Last weekend I attended my nephew's wedding. His bride is a lovely woman from Kenya.
Evidently, a custom in their country is for the women of the groom's family to gather outside the bride's mother's home a few hours prior to the nuptials. Once outside the home these soon-to-be-relatives "call" via song and dance, asking permission to collect the bride and escort her to the car that will whisk her to the church. My daughter, granddaughter and I joined my nephew's mom, aunts, and cousins for the enacting of this rite.
When we first arrived there was a bit of confusion about whether or not we were to wait at the gate of the apartment building or to proceed directly to the mother-of-the bride's apartment. It was an extremely cold afternoon, so the longer we waited for direction the more severe our shivers became, but finally we were guided to the mother's door. Because none of us in the groom's family speak the language of Kenya, members of the bride's family came to our rescue and led us in their customary song and dance, which was to be responded to by the bride's family inside the apartment. Finally, after waiting for what seemed a very looong time (it was really cold) those within finally began answering our calls and eventually the bride was delivered to us.
We had been instructed on how the bride and her attendants could not come in contact with the ground as they walked to their awaiting "coach." Thus, ten gorgeously decorated lengths of fabric with African motifs were laid down for walking upon. As the bridal party progressed forward, the fabric just traversed was grabbed and then run (or thrown) to those of us in the front for laying down again. The beauty of this frantic fabric relay: our bodies were warmed substantially!
The ceremony at the church was charming but surprisingly Western. Halfway through the reception, however, the bride and groom left and returned wearing traditional Kenyan marriage attire. It was at this time that the bride's family bestowed upon the couple the time-honored gifts from their culture (a large metal pot with a long wooden spoon, a shield and spear, spices, etc), with explanations for the purpose and meaning/metaphor of each. This ritual, along with the chaotic "calling" of the bride, added a layer of richness and depth to this celebration of love.
I was reminded of this depth when at the end of a training yesterday the presenter shared a poem from Africa. I have no idea where in Africa it originated, but its message dovetailed beautifully with the unspoken yet implicit messages I felt the young bride received from her loved ones last Saturday:
Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made
Or dark images you hold about yourself.
They remember your beauty when you feel ugly;
Your wholeness when you are broken;
Your innocence when you feel guilty;
And your purpose when you are confused.
May each of us experience being loved in this way...and strive to love this way, in return.
[Originally posted on the Gürze Books Eating Disorders Blogs]