writes down the names of her close friends and they are given a chance to dance with the bride and send her off as a final goodbye before she leaves the reception. The pastor gave a brief synopsis about the bride and the groom and each of their lives. Then Tabbie and Peter walked away from us and stood on the other side of the dance floor, facing us. I then realized this was what Tabbie meant when she said she would embarrass me because I had to dance by myself towards her! I decided I would just have fun and dance like no one was watching! I felt so honored that she would want me to be a part of her wedding in this way. She presented me with a gift (a colorful chitenje) and a note. After she did this for each of her girlfriends, we all danced together before returning to our seats. This was my absolute favorite part of the wedding and I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I have made special friendships such as this in such a short time. I know I will never again have this honor and I feel it is times such as these that make my heart feel completely full. I’m so thankful that there are differences in cultures and I love experiencing some of these differences. It was an absolutely beautiful wedding and I am so glad I was able to be a part of it!
|The wedding party. They sat up front for the entire reception. Of course they came down lots to dance!|
|Tabbie with her basket. This picture was taken right before a group of people came up to dance with her and throw money.|
|The cake. You'll notice the smaller cakes on the sides.|
|Here I am after being called up. The pastor was talking about Tabbie and Peter before we each had a chance to say goodbye to her. Everything was said in Chichewa, which is why I'm the only one smiling in this picture!|
|Me saying goodbye to Tabbie. I had just danced towards her and thrown more money. You can see some of it on the floor. I'm so excited for her marriage and all that lies ahead!|
|All the girls dancing with Tabbie and Peter. We are holding our gifts. I have never heard of receiving a gift from the bride at her own wedding!|
|This is my dear friend Lindie. I met her at the academy.|
|Grace and I after the wedding. She sat next to me and explained what was going on when I was confused. She also told me when it was my turn to go up and dance. It was so nice to celebrate Tabbie's wedding with friends!|