October 22, 2011

I said 'Wow'

If Hollywood teaches us anything, it's that all good chapters conclude with a wedding.  Perhaps that's not the nugget I should retain from media, but there it is.  And, as the dates of my departure up North bounced around and finally settled on next week, I had the honor and the pleasure to conclude my Nairobi chapter with a wedding.  

All the best weddings have adorable dancing kids.

Now, this being my only Kenyan wedding ever, I will take liberties to generalize it to all others.  Mostly, the format is the same as what we know in the US: church, priest, ceremony, reception, family toasts, food, gifts, dancing.  The differences were in the details.  For instance, Priests.  Every wedding (all 3) I've been to, the priest (or other officiating equivalent) has tried to be funny.  I suspect they're piloting stand-up routines to see if they're in any position for a career change.  However, I don't think this particular Kenyan priest was intending to be funny, and yet I probably laughed more than all the others combined.  He began with a rather stern badgering of the groom:

Priest: "So why are you here?"
Groom: "Uh, uhhhhh... Because I want to be married in holy matrimony?"
Priest: "Oh, so you want to be married in holy matrimony?  When did that start?"
Groom:  "Uuummmmm.. when we first met."
Priest: "Oh, when you first met.  Well what happened then?"
Groom:  "I said 'Wow.'"
Priest:  "So it started when you said, 'wow,' and when did it end?"
Groom:  "When I said 'I love you.'"
Priest:  "And what did she say?"
Bride:  "Let's see how it goes."
(As an aside, that response is probably why she and I are friends)

And after a brief sermon interlude...

Priest: "So when the two of you said those magical words: 'I love you' and 'Let's see how it goes,' where were you?  Were you under a tree?  On campus?  In a shady motel?  You know, I ask if you were under a tree because all those hippy Indian movies, people are always dancing around under trees saying "I love you I love you" .... Don't watch those movies."

But our laughter was premature, for after he finished grilling the groom, he started badgering the witnesses. Questions directed to us, the audience:

"And how many of you have ever told another person, 'I love you'?  ...Raise your hand!  You know you've said it!  And how many of you have broken those commitments?  Raise your hand- you know you have!  And how many of you have ever shown late to an appointment?  Where you plan to meet at 10:00, but then it's 10:30, and then 11:00, and then the person is sweating and they're wet all over.  And how many of you are CEOs who don't respect other people?  It's true!  I'm not afraid to say it!"

Mostly I just tried to slouch down in my pew.  However, it's hard to stay under the radar when you're the only mzungu at a Kenyan wedding, as the ceremony MC made it perfectly clear later that evening.

While we waited for the arrival of the wedding party, the DJ and MC entertained guests by playing songs from each tribe and inviting all guests of that tribe to share their heritage dance on the dance floor.  After each tribe took it's turn, I was conscripted to the dance floor, solo, to do the "American dance."

Americans, I am sorry.  Had I known I would be called on to represent I would have tried to scrounge up a few sweet break-dance moves, or even the routine from Napolean Dynamite.  As it was (or at least from what I can deduce in this photograph), it appears that I presented the traditional American dance to be "The Snuggers," a move named and choreographed after my friend's dog's habit of dragging his butt across a carpeted floor.  I am not making this up.  But... I do hang my head in shame.  Please don't interpret that as another lame American dance move.

But forcing your guests to dance their acceptance is actually quite the efficient ice-breaker, and I might employ it one of these days.  Another Kenyan aspect that must be included in any weddings of mine (hey, you never know) is that of Cake-matron.

Cake-matron.  Start submitting your applications now.

And then, as with all good parties, twilight crept up.

And, while not confirmed, I assume that the brightly dressed women in orange and blue is the Cake Matron.  Mmmmmmmcake matron.

And of course there was more dancing, and the throwing of the bouquet to the single ladies, to the soundtrack of Beyonce's "Single Ladies."  Like I said, mostly we're all the same.

As evidenced above, I am clearly not prepared to catch this prize, but like I said: It's impossibly hard to hide from the MC when you're the only mzungu in tow (he just hollered, "Hey Washington University, are you married?" so there I am in the line-up.  But at least my loss was another lady's happy promise.

And the happy couple takes center stage.


  1. As an addendum...

    In case anyone wants instructions for "the Snuggers," here you go:

    1. Bend your knees to lower your center of gravity.

    2. Push your pelvis out.

    3. Scoot your feet forward in a slow, rhythmic manner.

    4. Low jazz hands.

  2. Is there an official application form for Cake Matron? And am I responsible for making the cake?

  3. I think maybe it means that you feed me cake? Just in case, we should practice that in December. You giving me cake.