Malawian wedding!

 On Sunday my boss invited me to come to a Malawian wedding! Her friend’s daughter was getting married. It was actually a “sending off” ceremony (I’ll explain its purpose later)—after the engagement party but before the wedding ceremony. This sending off party was held in the family’s backyard, and it was the kind of gorgeous sunny weather any couple getting married in the summer would dream of (and the advantage here is, being the dry season, you can be 100% sure it won’t rain!). I liked all the purple in the decorations:


and they matched the bride’s and bridesmaids’ dresses. But in an amazing demonstration of how small the world has become, the bride wasn’t wearing a traditional Malawian gown (though many of the guests were), nor a white dress (that would be for the wedding)…she and her bridesmaids were wearing Indian saris!

Traditional Malawian...saris?!

She and her husband are both Malawian, so there was no particular reason—she just likes Indian culture (I can relate to that 🙂 ). So the bridal party walked down the aisle doing an Indian dance to the latest Malawian tune.

The main purpose of this ceremony was for elders to give advice to the couple as they start their married life together; as the woman MC-ing explained, “if you’re traveling to a different country, it’s helpful to know, before you go, what it’s like there and what things you should bring. The same can be said for marriage, that is why today we will tell Masa and Thoko about that journey.” Five women came up in turn and talked to the couple about the importance of:

  1. Christianity
  2. “Home management”- including time management, sharing the chores, and cleaning the toilet
  3. Communication
  4. Health, nutrition and HIV/AIDS (this woman was actually the president of the nursing school here)- helping each other exercise regularly, not eating too much junk food (she’d brought a little picnic basket of junk food as props!), how to keep your yard free of mosquitoes (to prevent malaria), getting tested for HIV before marriage and remaining faithful (I thought the part about getting tested would be taken awkwardly, but in a country where 11% of people have the disease it’s gradually becoming a more acceptable topic of conversation).
  5. Etiquette and grooming- I was hoping this one would be about why you should brush your hair and teeth, but ended up just being a repeat of communication.
Advice on health. See the little white basket near the purple post? This woman had brought examples of healthy and unhealthy food! Maybe she does this kind of talk a lot though because she's a professor.

After each woman finished her section, the DJ would turn on the music, and guests would dance around the speaker. Few people brought gifts; instead they would throw money as they danced!! In the US I’ve seen money given as a wedding present, but the amount is usually a private thing… whereas here the bills ended up all over the ground! And the DJ would announce how this uncle from Karonga had given 3,000 Kwacha, and that relative had given 5,000… Definitely a different approach! And there were two people whose job was to collect all the money up from the grass!

Some guests were dressed in western style clothing (it was only in 1994, when the country’s first president ended his 30-year reign, that women were allowed to wear pants! So I could see why they’d be excited to take advantage of this relatively new freedom)… many women, though, wore traditional outfits. My pictures don’t really capture their fullness and vibrancy, but the elder women especially, confidently holding themselves in full-length waves of cloth and headdresses, looked stunning. Yay for dance!


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