Two weeks after arriving in Lomé, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the wedding of my host sister’s husband’s sister. It was a Sunday morning ceremony that involved me being ready and at the church by 8am. However, after 4 and a half hours of what I would in fact call a ‘performance’, we finally left the church and headed for the reception. Despite the combination of heat and no water at all during this time, it was AMAZING!
Starting at the beginning, on the Saturday before, I ventured alone to the Grand Marché to buy a dress. I didn’t want to stand out… haha let me rephrase, yovo didn’t want to stand out more! So 2 hours after walking around in the scorching heat and being followed around by two guys who really wanted me to buy dresses from them, I found an African dress that was cheap enough (under 10 euro) and that didn’t make me look quite as much like a sack of potatoes as the others.
The next morning I woke up at 6:30am, giving myself plenty of time to actually apply the make-up and use the straightner that have been sitting in my room since I arrived. I even made the effort to semi-curl my hair (it was too hot to actually curl it all! Only have one power point in my room and that is 90% of the time powering my fan). At 7:30am I came out onto the terrace to find my host mother, host sister and her husband. My host mother looked fantastic in her gold wedding outfit, very sophisticated. My host sister, who is 7-8 months pregnant, decided not to join us. A little time later, little Zeeko and Mama Zeek came out of the house. Zeek, who is obsessed with shoes, came out in his brand new leather shoes and was prancing around like a peacock, so pleased with himself. We waited for my host brother and his family to arrive and then we packed into two cars and drove to the church.
When we arrived I found the church was open, with no walls and there were places for way way more than a few hundred people like the weddings I am used to. In fact, I have been told that an average wedding here will have 1000 invited guests, plus the 500-1000 guests who invite themselves. This one was definitely on the larger scale, my estimate is between 1,700-2,000 people. We arrived a little late, around 8:15am, however nothing really, other than the choir singing, happened for about an hour. Around 9-9:30am, my host brother-in-law came and got me. He took to me to the entrance of the church where they were getting ready to bring in the groom. Dozens of people were lining the aisle, waiting. First, a marching band played random tunes, followed by a group of dancers who to me looked like they were dressed as fancy waiters. Finally, the groom and his best man danced down between the gathered crowd. He was incredibly timid and kept his eyes down the majority of the time. He was dressed in a suit with white gloves.
Once he reached the centre of the church he stood while the band continued playing their random songs (including I believe I can fly), and after about an hour or so of music and the whole congregation dancing it was time to welcome in the bride.
Again, the marching band led the way, followed by the dancers. Then she slowly danced her way down the aisle, with her maid of honour next to her and her two bridesmaids following closely. Unlike her future husband, she was not timid in the slightest and beamed the entire way to the centre of the church.
Once both entrances had finished, there was some singing and then the marriage ceremony started. The ceremony was conducted in both French and Ewé (the local language). It was often hard to hear as the translators took it in turns to yell over the other however I gathered that the first vows were in fact taken by both sets of parents. Both agreed to support the marriage and to essentially give their child away. There was then a sermon/message given that went for at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half. My host brother translated in French for a woman minister who was hilarious! She had the whole church in stitches many times. After the message ended there was more singing and then finally it got to the vows of the couple. By this stage, we are well and truly past 12 noon.
The couple repeated the vows in Ewé after both the French and Ewé translations were given. The groom however made everyone laugh when he spoke his vows so quietly that no one past the front row could hear them. After each vow was spoken there was an eruption of applause and whoop whooping and at the moment they were pronounced husband and wife and he kissed the bride, I swear the noise could be heard from kms away!!
After the ceremony is finished, the whole congregation split into groups to take photos with the newly wedded couple. I was obviously in the group with Mama Happy despite my reluctance to intrude on family photos. Apparently, I am family now J
At around 1pm we left the church to head for the reception.
The whole event was unforgettable and I feel so privileged that I was able to share such an incredible experience with my host family. It made me want to get married in Togo! The only word I can use to describe it is joyous. There was not a person in that church who was not singing, dancing and smiling from ear to ear, including myself.