How to get married in Lomé

Trip Start Mar 24, 2010
1
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Trip End Apr 12, 2010


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Flag of Togo  , Maritime,
Sunday, March 28, 2010

This morning Mr. Fiaboé was right on time to pick me up at 8:45. That put us at the church hall at 9:15 in time for the 9:30 start time of the wedding. That might seem like we cut it close, but at 9:15 when we arrived there was practically no one present yet. None of the wedding party was there.

Around 9:45 people started trickling in, and we were finally able to begin at 10:00. The choral sang two songs in the local language, and with typical African harmonies. Then we entered the hall in a standard wedding procession. The bride came up the isle to the bridal chorus (aka "here comes the bride") and people applauded. The bride and groom made a very handsome couple, beautifully dressed. Our rehearsal paid off pretty well; there were only a few minor things that didn't go as planned. Pierre Ogoudélé and Enyonam Djromadji became Mr. and Mrs. Ogoudélé in front of 120 family members and friends. We walked back down the isle to Mendelssohn’s wedding march, which seemed appropriate even in Africa.

After the ceremony, family members commented on how brief our ceremony is; wedding in Lomé often take two hours. There is lots of loud music, dancing, and as I was told “carrying on.” But mostly they liked the simplicity and sincerity of our ceremony. The bride and groom were whisked off in a rented Mercedes to change from western clothing into matching traditional African wedding robes and then to the banquet center rented for the celebration.  I had a counseling session for an hour at the Church hall while all these arrangements were completed, then we drove 10 minutes to the center as well. At least 200 people were present, mostly family of the bride. Guests were seated on three sides of a slightly raised dance floor in the center. Mr. Fiaboé and I were ushered right up to the table where the newlyweds were seated and we were placed one on each side. I would have preferred to leave those places for the parents, but I hadn’t been consulted.

There was a female MC in the middle of the floor working up the crowd with stories and songs, mostly in the local language. I couldn’t understand of course, but of few of the stories included heavy breathing which elicited laughter from the crowd and some blushing from the newlyweds….

When the refreshments began it started with a small glass of champagne, then servers moved through the crowd pouring spirits into outreached cups. The selection was quite random as seems to be the custom here. One server had a bottle of gin and one of port, another had whisky and gentian. Another had what appeared to be rum and red wine. As the servers moved around people called out from what they wanted. A bottle of scotch and a bottle of sweet vermouth were placed on our table. Mr. Fiaboé and I had a little vermouth to be polite and then I changed to water. It was about 90 degrees and very humid so my tropical-weight wool suit ensured I needed to drink lots of water….

Pierre and Enyonam cut the wedding cake and fed each other a piece to everyone’s joy and amusement.

A three course meal was served: a salad of raw vegetables with vinaigrette, followed by chicken with fried potatoes and fried bananas, cooked onions and tomatoes and a spicy hot-sauce. Wedding cake was served for dessert. There was cold water in plastic bags passed around, and some soft drinks and cold beer too.

The dancing began. It was a mixture of African and western style pretty sedate actually although there were a few men who really put on a show. The MC came and got me and asked if I would dance a round with her, so I did. I’m not sure what people were expecting, but they really watched us at first. I didn’t do anything creative or fall down or anything, so after a while attention wandered off to more interesting dancers, which was what I hoped….

There were lots of songs and more dances and everyone seemed to be enjoying himself. About 2:00 Mr. Fiaboé said it would be quite alright for us to leave since I had another visit lined up with a man preparing for baptism.  We drove back to the Church hall and had a long and useful visit that lasted about 90 minutes.

We drove back to the hotel so I could dry out (we were all soaked with perspiration) and freshen up a little before the Passover service.

We started out again from the hotel at 5:45. We began the Passover service at 6:30.  There was a power outage in the quarter as there often is starting about 6:00. The government agencies run regular rolling blackouts at night to save power. But we were prepared with a generator and so were able to run the lights and the ceiling fans, which are much appreciated even at night.  The thermometer in Mr. Fiaboé’s truck said it was in the high 30 Centigrade, which is in the 90s F.

We were 22 present for the Passover, and one or two more hadn’t been able to make it this year due to distance or other reasons. This is always a most meaningful ceremony, and I could see the church members here paying close attention as we read the scriptures, even those who were following the translation into the local language.

We went outside the hall into the courtyard for the foot-washing; it was noticeably cooler there in spite of the ceiling fans inside.

After the service, Mr. Fiaboé drove me back to the hotel one last time for the day; we arrived back about 9:00 pm. It has certainly been a long day, but an amazingly varied day as well.
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Comments

mary on

Hi Joel,
Thanks for sharing the wedding photos and commentary. It must have been an exciting day for everyone, and what a handsome couple. You had a nice number for Passover, too. We hope the remainder of your visit goes well.

Regards,
Mary

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