Senegalese Wedding

A Senegalese wedding is way more complex I’m sure than what I have observed but I will first describe the wedding I attended between a volunteer and Senegalese person then at the end add what other tid bits I’ve been told and learned.

In order to get engaged, a man brings the father of his bride to be kola nuts, how many I don’t know. Kola nuts come from our neighbor to the east, Mali. There is also a bride price, I believe negotiated between families. Some one in my village told me  the bride price for their fiance was 40,000 CFA, roughly $80. Once the kola nuts  and money changes hands, a date is set and preparations begin. Usually organized transport is arranged if a large enough group is coming from out of town. A DJ and drum/dance troop, are hired, a large number of chairs (200 hundred for this wedding), several large shade tents, portable rice sac fence to surround the tents, and a dance floor. Depending on the wealth of the families either a cow (wealthiest), a sheep/goats (standard) or pigs (Christian) will be cooked, other supplies are kilos and kilos of onions, green peppers, carrots, etc., and a 50kg bag of rice.

At 11 AM Saturday March 12, thirty plus volunteers wearing Senegalese clothing stuffed into a mini-bus going from Kaolack (pronounced cow-lack) to a village 25km down the road from me called Pethie (pronounced petch). We arrived, exchanged greetings, and were herded to chairs in front of the house, the bride to be, Mary, a pcv, had her American mom, mom’s friend, cousin, and cousin’s husband attending needless to say she had a large number of guests. It was around one p.m. when we were seated and settled. Lunch by a volunteer’s family is served between 1:30-2:30 so we expected  to eat in the next hour or two. At this point  I went off to meet  the husband  to be, Malick, I’ve heard a lot about him and he even came to my house once when I wasn’t there so I was glad to finally meet him. The DJ and drum troop were people I know quite well in my village so it was nice to see familiar faces.

After sitting a while with Malick, his friends, and a few other pcvs, playing a game of Senegalese checkers, and chatting with guys from my village (asking for me to give them one of the female pcvs attending the wedding and for me to take them to America). I went back to the bride’s compound, passing through the dance floor where everyone I came with had been herded, it being around 3:00, we began to wonder about lunch. I poked my head into the bride’s compound and they were only preparing to kill the goat and then I knew we were in for a long day.

The bride, Mary, had been out of sight since we arrived and as all the pcvs sitting in the dance tent were heading to the bride’s house were rerouted and told to follow some one to another house. Mary came out with probably the most make up she’s ever had on in a white two piece outfit with a white head wrap and her hair done. She was surrounded by seven bridesmaid in blue outfits, a drummer, singer, American and Senegalese family, and a large group of pcvs. This is the traditional part of a Senegalese wedding in a small village they take the bride from house to house, annunce the marriage, play music, and a bridesmaid or some one in the house will suddenly catch dance fever, jump into the center of the group, dancing rapidly and running out, with an embarrassed smile as if to say “I don’t know what came over me”. I’ve seen this parade moving down the main roads  in my village (my village is way to big to go from house to house). The bride party did this until they arrived at her own house and then she’s taken from hut to hut and presented to all the women relatives. The last hut they go into and stay for a chat, all the matriarchs are in the room giving a wide range of advice  and quick prayers.

All the men were taken to just outside the mosque, where a large group of men, except Malick (the groom), came out from. Four large mats were arranged in the shape of squire and circle of chairs were set around the square of mats. Each mat had a group of men with the same last name sitting on it, each went around saying  prayers and good things about the bride and groom, while the Imam threw kola nuts to each person. After each prayer we say amen, I probably said that a hundred times while sitting there. Some of the things that were said: the bride comes from a far place, but shes acts like us, doesn’t have a problem with food, cooking, pulling water from a well, etc therefore she is good and will make a fine wife. Another comment was if you don’t have respect , you’re not a man or a woman, you’re nothing, but those two have respect  and are good people, may God bless them…he went on to say 15 prayers in a row. Basically everyone says everything nice they can think of, true or not and then spoutes off proverbs and prayers. Each man wants to say their piece, we sat there for quite a while but at the end when all the kola nuts have been distributed, the elders decided that the union shall go forth.

We got back to the house in a ravenous state, luckily peanuts vendors came and we were able to snack a bit until it was time to dance. We all went to the floor and my village’s dance troop got the party started. At 7:30 P.M. we were called to lunch. Then some friends from my neighborhood in my village that drove to the wedding took me home around 10. I heard the dancing went on till midnight.

Things I’ve heard and observed about Senegalese weddings and married couples:

Husband and wife never interact in public and men will flirt with the wife openly.

I was told that the day after the wedding, family elders may remove the sheet from the bed the husband and wife spent their first night on, and if there’s blood (signifying she was virgin until marriage) they will parade this sheet through the compound and village.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s