Wedding Laughter and Joy in Rwanda


(Stephanie is a guest blogger from Occidental College -class of 2011. – in Rwanda for a month) 

Sunday, June 20th, 2010
This past weekend we attended a wedding on Friday and Saturday. The cultural wedding was on Friday and was so much fun! I wish we had more cultural weddings in America because the wedding seemed to have so much more meaning with a cultural ceremony.

Amy and I borrowed traditional Rwandan wedding clothes from our friend’s wife that we wore to the cultural ceremony. The wedding outfits remind me of Indian saris and the fabrics that the wedding party wore were absolutely stunning. Many people were surprised to see us in traditional wedding clothes and we received many comments that we looked “smart” as they say here.

In a cultural wedding, held at the bride’s house, there is a canopy on one side for the bride’s family and company and on the opposite side there is a canopy for the groom’s family and company. In the beginning the elder men of the families who sit in the front negotiate the marriage, with the groom’s family trying to prove that they are worthy of having the bride. However, in general it is a lot of teasing and joking around with each other. But the elder men have to be sharp and on their toes to make good come backs. You would think you were watching a stand-up comedian competition with the amount of laughter that filled the front yard, and it is times like these where I wish I spoke and understood Kinyarwandan! However our friend said some times it is hard to translate into English because of the traditional language the elders use.

After the bride’s family decides that the groom is fit for the bride, the elders go and inspect the “cows”, which the bride’s family gives to the groom’s (now they give money instead of cows, yet the gifts are still referred to as cows during the ceremony). Then a “shepherd” from the bride’s family recites a poem about how wonderful the cows are and a “shepherd” from the groom’s family describes his approval. When everything is all settled and okayed, the bride emerges from the house and joins the groom with their wedding party in a canopy in the center.

There are also many dance and singing performances in-between negotiations. 

Throughout the cultural ceremony there are many exchanges of soda, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much soda in my life! Guests get soda, the elder men have a table full of soda, the elders give the shepherds soda as gifts, they elders give each other soda as gifts, and the bride and groom feed each other soda much like in the US, the bride and groom feed each other cake. Even at the wedding reception on Saturday everyone had soda.

Going to the cultural wedding was so amazing and I feel so lucky that I was able to experience this part of Rwandan culture! Not only was there so much love between the bride, the groom, and their families, but you could sense the energy of the guests as well.

People in Rwanda have such close relationships with one another, and this feeling of connection and love was definitely present at the wedding.


Elders on the grooms side


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