Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Samoan Wedding


Iva’s much anticipated event of the year took place today, the wedding of the pastor’s daughter at the largest church in the village. The pastor’s family is also thought to be the richest. Hundreds of guests, many from New Zealand, the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Health, and we attended the gala affair.

Like other events of this magnitude, the bride and the groom knew almost no one. In fact, they have lived in New Zealand for most of their lives. No one we talked to had the remotest connection to the couple. But, weddings have always been statements. A Samoan wedding is no different.

For those into statistics, there were 40 attendants: 18 bride grooms, 18 bride’s maids, 2 ring bearers, and two flower girls. Five different ministers spoke during the ceremony. The choirs filled a quarter of the church with people and overflowed with the most marvelous music this side of heaven. White was the color of the day. All the pews covered in white linen, the choirs, and of course the bride.

The bride, probably the slimmest she is ever going to be, came down the aisle at about 250 pounds, the groom slightly less. The actual ceremony followed a familiar pattern. The signing of the marriage documents done as part of the ceremony was something new and very nice. No unity candle. The ministers spoke in Samoan about the importance of God as being foremost in their lives with sub themes of serving God and procreating. I think the bride and groom are lawyers.

The reception just blew us away. There was more food to eat then you can imagine a speech by the best man, no kissing, and of course, NO ALCOHOL. Pepto Bismo served to finish our dining.

The cake or I should say multiple tiers of cakes filled center stage. We couldn’t see the entire array of layers. Women fanned the cakes to keep the flies away. Yes, there was the traditional cutting of the cake with photographers trying to capture the moment and blocking the view. Whole tiers of cake were given to special guests. More than enough cake for everyone. As for the cake itself, it was like a Cuban Spice cake, filled with fruit. The ice cream was passion fruit.

What is truly Samoan is that the guests are the ones who receive the gifts, rather than visa versa. For well over an hour, there was an endless stream of fine mats, cases of corned beef, and money emerging from a tent behind us. Helpers ran helter skelter as fast as they could carry gifts. Oh yes, there was a freshly slaughtered cow, too. Truly amazing. We wondered if the gift giving would ever end and whether we would get any of the booty.

No guest leaves without something. We got a huge turkey baking pan filled with lobster, fish, and many other meats. We got to keep the ceramic platter as a party favor (Saves washing dishes; Mary’s initial concern)

There was some confusion about the water glasses. Some thought you could take them; others not. The ayes soon started taking the glasses. As we walked home with our tray, platter and glasses, a village matai offered to carry our tray, so we won’t have to in the heat. He spotted the glasses and told us we should not have taken them. After helping us home, he took our two glasses. Now someone will have to wash them.

There was a veil of sadness over the wedding. The bride’s father, pastor of the church for 34 years, died three days before. However, his wife never missed a beat as she conducted the choirs and filled in for her husband. The funeral is scheduled for next Wednesday. In Samoa, funerals are even bigger events than weddings.

The Ceremony

The Cake

Our Gift

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