Women are gathered in an open yard, mounts of rice, vegetables, and aroma of sweet spices. Men gathered under a tree conversing over traditional coffee and burning of ‘Oud’ fragrant wood. Sounds of celebration inside, high-pitched singing, dancing, I follow the crowd.
I attend my first Tanzanian wedding in the village. One of the most noticeable differences between a traditional Tanzanian wedding and Western style weddings, is that the bride and groom are not together when the weddings vows are taken, and they are separated during much of the festivities. I noticed throughout the wedding, the men and women are in different areas.
First day I arrive dressed in traditional Tanzanian attire, lipstick and nails painted, thinking I am completely overdressed for this ceremony. To my surprise, Tanzanian women were dressed over the top. Elaborate gown designs, henna on both arms and legs, makeup, hairstyles resembling Rihanna’s latest album. Even men, were dressed at their best. I was immediately escorted to the women’s section of the wedding. Village women were prepping food, cleaning the yard and setting up the ceremony. Across the yard I see men cooking traditional Tanzanian food. My Tanzanian Baba explains how elder men cook a special rice dish called ‘Pilau” – a form of spiced rice with meat, vegetables and spices as a wedding tradition.
Depending on religion, local culture and tribe, Tanzanian weddings can be different. My village is made up of two major tribes with religion being predominately Muslim. Day one is for preparation. Followed by a night of music and dancing. Being exerted from working at the clinic that morning, I excused myself from the festivities early. Though I heard the music going on all night until the next day (it is very normal).
During the official ceremony (Day Two), the groom, family and community members visit the mosque for congregational prayer. From a decorated car parents escort the groom into a separate house. Islamic songs fill the joyous streets. Religious leaders and village elders gather over Quranic recitation and Islamic prayer including groom. The bride and groom take vows while in separate rooms. Women make high-pitched sounds indicating the beginning of celebration, of marriage, of official union between man and woman. The groom is escorted inside, where bride is glamorously waiting to be approached by her newly husband. Men gather over large space as women serve variety of food. Perhaps my favorite tradition was witnessing the groom fill a large special basket with food from every plate by hand and delivered to bride. The bride samples every food in basket as meaning of husband providing, a unspoken vow of love, support and togetherness.