The Bishop’s Son’s Wedding
We were invited. We had been since we arrived in Mbeya almost three weeks ago. The bishop’s second son was getting married and it was a big to -do with a large service in the cathedral in Tukuyu, a feast at the bishop’s house, and another one some time tonight. And we were supposed to be there, so Kumbuka and his wife who also sported invitations took us along this morning.
Did you know that in Tanzania the wedding customs are pretty much opposite those of the USA. It is the family of the groom who arranges for and pays for the whole shindig, party, celebration, get-together and the the two young people who are getting hitched have essentially one role….say “I do” at the appropriate time in church and “ok” to whatever mom and dad organize. This is not the young couple’s feast. It is the elders who decide and declare what will happen.
Like everywhere else in the world, weddings cost a lot of money and take a lot of effort which is why, in Tanzania, each family selects a large wedding committee from among friends and relatives. It is an honor to be chosen and the people on that committee not only help pay for the event, they help a great deal in the preparation. They arrange for transportation. They get the social hall. They make the decision about what meats to serve….and speaking of meats I will save the chaga goats for last.
So the service this morning was to start at 10AM in the cathedral. The reason that the service was on a Thursday was because it was the only day in the archbishop’s schedule that was free and he needed to be here to solemnize these vows. Let me say again that the service was to start at 10AM and the archbishop was waiting. We arrived at 10:05 and there was not a soul in the church, not even the choir practicing. “This is normal for Tanzania,” Kumbuka said. “Let’s find a restaurant for some tea.” So we went for tea for about an hour and when we finally saw the decorated vehicles of the bride and groom pass by we meandered back to the church.
The service itself lasted about an hour and a half, was lead by the archbishop, assisted by the bishop of the Iringa region, and had a lot speeches and greetings from various people in it but no kissing on the part of the groom and the bride. Just not done around here. No PDA-ever! But there sure was an offering for the church as part of the service. That’s a new one on me.
So after the service was over we all processed, by vehicle, to Bishop Mwakyolile’s residence where festive tents awaited the crowd. The women on the way waved and made that amazing “U” sound with their tongues. We were seated in the front tent with the rest of the clergy, the good archbishop being in the font row. More speeches, more presentations, more greetings……FOR TWO HOURS. At Tanzanian weddings, you talk first and eat later even if you collectively can hear several hundred stomachs growl. There was also the gift presentation done while you dance up to the bride and groom and present whatever you are going to give them. All that before food.
Finally, the chaga goats. The bridegroom, bishop Mwakyolile’s second son, and a Nyakusa, fell in love with a young Chaga woman from up north and today they got married. The chaga have a wedding tradition in which the bride kills and roasts a goat on the day before her wedding. On the great day, the goat is presented to the groom who slices it and then the happy couple present morsels of the meat to all the family members on each side. Kind of like the American wedding cake tradition, right? No problem, right?
The only thing that makes it different from our cake is the way the goat is roasted..oh my! Both the head and tail of the goat are completely intact for the roasting, and by intact I mean fur on, teeth in, eyes in, tongue hanging out of the mouth and a couple of banana leaves being wedged into the mouth for presentation. In the USA, we worry about whether people will like chocolate cake or vanilla frosting. Here, this afternoon, I wondered whether I could manage to eat a piece of goat meat as the poor creature’s head was staring at me and the folks standing over it carved up the rest of the body. You can’t be squeamish around here. It’s a wedding for heaven’s sake. Celebrate and have a good time..