Wedding Gifts

Wedding Gifts
t is the responsibility of the bride's relatives to see she has as wedding gifts all the necessary equipment to run a home. Oh the groom will probably furnish the house with things like mattresses a bed, a wardrobe a television/entertainment center any of the big fancy stuff that he wants and can afford but the, rugs and blankets and sheets and kitchen utensils will come with the bride. They will also go with the bride if she gets divorced, which is a good thing since this is a one time deal. Any future marriages by the woman will be modest affairs attended only by the couple the imam and two witness and gifts are limited to the dowry and any other thing her husband wishes to bestow on her.

Typically the mother and aunts of the bride will prepare in advancing purchasing items and saving them in anticipation of the wedding. Other relatives or friends may simply ofter an item or two on the occasion of the wedding itself which is added to the pile. It is not uncommon for some of the groom's relatives to offer gifts as well especially if they families are already related. Traditionally it is one of the roles of the “aunt” to oversee the collection of these gifts to offer what she can and take the collection of funds offered by other relatives to the market to complete the purchases.

When the items are collected there is often a big deal made with every item displayed and grouped to show off who offered it that the giver may receive appropriate accolades.

In this case I had purchased a few fancier items in Bamako upon first hearing of the upcoming nuptials they had been siting around for months during which time the china tea pot with its gold filigree had its spout chipped. I was quite annoyed and was unsure if it was still a fit gift but the other women said yes so I superglued it back as best I could. And carefully replaced it in its box with the six matching tea cups and saucers and shiny silver stand. It along with a set of four coffee mugs and blue porcelain vases with flower designs and matching mantle clock were assembled along with a rather gaudy (in my opinion) and massive wall clock with quotations from the Koran in gold and black that my husband picked out was my contribution.

A couple of other ladies left their gifts with me too safe keep and then a week after the wedding was over we decided to collect what gifts were at her mother's and aunt's houses. We would then be able to see what there was and what was lacking. It was all stacked at in my house until they were ready to give it to her. Seeing what was missing I went out and purchased two large bowls like they use to serve the communal meals with matching plates/lids and to large serving platters.

Little by little her paternal aunt that did a lot to raise her added items and another relative or two brought over things they had been saving up for. This process when on a long time the materials ought to be collect and given within two weeks of the wedding but in this case the family was quite poor and the mother had not saved up materials in advance, also the funds for the wedding were poorly managed so nothing was available to add to the funds. My husband ruled that we had already spent plenty on it and her mother or others could go ahead and get the rest of the stuff however they could manage but we would not be contributing anymore. I felt bad for the poor girl and also wanted to get this business over with, so I felt inclined to just go buy some more stuff however, I logically agreed with that our funds were better spent on more necessary and pressing demands. However he did breakdown and shell out the money for a fancy tea set, a must for every family.

In reality the house she marries into will probably include her mother-in-law or other female relatives of her husband who will already have all the necessary equipment so that hers will be put in storage or on display to be used only in the case of an event requiring more or fancier stuff than is already available. Gradually her things may replace worn out items in general use. In the case where she eventually is the main woman in the household (older in-laws having died, or the husband takes his wife with him to a new location) Then she will need all her materials to run the household.

A portion of the gifts collected will be given to the mother-in-law or if she is not living the oldest sister-in-law. She may keep some and will give some to other relatives on that side of the family. In theory the most and the best of the gifts go the the bride as it is most important that she have what is necessary to run a household, however honour requires that the gifts to the in-laws be sufficient so that in some cases if gifts are lacking they may receive their share first, the bride only receiving what is left over. According to tradition the gifts to in-laws should number 500 items. However since a blanket may be worth as many as thirty small dishes then it can be counted as thirty items and so on, thus reducing the actual number of items gifted to more manageable numbers.

After some time the final gifts were collected, I collected several of her female relatives as well as her mother who all spent the day at our house and in the afternoon every item was spread out everything counted and they dickered over what share should go to the in-laws. Finally we asked a friend with a pick-up to come carry the load and then I stuffed a number of the ladies in my car. Traditionally a household domestic or the family griot goes along as representative and probably does a bunch of the carrying it around as well as going through it and showing everything off. We have neither but but one of the neighbourhood ladies from the Bella cast saw the commotion of loading and jumped in the truck, It is not a degrading activity and it is almost sure to bring some gratuities.

It was a bit anticlimactic as it was far enough after the wedding that life had returned to normal in the household and most people were out and about their business. Even the mother-in-law was over visiting her married daughter and we had to go fetch her. We had tried to call and inform them in advance but the winds and dust in the atmosphere were playing havoc with the phone signal. I found it delightfully calm if not festive.

In the end the material counted:
5 rugs, 4 small 1 medium
4 brocade throw pillows
4 medium woven mats
1 enormous aluminum wash basin (for laundry)
1 plastic bucket
1 plastic medium plastic tub
5 stainless steel cups with handles
3 36cm diameter stainless steel serving bowls with lids
4 small stainless steel bowls with lids
2 50cm stainless steel bowls with lids
2 50 cm stainless steel serving platters
2 enameled serving platters
1 set of 4 (in graduated sizes) pots
2 medium enamel serving dishes with lids
2 whisks for mix powdered milk etc.
1 aluminum ladle
1 aluminum perforated spoon as used here in cooking.
5 enameled dishes with lids in three smaller sizes
1 pitcher with tray and 4 matching cups
9 plastic cups one quart volume
1 tea set with tray, 2 tea pots, three canisters with spoons and 4 cups.
3 Aluminum cooking pots in three sizes
2 large charcoal stoves
1 plastic hand-washing basin with matching mackaresh (plastic tea pot for wash water)
2 sieves one smaller gauge for sifting powdered spices one larger for sifting sand
4 whisk brooms, as used here in daily sweeping
9 blankets/bedspreads most with matching pillow covers some with a sheet
12 sheets most with one or two matching pillow covers

This covers the basics but she still needs at least a few more items to complete the inventory: A mortar and pestle (better to have a large one for millet and small one for spices, a clay jar for keeping water cool, a winnow for cleaning the chaff out of the rice and the perforated dish that is used to steam couscous and some kinds of rice, a paddle for preparing porridge, a knife or two, a small charcoal stove for preparing tea and a clay braiser for incense. These are the basics that any Timbuktion woman should have to run her household.

Of the items listed above two plastic mats, one carpet, two pillows, two blankets, four sheets, the plastic tub, a couple of the small covered dishes and I think a few of the cups were given to the in-laws. After having shown it off, we lugged it all into the store room and sat around visiting for a while we all piled in the car again and came back to my place. The ladies said they were tired and thirsty so I got out the powdered milk and sugar that they might have a refreshing beverage they also set about making tea and when everyone was rested I took them all home. Finally it is all over.

On the way one was trying to scrounge up change. She needed several small sums that she could give to the present relatives as their share of the kola nuts that were to be distributed for the first step in the marriage of her daughter which is to take place within the month!