I recently attended the wedding of my fiancé’s cousin. I was so excited to see what differences there might be between an African and an American wedding.
My fiancé, Richmond, is from Liberia, a country in West Africa. His sister often tells me, “Get ready. We have a really big family.” I believed her when she told me that. However, it took on greater meaning during this particular weekend.
I went to the wedding thinking I would walk away with some interesting ideas to add to our special day. I thought of the African tradition of jumping the broom. Jumping the broom is a way of sweeping away past wrongs and evil spirits in some cultures, according to the African American Registry. In the four weddings I have attended and been a part of, the couple chose to do that. Broom-jumping is also practiced by non-Black groups and in different religions around the world with some variations.
I thought attending a traditional African wedding would shed new light for me as I prepare to marry a Liberian man. I quickly learned no matter what country you’re from, a couple’s wedding day is about the couple and their families. It’s a celebration and the way in which families celebrate is what makes a wedding day unique.
While there were some differences, most of the day was similar to other weddings I’ve attended. What I liked the most was seeing the sea of colorful attire that lined the pews and the emphasis on unity between the two families.
The ceremony was held in a church. The bride had 10 bridesmaids, including junior bridesmaids. That was interesting to me, especially in light of when I tell people I will have five bridesmaids, they often look at me as if to say, “Wow! That’s too many.”
One would think with 10 bridesmaids, a ceremony would linger on. It was the most efficient ceremony I have ever attended. Everyone took their places as planned, and the long line that extended behind the couple was filled with smiling faces and supportive friends. Again, just what you’d see at an American wedding.
The exchanging of vows and the lighting of the unity candle were just a few of the shared traditions I observed. The coolest part of the day was the reception. There is where there were differences.
My fiancé explained before we went to the wedding that there is a ceremony, a reception and another family gathering. It can be a party, but is likely to be a barbeque. That was the case for his cousin’s wedding.
While I’m a romantic and am usually the one who cries at all weddings, the reception was my favorite part of the day. During the entrance of the bridal party, each pair danced to a theme song. After the bridal party came in, the groom’s family came in as their tribal music played in the background. The same was repeated for the bride’s so both tribes were represented.
After the newlyweds shared their first dance, members of the family lined up for the grand march. That march to music included different formations and is a literal march around the reception hall to tribal tunes. I like to think of it as the coolest Soul Train line that never ends. That’s just me.
I danced in the march with my fiancé. It was a lot of fun. You definitely have to pay attention to the formations or you can lose your partner. I’m happy to report I only lost Richmond once.
While I enjoyed the dancing and seeing the different dances at the reception, I liked learning more about where my fiancé comes from the most. Family is a huge part of African culture, and I look forward to mine expanding when we unite next year. Attending my first African wedding was another glimpse into a different culture. It was a memorable introduction to my future family.