When I arrived in Ethiopia I spent two months living with an Ethiopian host family. I fell in love with them! They really became family to me. I knew that I would have one Ethiopian family, but I never expected to have two. I moved to Metu and was luckily placed on the compound of the nicest family in Metu. From day one they have called me their daughter and really shown great hospitality towards me. They have 6 daughters and one who lives in America. They always joke that they traded their daughter in America for me.
At the beginning March four strange men showed up on my compound early one Saturday morning. They were coming in as Joanna and I were leaving. I gave my landlady a ‘who are they’ type look and she whispered, “I’ll explain later.” The whole day the suspense was killing me! They obviously weren’t just normal visitors. It turns out that the men had come to ask if their family member could marry one of my landlord’s daughters. A week later they returned and I was invited to participate in the negotiation on behalf of the bride. It was a really interesting experience. The 4 elders from the man’s family sat in the family room with 4 representatives from the bride-to-be’s family (myself included). We exchanged pleasantries, discussed the marriage, exchanged some money, then decided on a wedding date. I was amazed to see that the bride and groom were not involved in any of this planning and didn’t even have a say in the date. Also, the date was determined without even looking at a calendar. Then everyone ate food and went on their way. The wedding was set for 2 months away—a few weeks after Easter and the fasting season.
Unfortunately for me, the wedding was set for the same weekend that I was supposed to go to Hawassa to run a charity run and hang out with a bunch of other volunteers. I knew right away that I should stay for the wedding, but it was still hard to give up the idea of going to the race.
The wedding was awesome, though! I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of it. Instead of writing all about it, I’ll try to tell using pictures.
I don’t have good pictures to explain the rest, so here’s what happened. The bride, groom, their bridesmaids/groomsmen, and families sat in front of everyone on a decorated platform in the tent. Someone gave a blessing then everyone ate from the buffet. After, the groom and his family took the bride into a rented van (they also had a rented bus) and drove to a church. Most people went home after the food portion, but some people (mostly the younger people and close friends) went to the church. At the church, there was a service that was very Western. The minister gave a sermon (in Afaan Oromo and I actually understood it…yay!), rings were exchanged, vows were said, a unity candle was lit, and a few songs were sung. I don’t this this part is traditionally important because her parents didn’t even go. After, Joanna and I walked through the town on a busy Saturday in our traditional clothes. I felt a little out of place…especially when a passing young man said, “It’s not a holiday you know.” Well. duh sir.
The bride went to the groom’s family for the night.
The next night (at about 8:00pm–super late for Ethiopia standards) the bride, groom, and his family returned to the bride’s house. The groom’s family brought a sheep that was slaughtered and cooked immediately. Guests were also served meat stews from the cow meat. Gifts were given and more blessings were expressed. The whole thing lasted until about 11:00pm.
Then, the bride went back with the groom and his family. After a week (or maybe it’s 2, I don’t remember) the bride and groom will return to my compound and the groom will be officially family. I think that’s pretty good considering the bride’s dad couldn’t even remember the groom’s name on the day of the wedding. (*It’s not customary here to introduce your significant other to family. Often wedding proposals are a total surprise. When she got engaged her father told me that he had no idea if they had been dating for a few weeks or a few years. “Girls have many secrets,” he said.)
The night after they were married a HUGE rainstorm hit. It was the first real rain in many months and appears to be the start of the long awaited rainy season. Rain on a wedding day is supposed to be good luck. The bride is an amazing woman, and I am sure their future together will be great!