Posted by: hilarycole | November 24, 2007

Bliss in the Midst of Rousing Kenyan Wedding Calls

For those of you who haven’t been acquainted with the concept of “Kenyan time”, here’s a little snapshot: 

I decided this morning to go to a local wedding which several members of the Lubanga family (my hosts) were involved in. We were assured that at Kenyan weddings, anyone is welcome. It was to start at 11 a.m., and Mama Betty suggested we get there a little early, as it may start early.  I’ve not been in this country long, but I knew enough to assume it would sooner snow.

The eldest son of the family, Stalone, a striking, gregarious and soulful person, walked with myself and two of the young American student teachers to the church, talking all the way of his commitment to developing his relationship with God, and not just following “the word” through rote learning.

There was already a festive atmosphere in the wood-beamed and aluminum building when we arrived; music played from loudspeakers and people milled and introduced themselves.  Kenyans love to shake hands. I sat for a while with a young pastor who is about to graduate as a Deacon on Friday.  He is really fired up about his plan to start a vocational training school for disadvantaged young girls in his home town of Kakamega (about an hour away); he already has two acres of land and has met with about 20 prospective girls. 

He says he feels the plight of young Kenyan girls and women is his burden, and goes to bed at night feeling he has to do something to provide them with opportunities. He plans to partner with ICODEI but hopes to establish his own program, complete with overseas volunteers. (Any takers?!) I told him about the Rescue Dada beauty school and he was floored to hear about his vision already in action in Nairobi.  So I pulled out my camera and ran through the photos of the school and the girls there. Hopefully he’ll be able to visit to learn from their successes and ideas.

It was a joy talking with Reverend Chris, and good thing, ’cause the wedding party arrived more than three hours late.  You can go back and re-read that, it did say three hours.  I explained to one young man that in Canada, if the bride is more than five or 10 minutes late, the groom starts to worry she may have changed her mind.  He thought that was hilarious.  When in Kenya, one must simply roll with it, but my silly mzungu (white person) companions and I didn’t bring any water, and we were all starting to get lightheaded in the pregressively sweltering church.

I’m happy to report, we stuck it out, and I couldn’t be happier we did. When the car carrying the bride arrived in caravan with the bridesmaids and groomsmen, a great, thundering chorus of howls rose up from the crowd gathered outside.  I can’t possibly immitate the sounds that ascend from the throats of these people, but it is an absolute gas to be in the middle of!

Those yells and whistles carried on for the next hour, as it took the bride half an hour to get out of the car, and then another half an hour or more to walk down the aisle of the very small church.  It’s a tradition that the bridesmaids, flower girls and the bride herself move “pole pole” (slowly, slowly) down the aise, dancing the entire way. We all stood and danced and clapped with them. All the while, my lack of food and water all day became infinitely less important; if those six little girls and eight beautiful bridesmaids could dance for an hour, I could certainly stand and dance with them a while longer. It is absolutely impossible to wipe the smile off your face. Stay tuned for pictures.

After that procession, and an hour into the ceremony, the rousing words from the pastor (to which the congregation responded with affirmative shouts, claps and the occasional referee’s whistle), had not yet begun to approach anything resembling wedding vows, according to our volunteer translator on the bench behind us.

We opted to leave at the next appropriate moment, as dehydration headaches had set in all around, despite big smiles.  It was hard to leave, but a smart decision I think. I’ll have to save my dancing shoes for another afternoon.



  1. Hil,
    What an AMAZING day! Makes me wanna dance and clap all day long!!
    Make sure you bring Rev Chris’ contact info back!! VERY INTERESTED!!!

  2. Hello! I write for a wedding website, and am looking for stories and pictures of wedding traditions around the globe. If you would be at all interested in sharing your pictures and stories, you can contact me at at gmail dot com. The website is

    Thank you,
    Ilona Peltz

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