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#178 Attending local weddings

October 22, 2012

Submitted by Island Wanderer

Ex-pat aid workers love attending local weddings. It combines dressing like the locals with the all-important symbolic local traditions that are the hallmark of every memorable posting overseas. What’s more, once the EAW has a good number of local weddings under his or her belt, the EAW has proof of not being “that kind” of ex-pat aid worker.

Sailing stylishly through native nuptials, however, is not as easy as it may seem.  An element of local wedding cultural savviness is critical for the EAW to blend in and prepare properly for local weddings.

For the less cultured or newly stationed EAW, the following tips may offer some initial guidance:

1.  Be Prepared for Build Up

In most cultures EAWs find themselves, wedding celebrations are not limited to one day. Aside from multi-day wedding ceremonies, many cultures have formal ‘engagement’ ceremonies and – most entertaining of all – wedding fundraising. The fundraising events often run for several weeks and for the price of a few dollars, you too will have the chance to participate in some sort of raffle-cum-blind auction where you will have no idea what is going on but will be thoroughly entertained and may even win a prize imported from China such as a plastic toothbrush holder or a brightly colored non-absorbent kitchen towel.

2. Timing

Find out what time you are really meant to be there. The cliché here would be to say “Come two hours after the official invite, nobody will get there earlier than that!” But guest beware!  In Uganda, weddings have become such a roaring trade that some churches become something of a wedding factory on a Saturday. Latecomers – amazingly in the land of laissez-faire timekeeping – are not tolerated and the would-be-happy couple is charged heavily for any delay in the start time. Were the EAW to arrive an hour late as such an event, an entirely different couple’s nuptials would be in process.

3.  Ladies – Don’t be Too Sexy

Pretty simple advice. “If you dress too sexy all the women will hate you and all the men will try to dance too closely.” 

4.  BYOB

In many cultures, booze is not part of the package. This has no correlation with the extent to which it is needed on the day. You must therefore follow the local lead of Creativity, otherwise known as Rediscover Your Inner 13-Year-Old. Water bottles refilled with gin or vodka may not sound classy but they may well help you get through a great deal of long speeches and waiting around with a smile that will thrill your local friends. Keep your stash close though, you don’t want some unsuspecting granny swiping it from under your nose and unexpectedly swigging back some hearty black market vodka.

5. Wing Friends

Do not attempt local weddings alone. It is essential to recruit local or other EAW friends to accompany you. Local friends are the ideal here, They are more interesting to hang out with than other EAWs. Also, you can tell the organizer they don’t need to translate for you as your friend will tell you what is being said. Of course, the time can be better used to just catch up on gossip.

6. Give a Cow. For Real.

Make sure you find out what the expectations for gifts are. Some weddings are fantastically well-organized with detailed gift lists for you to take your pick, so take the chance to be creative. EAWs may club together to buy the newly weds, for example, a cow. This clearly provides excellent photo opportunities when blogging for the folks back home. Be prepared to receive some odd gifts in return too. In the Philippines, the weddings can be extremely religious and Westernized — right up until the moment you are given a bamboo stick as a wedding favor.

7. Have a Back-Up Plan

Particularly if you fail to follow the tip above on wing-friends, it is essential to have a back-up plan in place. This may involve having a friend agree to call you at a certain time to announce the sickness of a grandmother/ sister/ cousin-brother / etc that you must attend to immediately. Family sickness will probably be the only matter you will not be persuaded out of easily.  That your family is thousands of miles away is an issue that is easily glossed over.

Last, but certainly not least, do go to as many local weddings as you can. Don’t feel too weary at the end of a week of proposal writing and staff grumblings to get your swag on and go.  Local weddings benefit from some preparation and foresight but they are irreplaceable fun and in some cultures are one of the few local-style social options open to EAWs.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary permalink
    October 22, 2012 10:42 am

    This blog can be a little too Afro-centric. I was ecstatic every time I received an invitation to an Indian wedding – SO FUN!! And give a cow? Talk about generalizing – cash is always preferred. Middle classes exist in these countries too.

  2. October 24, 2012 2:37 pm

    Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people’s diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from South Sudan? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in South Sudan in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Calle Valencia, 39
    28903 Getafe (Madrid)
    Spain

    If you wish, you can visit my blog http://www.cartasenmibuzon.blogspot.com where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez

  3. ckombo permalink
    November 19, 2012 4:34 pm

    Very nice. I was a local wing-friend for my expat friends at the Zimbabwean Prime minister’s wedding a couple of months ago. I took some funny pictures and live-tweeted for giggles.

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