Monday, June 30, 2008

Congolese Wedding

I went to my first Congolese wedding this weekend. Our FH driver Israel's daughter was getting married. It was nothing like a Canadian wedding. In Congo, the church has not been given the right to perform a legal wedding. Therefore, there is a civil ceremony before the church ceremony. And before the civil ceremony, there is another get together. The first get together was last weekend and the civil ceremony was on Thursday. The church wedding was on Saturday morning at 9am.

The muzungu attendees were myself, Joel, Michael and his wife Holly and Liz (All FH Staff) Since most African (Uganda/Congo) events do not start on time, we decided to leave around 9 am to get to the wedding around 9:30. However, we were late leaving and didn't arrive at where we parked the car till around 9:45. We were met by one of Israel's friends and walked to the chur
ch....straight up a very long and steep hill. Have I mentioned I was wearing 2 inch high heels! It was not a fun walk. Then, when we reached the church, when I was red faced and sweaty, we discovered we wer late. And of course, as muzungus, we were seated right at the very front. YUCK!

The wedding itself was interesting. It was in Swahili and Fr
ench which means I hardly understood a thing unless it was translated by Joel or Liz. There were two choirs that sang and a skit. That was the first hour. Then there was the 40 minute sermon. Then the vows and exchange of rings. There were speaches by the father and mother of the bride and groom. Funny thing...the groom was around 22 years old; his father was 100 years old! The one thing I can't get past, and really taints my view of Congolese weddings, is the tradition that the bride and groom cannot smile. Never! Not in the photo for the invitation, not at the pre-gathering, civil ceremony, wedding or reception. If you smile it shows you are not serious about the marriage. And the bride has turn her face down towards the floor. It was awful; the wedding party looked like they are at a funeral while the rest of the guests are whooping it up. In fact, the bride looked terrified; I have never seen hands shake like that.

I think I am pretty open to the different cultures and customs I have encountered since arriving in Africa. I try really hard not to judge but to accept the differences. This one, the bride and groom not smiling, is just too much. I never felt comfortable watching the wedding party and found the seriousness of the bride and the groom too discordant from t
he joyful celebration going on around them.

Before the vows After the vows


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your input into the "congolese" wedding but as a congolese person I would like to emphasize that Congo is made up of so many different tribes that it's not fair to refer to the tradition you witnessed as "congolese tradition". I've never heard of being forbidden to smile at a wedding and I've been to a few "congolese" weddings. This might be a tribal rite which is fine but should not be extended to the rest of the country!!

Anonymous said...

well not all congolese weddings are like dat some do smile at the wedding some juz dnt wan't to smile.It dsnt mean dat dey are ina funeral party it juz mean dat dey are seriouse of gettin married,And on da wedding day for a women not 2 smile iz a beauty..

Malo said...

Hi Kristee, it's nice to get a fresh opinion on Congolese wedding, and a bit of surprise too. I am in Kinshasa for the past 2 yrs, and have seen a few weddings, but believe me, they were all full of merriment - everyone's smiling/laughing! Incidentally, I too have just started a blog, and am at present dealing with a similar topic. Do visit
Do visit and leave your comments.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your experience but sorry to say, you are very WRONG!! please change this 'congolese' wedding as most things you have written are not true. first, its a uganda/congo wedding, congolese are not ugandians or whatever they are called. (no offence, I just don't know what you call people from uganda lol) so you can't say this is your experience of a congolese wedding coz its farrr off trust me! and me being congolese and having been to many weddings in my lifetime, everybody smiles....including the bride and groom in fact, you can't stop congolese people laughing out loud lol so there is no 'no smiling rule' in Congo maybe in Uganda I don't know. and one more thing, congolese weddings are not like funerals, most congolese people would be offended by that because true congolese weddings are lively, colourful and very very interesting for non congolese! maybe this couple were not happy that they were getting married (arranged) so they didnt even smile sad isn't it.

Anonymous said...

i think you are realy exagerating and I find it a bit insulting and very disrespectfull of you. maybe get an account on facebook or something try to look at other congolese people's wedding. since you saw that one wedding doens't mean that all congolose weddings are like that. i think you are exagerating with your comment.

Anonymous said...

IS not a congolese wedding!!!!!!!!! Please DON'T INSULT US. I am congolese and trust me our weddings is not like that at all.
change your title!! if you wanna be the voice of truth!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristee Ann,

We would like to use both pictures that you posted together with this piece of text. Could you please contact me on to discuss this further?

Thank you,
Kind regards,