Wedding Island Style
At the beginning of this month I got the opportunity to go to my first Vanuatu wedding. It was not in Lelepa, but in our sister community located on mainland Efate - Mangililu. Weddings in Vanuatu are week long events - the actual wedding taking place on a Friday.
Thursday morning I headed out for my first taste of the festivities. The main event of this day was the final supper of the girl with her family. It is an important kastom that before the girl goes off to join her husband she sits in her house one last time with the family around her. This is especially important if she is marrying a man out of the community because in Vanuatu the woman always follows the man and lives in his community. If this community is far away that might mean that the woman never sees her family again. -- One side story I found out while storiingon with some Mamas about Vanuatu weddings. One Mama in my community when she was in secondary school came up from her island - a long way away - to Lelepa for a school holiday. While in Lelepa she met a boy that she liked. As it turned out her family had planned for this and had sent up all of her stuff in advance and money to present to the family of a boy should she find one that she liked. Before even going up to Lelepa her father had already given blessings to her uncle to negotiate a bride price and wedding. So instead of going home she got married and has been on Lelepa ever since. Just recently her husband got a chance to go back to her home island where he took pictures for her of thel family she hadn't seen in over a decade. -- So back to Thursday - the meal for the final kakae was of course Laplap. As I wrote before Laplap is a very labor intensive food - especially if you are trying to feed over 100 people. So all day I along with the Mamas of Mangalilu and Lelepa scratched hunderds of coconuts, yams, and bananas. Giant fires were made, thousands of volcanic stones were thrown on top for pre-heating before the Laplap was buried in the middle of them. By the end of the day we had made 14 laplaps - some of these being giant ones measuring 5ft by 3ft and needing 4+ Mamas to carry them and put them on the fire. It was an undertaking of massive proportions. Mamas always complain that laplap is hard work - and yes it is but it is always a big social time full of storion and lots of laughs. I think if this kastom ever disappears this time together would be missed and Vanuatu would lose a part of its magic.
Friday the actualy wedding ceremony took place. The first event was the church service. The picture on top is the bride and groom getting ready to go into the Church. The pair on the right are the bride and groom, the other pair are their witnesses. The church service is pretty much the same as ours - I hear this part I skipped out on (as did most of the rest of the two communities) in order to get ready for the rest of the days festivities. After Church we all ate - Laplap once again of course! Once that was done and everyone put in an hour or two of good quality rest time it was time for the kastom portion of the marriage. The first part of this is putting the woman at the man's house. Everyone in the woman's family meets at her house and loads her stuff onto sticks. The stringband comes and all together we dance/walk her to the man's house. I and one of my grandma's danced our way down the street. When we got close to the man's house his family came out dancing -- chasing us and making us dance backwards. We than approached back again, they chased us once again. After this happened a few times we were finally invited into the house and we all danced our way inside. As we danced through the door way Mamas dusted us with baby powder - a sign of congratulations. (Us dancing our way inside is the second picture). After a few toktoks we all headed back to the woman's house for the final ceremony - buying the woman. Just like we have salary caps for professional atheletes, Vanuatu has salary caps for women. The most money you can pay is $800. This is not always followed as with every law here, but it is the law. The woman at this wedding was bought for some vatu ($), a pig, some yams, and mats. In addition her children were bought with a small pig. In Vanuatu many couples have children before they are married - than at marriage time the man must pay the women's family for looking out for the children until he married the woman.
Than at night the families dance stringband and other island music until the sun comes up again.
It was a fun experience and one that definately brought me closer to the community and understanding all that is Vanuatu. It is a magical place and an amazing blend of the new and old.
Well this is too long. Sori!
I hope this finds you all well!!! Lots of love and keep in touch!