Recently there have been two weddings here at Macha. Rogers and Petronella are a Zambian couple who now live directly across the street from us. Three weeks ago they had their wedding. The invitation we got said 10:00 am. However, I KNOW that Zambians are always late, so, smart me, I arrived at 10:30. There were 3 people at the church - one waxing the concrete floor and two ladies arranging plastic flowers. They informed me that the preacher was still the far side of Choma (about 2 hrs drive away). We heard that the wedding actually began about 1 pm. The ceremony and reception lasted until 7 pm. Hundred of people came and they feasted on an entire roasted cow.
Yesterday was the second wedding and it was for Justin. He is one of the truly nice people on the planet. Justin's wedding was also scheduled for 10 am , but I arrived at 11:15 am and it actually began at 12 noon. When the Zambians say the wedding starts at 10 am, what they mean is they start getting ready. So, at 12 noon the wedding director starts dancing down the aisle. She had a long dress on with a cloth tied on her head - all matching and looked nice. She really puts on a performance. Two little girls dressed in white satin each with baskets (no flower petals in them that I saw) also dance down the aisle, then two little boys come down, and 8 adult attendants. This is what they call the lineup. It is a really big deal to be in the line up and the hair style for the women is all-important. Everyone matches. (The material for all these costumes--6 males shirts, 2 little girl dresses and 4 gowns plus a change of clothes for ALL the adults at the reception--was given to the dress maker the WEEK OF the wedding!)
The sermon was done by Moses Musaka who is the Head Overseer of the Church and I will have to say it was one of the best I have ever attended. It lasted about 1 1/2 hours and was noteworthy. He left no stone unturned about how husband and wife were to treat each other and how the ultimate goal of their marriage was to glorify God.
The reception was held at the local school auditorium. Hundreds come to the reception--friends of the family and who also attended the wedding, and also village people who show up for the food. They are adults and children, poorly dressed and barefooted and dirty, but they know there will be a roasted cow, goat or pig to eat. No one says anything and everyone is accepted. There is never enough food. Only the bride and groom get a slice of cake, and the very top little layer is frozen until the birth of the first born. The custom then is to crush the rest of the cake; the cake crumbs are passed around on a tray and you take a crumb. Then all the people who can come forward and give an offering to the bride and groom. For example, the bride's mother brought up 10,000 kwacha (that is 2 dollars US money) and the crowd broke out in much applause. The groom's father gave 100,000 kwacha ($20) and the crowd stood up and cheered! After the offering and music, the bride and groom left to eat by themselves and the crowd ate the roasted whatever it was.
Here are a few other interesting details. The normal cost of a bride is 4 cows that the groom has to pay before the wedding. The bride price is called Lobola. Once the bride price is paid there is no backing out - and only the wedding ceremony has to take place.
Most of the people in the community chip in - some flour, sugar, balloons, ribbon, and so forth--so that the food and decorations are in place. They do well with what they have. The same plastic flowers were used for both of these weddings and no one seems to notice; much care is taken to arrange them each time, and they are done differently. The bride also carried the same 4 plastic flowers as the last bride.
Then there is the wedding shower - it is called a "kitchen shower." The bride comes into the room with her head covered with a cloth. She sits down and uncovers her head. The guests dance their way up to her and put their gift down and explain what it is and how you use it. She does not say a word and she does not look at the guest. She then re-covers her head and the groom comes in and looks around as if he is searching for his bride and finally he goes over to her and lifts up her veil and nods approvingly. He sits down and then the bride gets food and serves him on her knees. After she serves him food she lies down and rolls over on the floor as a sign of submission. Then, get this, she goes over to her in-laws and takes them food and again lies down on the floor and rolls over in submission to them.