John Gee, a member of the Diocese of Edmonton, is currently in Burundi, working in the Diocese of Buye for a three-month stint. We welcome this guest post to the blog.
My first activity on arrival in Burundi was attending the wedding of Bishop Sixbert’s niece. A wedding here is an elaborate affair that goes on for at least two days.
On the first evening we had the “give-away” which is hosted by the bride’s family, in this case the bishop. The groom’s family is expected to provide a payment to compensate for the loss of the bride’s services to her family. Originally the payment took the form of cows. Now it is a large basket of fruit with a small basket of money hidden inside. Before it is presented, there is a protracted negotiation over the price with lots of humour and innuendo. Eventually agreement is reached and the bride is produced. Then everyone joins in feasting and celebration.
The actual wedding is the next day. In Burundi the civil and religious ceremonies are separate. First the couple attend at the municipal office for the civil marriage. Then everyone goes to the church for the service. It is a full liturgy with communion; the order is immediately recognizable to Canadian Anglicans even though it is conducted in Kurundi. However, the congregation participates more actively, interrupting with applause and “Amen” at every opportunity.
After that is the reception, hosted by the groom’s family. The couple come into the hall through a ceremonial arch and adorn each other with jewellery. The cake cutting is similar to what would happen in Canada. Then there are many speeches and incredibly beautiful traditional dancing. The festivities carry on through the night, but my hosts thoughtfully didn’t make me stay for the whole thing.