Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Samoan Catholic Wedding


Except for the stray dog at the altar, weddings in Samoa are somewhat similar to those in the U.S. There is the bride in her white dress, the best man, maid of honor; some weddings meticulously planned, others hurriedly performed. Even the wedding vows seem the same. Weddings are meant to be statements, for whose benefit is debatable.

Last December I described the wedding of the pastor’s daughter from the largest and wealthiest church in the village. It was meant to be spectacular and it was. In Samoa you measure the success of a wedding by how much the guests get to take home, instead of visa versa.

My measure of a wedding’s success is did I have fun. By these standards, the more modest Catholic wedding yesterday is what a wedding should be, a celebration. Booze, dancing, laughing, and soapy speeches make weddings memorable. Samoan Catholics seem to do this the best.

Like other Samoan events, Mary and I are totally lost. Since there are no written invitations, we don’t even know whether we are invited, let alone being honored guests. We have no idea what is happening at the reception until a village leader calls us to do a Samoan dance to everyone’s delight.

Samoan dances are filled with all kinds of sexual moves. To the table shaking, thumping beat of Samoan-rap-reggae-rock music, it is the seniors who dance as the younger guests watch. It seems the dancers are recognizing old love affairs with their graceful, alluring movements.

We watch, drink, and stumble with our Samoan as the bride and groom leave. It is time for us to take our gifts of food and cake back to share with host family. The music ends, but the drinking and unknown happenings continue into the night.

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