Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The wedding introduction

We were invited to one of these in Kigali recently. There is no real equivalent in our culture – “engagement party” does not even begin to describe it.
The event is hosted by the girl’s family and its purpose is twofold – to negotiate how many cows the boy’s family will give and to introduce the engaged couple to the wider family on both sides. As it happened, the happy couple definitely played second fiddle to the cow discussions!
There were about 150 people there, equally divided between the two “sides” and facing each other, with a space in between for a sofa and chairs, later to be occupied by the couple plus attendants. We started an hour and a half late with a meal and then proceeded to the most important part of Rwandan events – the speeches.
The bargaining was carried out by a senior male relation from each family, with one or two advisers on either side and was very good-humoured, lots of jokes (we had a translator to give us the gist). After the opening speeches and some verbal sparring, the boy’s family eventually offered 8 cows. They were asked to confirm this and then the girl’s family said “that’s 8 plus 8 then?”. Much hilarity.
They went to 9, then 10 and finally, after about 1 hour, the sides agreed on 11. By this time it was about 1 hour away from dusk and I wondered if we would even be able to see the couple when they came!
I thought we were finished, but the discussion now turned to how to divide the cows between the couple and the girl’s family. This was shorter and ended up as 5 for the couple, but the boy’s family had a nice twist to their negotiations and insisted that the couple should be able to choose ANY 5 from the girl’s family stock. Finally, a request to describe the 11 cows was declined and they agreed to go and see the cows together to complete the transaction.
The couple showed up to great applause, greeted the families, exchanged gifts and then disappeared after about 15 minutes without saying anything. Since darkness was imminent, the party dissolved rather quickly : the wedding is in 4 weeks’ time, anyway.


Anonymous said...

Food for thought when it comes to negotiating bride price for C or J?

Anonymous said...

In PNG wealth is measured in pigs and daughters. Bride price is paid in pigs, so many eligible daughters means many pigs acquired which means high status. Any comapsrison in Rwanda?