Once again we would like to feature a blog post from Brook Seekins’ Blog. She has a wonderful blog that she keeps current with exciting stories about her life and ministry for the Lord in Tanzania. If you have not yet followed her blog I highly recommend doing so. Recently she shared this post and in it you will find great insight into the culture of Tanzania as well as a glimpse into a unique ministry that Brook has – one we are thankful she is involved with. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy this wonderful update from Brook, missionary in Tanzania since 2001 GMI – Brook Seekins….
We celebrate that so many young people are getting married these days. It means they have listened to teaching in church and camp and conferences. One village will have 4 weddings this year and just a few years ago they had never had a wedding in our church there.
Where will the wedding take place? How will we transport the bride from her home village to the groom’s village? Which choirs will we invite to make this day special? Will there be an official reception? Where will we rent a wedding gown? Who will be the witnesses? Which pastor will perform the ceremony?
All this is decided by the fathers of the bride and groom after the final bride price has been paid. A wedding must be publicly announced three weeks in a row before the ceremony in case someone may object. The bride has very little say in the wedding day. the groom and his family pay for the gown, transport, rings (which are like vending machine toys), her shoes, hair, etc. The church will decide how to decorate that day and whether it will be inside or out. Even which choirs will sing is something the church decides.
The bride rarely smiles in public that day because her in-laws will greatly judge her as being proud. Even the groom is quite serious all day. The father of the bride rarely gives his daughter away because he wants to share the event with his family to show that they are all together in this, so his brother or close cousin will give her away. Often the parents are not at the ceremony depending on if they are church attenders or not. There is a big party going on at their home so they are more needed there! The parents of the groom and bride are celebrated by all. They will put flour on their head to show they are the special guests. Something they do when a firstborn is celebrated as well.
Everyone else is dancing and trilling and singing all day long. The party really begins the night before! By the end of the day most women of the family have lost their voice from celebrating!
This picture is of the bride and groom heading to the bride’s home after the church ceremony. It is a great parade through the village and the homes of the bride and groom always put a flag up to show there is a party there. As they enter the home, the family and friends will all give gifts (publicly). After lunch and some advice from elders in the bride’s family they will head to the groom’s home for more gifts, food, and advice.
The next morning the bride and her aunt will awake early and cook for all the men of the groom’s family who have gathered. If they feel she has done well, they will gift her a coin. Then the women will come and taste her cooking and serving attitude. Then they will sit her down and give her advice on how to live in their family! No honeymoon!
For a few days the bride will not be able to greet many of the in-laws until her mother-in-law allows it by giving her a small coin. Then she will interact with her mother-in-law, but her father-in-law will always be far off and she will always bow in greeting him and never, ever eat with him at the same “table.”
If the bride is from another village there are two options. If they are not too far away, they will have the ceremony in her village, go to her home for gifts and then get into the big truck they have rented and head to his village. If they are from further away, they will have a “send-off” party at her home where there will be a mini-sermon, choirs, and gifts. Then they will travel the next day to his home village where the next day they will have the service and celebration on his side.
At the home of each side, there are many preparations to be made. Put up a flag to show the village there is a party here. Set up a tarp for shade of the bride and groom to sit while receiving their gifts. They will pull out the couch and living room chairs to sit in under that shade.
If the groom has paid the entire price, they are given an arrow or spear as a symbol that they have fully paid the price.
I usually attend the wedding ceremony and then go to the bride’s home to give gifts. After lunch (which is more like dinner around 3-4 pm) we start our journey home. Some days we travel 2-3 hours one way to get to the ceremony. It makes for a long day, but is always a blessing.
We also rent out gowns to our church kids and others, so this time of year we are busy helping brides from nearby try on gowns and getting measurements via text message of those far away. Then hand washing the gowns, sewing up lose beads and bows, and ironing it all before packing it again for another wedding. This week we have 3 coming and two going out in 3 days’ time!
I have given you many details of the traditions in the Rukwa Region of Tanzania! City weddings are different in many ways, but still certain traditions must be kept!