Our driver at work got married this weekend. He and his bride Rosemary are he told me childhood sweethearts, but had waited until Rosemary had finished her studies to get married. They had gone through the private traditional ceremony last weekend which as much as I understand it is the business part, no dowry per say but the usual commitments to and by both the families, and today was their church wedding. I went with my colleagues to this my first Nigerian, indeed first African wedding.
In Nigeria, everyone is of one religious persuasion of another. When they ask me, the reaction my response gets ranges from bemusement, to disbelief, to concern, to persuasion. Not having and not practising a religion is not something most people have encountered. I’ve politely declined offers to take me to church on a Sunday, and being given religious fan mags to read. I’ve never felt the need to go to a church service anywhere as a tourist, since I went with a university friend of mine to a “wee free” island kirk service in Stornaway, to hear what could only be described as a hell, fire and brimstone preacher strut his stuff in Gaelic from the pulpit one Sunday morning.
But a wedding is a total different matter - I’ve been to non religious weddings, registry office dos, Hindi weddings, Buddhist weddings, Catholic weddings, civic partnerships weddings. A wedding is after all a celebration of the union of two people who wish to spend the rest of their lives together. Whatever religious persuasion the participants have or don’t have is in my book secondary to going along as a friend or colleague to support them on their big day and to celebrate with them.
I must however say a bit about the ceremony and the sermons, yes plural, given by the pastors, yes plural. Three in fact, and two formal sermons, plus prayers and then the more usual vows, signing registers. First it was an evangelical church, so I expected there to be music and there was – a band and a choir ; second in typical modern day fashion there was the guy with the video camera – which meant the pastor and the participants had huge hand held field mikes. Perhaps there wasn’t quite so much call and response action as I had anticipated everyone saying amen and hallelujah after every utterance form the pastor. Not quite. The most boisterous part, and actually the most enjoyable, was when the choir started singing and everyone got up from their seats, started to danced and shuffle their way into the aisle and sauntered off to shake hands with the new bride and groom.
The sermons, were something else. One was in Munday’s local language so i understood nothing, the other was in pidgin English so I caught the drift – all about honesty in marriage, but also about the “obey” part of the vows,m re-emphasising a woman’s role and a man’s role, and bringing home to me just how entrenched views are which keep woman subservient to men.
I didn’t take many pictures, because being the only white face there is cause interruptive enough without striding forward like everyone else does to take pictures at the front of the church. But after the ceremony there was a formally set out order for photos and whilst the work groups was congregating to be next I managed to snap one a relatively OK one of Munday and Rosemary which you see here.
I skipped out on the reception because the wedding was in Kubwa, about 45 minute drive out of Abuja in the quiet of a Saturday morning and my boss Ibidun had thankfully offered to take me, but she needed to be back in Abuja for an afternoon appointment. So I missed the dancing of the reception.
Except for a couple of kids checking me out during the service, and noticing the video man pan round where I was sitting I thought I had managed not to create too much of a white faced stir until we were exiting the church when a lovely old woman standing greeting everyone as they exited hugged and kissed me like some long lost sister :) I think it was Monday’s grandmother.
So Munday and Rosemary, all the best as you start you life together, may it be everything you want it to be.