Wedding Party

bride hugs her sister surounded by friends
The marriage is over but it is still not finished. The girlfriends of the bride, those female neighbours and relatives in the same age group as her had received from the groom and his age-mates a gift of 100,000 f cfa with which they would throw a party. This money had been given to me for safe keeping until the plans were made. A few days after the bride had moved to her new home some of the girls came around discussing their plans and asking the boys in the neighbourhood for help finding a house where they could have the party and contact with a DJ and chair rental etc. I was indirectly involved in this because the principle organizer was a close relative of our family and she asked our nephews for help also I had the money and access to a vehicle and a camera. I did give some advice about the plans for refreshments and managing the funds for the meal etc. It was decided that they would hire a DJ for the music 20,000 f, they would buy a sheep 30,000 f then another 35,000 would go to ingredients for the meal, the rice flour bread that would be served with the stew and beverages. The last 5000 would go to the woman griot who had spent the first night of the marriage with the bride as the money left on the pillow for her had been taken by the male griot who had accompanied the groom.

girl friends hang out with bride prior to party
On the day of the celebration they still hadn't found anybody willing to give them a house for the event but they did find a partially walled off vacant lot and the neighbours were willing to let the organizers use their house for preparations. The bride came over to visit her parents for the day and came by to greet us and spend some time here too. In the afternoon I was asked to go pick up the speakers for the DJ. The organizers had been busy preparing the place and arranging for the food preparation.

bride with family
I was asked if I wouldn't come at least for a while so that I could take some pictures for them, as they had not got the groom to donate the price of the sheep they didn't have any extra to hire a photographer or filmer. I decided to go over to the bride's parent's house where I knew she and some of her closest friends and relatives would be getting ready. I thought I would get some shots of them together all dressed up while the light was still good.

It is a fact that people here put a lot of effort in to appearances, even the poorest person can manage to dress up pretty fine for an occasion. They also spend a lot of time on their primping. First the shower, which since it is usually a bucket bath, I do not understand how they manage to drag it out so long, then full body lotion with plenty of time on every step. Then there is the monkeying with the hair which is already elaborately braided with or without extensions. There is not so much to be done here unless they have the straight hair sewn on to their tightly braids scalp in which case their is greasing and brushing of the synthetic strands into whatever style it is supposed to have.

And then the make up: Heavy kohl around the eyes is a standard. If no lipstick is available they fall back on kohl to at least line the lips and probably to darken in the middle as well overlaid by a shiny gloss. Some times they put heavy shadow on the eyes sometimes they darken in the brows with an eye pencil or kohl. Over top is put the ghostly white powder, two shades to light for anybody that hasn't spent the last three years in a basement which makes them look like a clown or a vampire. Of course there is only one bottle of lotion, the bride's, and one set of make up, again the bride's, that everybody has to use one at a time this means that nobody is ready at the same time and the ones that are ready go off somewhere to track down someone else who isn't, or go get their outfit on.

I spent a lot of time sitting in a stuffy room while a gaggle of teenagers put on bad make-up and giggled at their reflections in a compact mirror or argued over whose turn it was to use it. When the sun was finally low enough in the sky to move out side into the fresh air, half the girls had disappeared on various errands.

It is the tradition in cases like this for girlfriends to go in together on a piece of cloth so that their clothes are all matching. In this case there were a few who had a piece of shiny gold coloured cloth but the majority of the bride's close group had got lightweight white cloth with some blue or green bits died on it. It is a way of showing solidarity and showing the bride's in-laws who were invited to the supper that she has a large group of friends and relations that support her so she better be treated with respect.

A couple of the girls hanging out all afternoon there were nieces of the groom. The bride seemed to giggle and talk with them a lot so it was nice to see that they were getting on but I wondered if they weren't also there as chaperones per sae. These parties are put on but the girlfriends but the complimentary boy age-group is involved too and often the night ends in them going off together. It is not uncommon as part of the high jinks to take the bride off and this can lead to rumours that one of the guys who helped “kidnap” her is a former sweetheart who took the opportunity for a liaison... It can end up causing trouble and suspicion in a new marriage.

Finally at dusk the mother of the bride chased everyone out claiming that the party was not a her house neither was the dinner so they had better all git if they wanted a part in it. I waited a little to give them time to arrive and get settled before heading off with my brother-in-law as escort. I was a block away when my son who I had thought to be happily playing with his cousins came running after.

Wedding Party comences
The party was started when I got there music blasting from the five big speakers, but the attendance was still low. Some guys at the entrance where doing bouncer duty, keeping out the little boys that were drawn by the noise. Mattresses were lined up along the sides and mats down the middle. As dusk turned to full night more and more people showed up, mostly girls, many danced.

offering gifts to the dancers
This was mostly a fete of young unmarried girls money was not lavishly distributed but a few offered bills of one thousand francs to the DJ after waving them over the heads of admired dancers. The bride participated in this ritual expected of her now that she is a married woman.

My son was overwhelmed by the decibels of the blasting music and confusion of the shifting masses of people. At first he was content to sit near me or with the bride while I shot some photos but he got increasingly cranky as the evening proceeded. By eight o'clock he he had fallen asleep while I took a time out to calm him and a cousin and I laid him out in the yard of the neighbour's house. I was long since ready to go myself but had promised to take some pictures and wanted to get one of all the girls in their matching outfits surrounding the bride. Unfortunately some of the closest relatives were too busy with the organization to put in much of an appearance.

party attendees
They were off seeing to the supper arrangements for the in-laws who would be coming for the meal when my husband and his sister showed up for me and some of the kids including the bride who he decided would be safer from unpleasant innuendo if she left before anything untoward might happen. I was glad to go but I thought the bride could have stayed long enough to receive her in-laws for supper after all we had only been there about an hour. In any case I gave her and the girls a ride home and then went home myself.

I think the thing that stood out the most for me throughout the afternoon and evening is how frequently the bride smiled. Though it was not so easy to capture in a photograph do to the tendency to pose and look serious for them she was smiling and laughing with her friends much of the time. It was such a sharp contrast to the time of the wedding where when her face was visible she her eyes were downcast, and her expression somewhere between serious and miserable. Certainly it is part of the traditions and superstitions of the marriage rites but see how much more beautiful she is when she smiles.

They sent a serving of the dinner and a beverage up to the house for me but it was late enough we left it for the morning. Then the boys, assuming I hadn't wanted it, heated it up and ate it for breakfast without leaving me a single bite. They said it was delicious so I hope it was a success with the in-laws. The party broke up at around 10:30. One more event down now all that remains is getting the bride her gifts.