February 28, 2009

Wedding Customs

(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For links to previous posts you can go here)

Every now and then we would be invited to a wedding in one of the surrounding villages.

There would be a long service in the village church, while we sat on wooden benches with out backs, and used woven fans to keep ourselves from melting in the heat.
We would walk out of the church in the usual procession, shaking hands with the Bride and Groom. Here they were showered in talcum powder. (Talcum powder is used in many ceremonies, but especially when farewelling people or at weddings. It would be liberally shaken over the heads and shoulders of the honoured guest. I have no idea where this tradition came from, I’d love to know)

We waited in the village for the next part of the ceremony. Food has been cooking all day, the air is full of the smell of smoke and laplap leaves singed from the hot stones.
This is when the Bride Price is exchanged. The Brides family gives the grooms family a prearranged amount of woven mats, yams, chicken or money.
Different islands and even different villages on the same island have different customs surrounding the bride price. Sometimes the groom will also have to ‘pay’ a certain amount to the bride’s family.

Then the pigs are brought out. If the families are wealthy enough both the bride’s family and the groom’s family will provide a pig. The groom will then kill the pig in front of all the wedding guests. I never actually saw this happen, I either closed my eyes or Mum would take us away when the pigs were being lead out.

The pigs were butchered right then and there, and carried off to be cooked. The pigs must be eaten at the wedding. This way if the husband says later on “I want a divorce.” The elders will say “No, we have eaten the pigs, it can not be undone.”

We have to wait a long time for the kakai (feast), because the pigs have to be cooked. But there is always a string band to listen to, or someone will start to sing so we can all join in.

It was only once I came back to Australia that I learnt of another custom at weddings. I was at the wedding of the oldest Scott girl. Ian was preaching and mentioned how Fiona had grown up in Vanuatu and that there was a special custom which was practised there with every newly wed.

I almost had a heart attack because I thought maybe Ian was going to kill a pig right here in the church, but instead he explained “When a couple is wed, they are given a new Bible, one which belongs to both of them so that they can build their marriage on Gods word.”

I think I like that custom a lot better.

1 comment:

Kacie said...

I can relate to your growing up island stories! I grew up on islands in Indonesia myself, (also an mk) and they are treasured memories