Monday, November 16, 2009

The 204th good thing about Lagos: Saturday celebrations from two different cultures

The weekend before last we had a busy day with the opportunity to participate in two big celebrations. We first attended the wedding of one of Brent's co-worker. Weddings in Nigeria are often big and fancy affairs. There are different types of weddings here, and many couples have more than one celebration. This couple had celebrated a traditional wedding in their family's village the weekend before this "church" wedding, which was held in a Chinese restaurant. Some couples opt for a wedding at the registry (kind of like going to City Hall in the States), where families and friends often come to join in the celebration and even there they have a lot of pomp and ceremony.

One thing quite different from the States is the tradition here of the wedding attendees having dresses, or at least head ties, matching the colors of the wedding. After we accepted the invitation, the woman at work who was organizing the fabric choice for the office workers said she had fabric for my dress, told me how much my portion would cost, and said I should have a tailor make me a dress for the occasion. I was glad that I was already having a tailor come to make me something for the Marine Ball (the next occasion on this day), so I didn't have to scramble to find someone to make me a dress. The wedding colors were blue and silver, so they bought a lots of yards of one particular fabric and many people from the office that attended had outfits made out of it. Other groups came in matching outfits of a different fabric that they had chosen to coordinate with the bridal colors. So, besides the wedding party itself, the attendees add to the decor of the celebration. I thought my dress turned out pretty well. The tailor just took my measurements and looked at a drawing I had made with a description of what I wanted him to do and he executed it quite well. Though the fabric wasn't cheap, the tailor only charged me about $35.

At this occasion, there were some things different from other church weddings I have experienced. Even though the wedding was held in a meeting room in a Chinese restaurant, it was managed by an Evangelical Christian church -- I think there were four pastors participating at various times. We got there right on the scheduled time, knowing that we would be among the early arrivals, as things here always start late. We joined in about 1 1/2 hours of praise music singing while waiting for the wedding party to arrive. The wedding was fairly conventional -- though I thought it was interesting that they used Coke as the beverage when they participated in communion together. ;o) The singing, both by the performers and the dancing and singing by the audience who joined in, was quite lively. And after the official ceremony, one of the preachers gave a sermon about making marriage work (with some graphic discussion that I've never heard in our church services... I won't explain it here) for a full hour. That was stretching it a bit for us! Then after that there was a prayer over the couple with the preacher calling for the bride to be having a child 9 months from this day -- he repeated that over and over while stretching his hands out over her. These evangelical pastors here can get very dramatic and I don't think any preacher in the States would dare offer that kind of admonition to a bride on her wedding day!

After all that, there was some picture taking -- both formal shots and informal ones, like this one of Brent's co-workers. Even one man got into the matching fabric action! Brent just wore a suit.

Then there was a nice dinner and dancing and cake cutting -- nothing too unusual. I was thinking -- "wow, this has got to be costing them a lot of money -- weddings sure are expensive here," but the Nigerians at our table said this was a very modest affair for a Nigerian wedding. He said they at times have a seated dinner for 3000-4000 people! I can't imagine that! I've heard about how often people accrue huge debt here paying for a wedding. It makes me very grateful that I have a practical daughter without expensive tastes and she was married in the US!

There was some lively dancing. When the bride and groom danced, many of the the attendees did the Nigerian practice of coming forward and dropping money around the dancers. They had a laundry basket there to catch the money gifts.
I liked this picture of some of the group of Brent's coworkers. I thought it was fun to see how we all had the same fabric, but there were so many different dresses made from it. Alas, I didn't get the head tie!

We had just a short time home in the afternoon before we needed to leave for the Marine Ball. This Ball is held in different places all over the world to celebrate the Marine's birthday. This year it was their 234th birthday. This is a big event for the American expatriates here. As we entered the hall, we were greeted by a reception line of the Marines from the detachment here in Lagos. They sure looked great in their uniforms. (I was not terrifically thrilled with this outfit which I had made for the occasion -- it's certainly not very flattering on me.)

After some cocktail/visiting time, there was a ceremony which started with the color guard presenting the colors.

We had a program with a short film about talk and history of the event we were celebrating. The US Ambassador to Nigeria was present and gave a short speech.
Then there was the ceremony of cutting of the cake. This is a ceremony that recognizes the oldest and youngest Marines present at the occasion and symbolizes the passing of knowledge from the experienced Marines to the new Marine.

This was extra special to us because our host at our table, a co-worker of Brent's and friend to us, was the oldest Marine present (he is retired), so he went up, with the US Consulate General, and was the first to have a piece of cake. Next served was the youngest Marine here, who was only 21 years old.

Then there was dinner and then dancing. I was surprised when Brent went out on the dance floor willingly -- usually I have to drag him out to dance. We really had a nice evening. Thanks, Buster, for your invitation, but even more for your career of service in the Marines. My thanks also to all the U.S. servicemen who are today sacrificing and putting their lives on the line throughout the world. Happy Birthday Marines!


MOM THE BOMB said...

Wow! Such interesting traditions! Fun for you to be a part of it.

Nick Mollberg said...

Hello there, I'm a fellow Texan in Lagos... with a little brother brother in the marines (stationed in pendleton) and I'd love to meet some marines while I'm here... would the embassy be the best bet?

Carolee said...

Hi Nick! The Marine house periodically has parties open to US citizens -- there's one next Friday on Dec. 11th to say goodby to a Marine. They're a pretty fun group. Either contact the consulate for directions, or email me at caroleew (at) byu (dot) net and I'll send on to you the email invitation with contact info.