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The Wedding

March 16, 2013

Last night Matthew and I went to a Congolese wedding!  Well, sort of.  Matthew went to the wedding while I stayed home during The Hour – you know The Hour where the little ones are at their craziest, it’s dinner time and bed time and there’s complaining about all of the above.

So Matthew went with our neighbors, the pastor of our church and his wife, to the wedding of Michele and his bride, Sylvie.  Michele, who had us call him Michael, introduced himself to us at church our first week there and has been friendly ever since.  When we first arrived in DRC he had just become engaged and wanted us to come to the wedding in the spring.  His brother works at our friend’s across the street, and we would give his sister a ride to the market each week after church.  Such a sweet family!

Matthew tried to give me an account of the wedding ceremony, but really only came up with that it was LOUD.  Like, you actually can’t hear because it is so loud.  As loud as being in front of the speakers at a major concert.  Deafeningly loud.  The differences between the weddings in Kinshasa and Western weddings are subtle (I can’t speak for weddings in the villages, which I imagine are quite different).  There is a lot of pomp and circumstance – the Congolese value time in a way that translates to: the more important something is, the longer it takes (hence, a Congolese church service lasts several hours, or even all day).  Plus, Congo time is always in place, so the wedding that was supposed to start at 5pm, really finally started at 6:30pm.

Children participated in the ceremony as well

Children participated in the ceremony as well

Matthew said the families each give their person away, and then vows were exchanged.  And then his brain turned to mush with the loud-ness.

Presenting the couple to the attendees

Presenting the couple to the attendees

Saying their vows, on their knees

Saying their vows, on their knees

After the ceremony, our neighbors came home, so Matthew came in to get me.  By then it was 8pm and the kids were finally asleep.  Most of our other missionary neighbors were home, as well as our sentinel, so Matthew picked me up and we rode to the reception at 9pm.  Now this is where it is less traditional African, rather, there was a lot of pretense to look affluent at the bride’s family’s request.  But, regardless, the venue was impressive.  And chilly!  The a/c’s were on high – but hours later after everyone was there, it was a decent temperature.

We were some of the first people who had arrived, even though we were 15 minutes late

We were some of the first people who had arrived, even though we were 15 minutes late

We waited with the few other people who were there “on time.”  Things finally got started and the bridal party arrived around 10pm.  They had given us Cokes, so at least we could have something to help us stay awake.  Oh, and it was loud.  Our table was right in front of one of the speakers…and it was turned up so much that our chest cavities could feel the vibrations.  It was a bit much.

The venue was very pretty

The venue was very pretty

Matthew appreciated the sponsor for the tables

Matthew appreciated the sponsor for the tables

Finally, the bridal party was introduced.  The two groomsmen and two bridesmaids and little kid participants danced in.  It was a groovy, but slow progressing dance.  They had changed from the pale peach and white from the wedding, to bright red and white for the reception.  Then the bride and groom arrived – more dancing.

The groomsmen lookin' stylish and dancing

The groomsmen lookin’ stylish and dancing

The bride and groom enter the reception

The bride and groom enter the reception

Once Michele and his bride were seated at the head table, the bridal party did another dance for them.  The bride and groom then danced together, though family would take turns standing behind them and get their pictures taken during the dance.  Once over, there was a toast, one each made by the bride and groom, to each other, emphasized by the two MCs and more dancing after.

Next it was time to present the wedding presents.  It worked the same as a receiving line – bridal party and special guests were ushered through first, and greeted the couple (and the bride’s parents) and gave the gifts.  The four of us were the only white people there, so that automatically makes us special guests, somehow.

The freezer and oven - and you can see the two women carrying the microwave.  At the upper right are the bridesmaid, in the hats.

The freezer and oven – and you can see the two women carrying the microwave. At the upper right are the bridesmaid, in the hats.

Presenting the gifts and greeting the bride and groom

Presenting the gifts and greeting the bride and groom

The parade of gifts was quite entertaining as people basically gave them a house-full, including appliances!  Yes, right there AT the wedding!  By the end they had a chest freezer, an oven, a microwave and piles of kitchen and house wares surrounding the front of the head table.  I was told the flat screen TV was presented at the wedding ceremony.  I’m not really sure how this all works out, because the average Congolese doesn’t have or even use such Western appliances, but I’m happy for the couple to be starting out so well regardless!

Then most of the room went to the dance floor and danced.  It energized the guests.  We, of course, sat there in complete lame-ness and fought the headaches from the volume of the music.

Finally, it was time to eat.  At midnight. Of course, it was traditional Congolese food, but such a celebration requires vast quantities of meat (meat is not a daily staple, since it is so expensive).  Fish, chicken, beef, maybe goat, caterpillars, and a whole roast pig were presented alongside greens, plantains, French fries*, coleslaw, and quonga (a local staple).

Michele and Sylvie, getting some roast pig

Michele and Sylvie, getting some roast pig

We ate our fill (it was fantastic!) and decided to say our goodbyes to the bride and groom, and get our picture taken with them – the Congolese LOVE photos.

It had begun raining during the reception, which made the drive home nice and quiet, since anyone who might be out was hiding from the rain.  This is good at 1am driving around Kinshasa.

So, happy wedding day to Michele and Sylvie!  Exactly one month before our anniversary!

And, of course, the kids decided to wake earlier than normal this morning, so I am fairly zombie-like today…ten days until Go Time.

Matthew and I at the reception

Matthew and I at the reception

*French fries are a staple here because, as you all know, French fries were invented in Belgium.  And Belgium also founded this country – Belgian Congo, as it was known, before Zaire, before DRC.  The “French” part only comes from the cut of the potato, not the country.  Voila – fact of the day!

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