An Elephant Crashed my Wedding

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An Elephant Crashed my Wedding

Post by Evelyn » June 27th, 2011, 4:10 pm

Hi Forum friends,

My husband, Richard, and I just got back a few days ago from an African Safari. We were celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary. The trip was amazing and wonderful and I could go on and on about the animals we saw, about the beauty of the land, about the kind, generous people or about how we petted lions - but I don't want to risk boring you. We went to Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. I felt it was necessary to write about something very special that happened; I hope you enjoy it!

An Elephant Crashed my Wedding

I was being kidnapped, and there was nothing I could do about it.

It was evening. We were in the middle of no-where in Botswana, and we’d just returned across the savannah to our open-air lodge from a game drive. I could see a huge bonfire in a nearby clearing. What was up? The minute I climbed down from the Safari Jeep, a group of local women gently but insistently grabbed my arms and whisked me away.

"It's a surprise!" they said.

One of them took me by the hand and said she was going to be my Auntie. Ah. Aunties. I knew about them. It had already been explained to us that in this part of Africa, Aunts and Uncles took on a huge parenting role in a person’s life. They were advisors, go-betweens, and confidants. But why did I need an Auntie?

My Auntie and the other ladies – my other female relatives – took me to a tent and put a brown-and-white, African-style dress in my hands. "It's for you! We stitched it by hand! You're going to get married tonight!"

Married? I was getting married? Here? How had they known it was my anniversary? Richard must have something to do with this!

I held the dress out in front of me and admired the tiny stitches. Then my heart stopped. The dress was gorgeous but not in a million years would it ever fit me! It was WAY WAY WAY too small. Had they looked at me? I am no size six! Maybe a size sixteen, but no, not a six. Not since I was twelve years old. The ladies urged me to put it on, so I wiggled it over my head, but the zipper up the back gaped open the width of the Zambezi river.

"Oh... not good..." said my Auntie.

"We'll put something over the dress," said another lady. She said this in her own language but I figured out what she was saying because she draped a shawl around my shoulders. Then my Auntie smiled in approval and put an African headdress on me. I was ready. Now I had to be educated.

My Auntie sat me down and gave me a very solemn speech about the duties of a new wife:

1) I must always respect and honor my husband. I must always feed him first, kneeling, and keep my eyes averted in his presence at all times.
2) I must never question anything he does.
3) If he comes home six hours late from the fields and smells of alcohol, I must not ask him where he's been.
4) If he comes home with a second wife, I must accept it and not complain.

All right, then.

When the ladies were confident I would make a good wife, they herded me to the clearing in the bush by the bonfire, where the eleven others of the group, and Richard, my intended, were waiting. Richard had his own "Family" too, just as I had mine. He was dressed in a white knee-length tunic and a woven hat. He'd been educated by his "Uncle," but his education was along the lines of: "Treat her well. Her skin is perfect and un-blemished, like polished glass. She is delicate. Do not break her." Richard told me later he thought this was code for: "Do not beat her."

The two family groups began trying to out-sing each other - loudly and boisterously! They were dancing and jumping around us and having a grand ol' time. We got a sketchy translation later. My family was saying: "You don't deserve this woman. She's worth a lot of cows. You can't afford her." Richard's family was saying: "Send her over so she can start serving her new husband. What's taking so long?"

The groups started arguing good-naturdly. Later, it was explained to us that since this was the first time they'd ever staged a wedding, it wasn't exactly clear how they ought to proceed. A wedding would take three entire days in a village. The other reason they were arguing was that the people playing the roles of our families (all employees of the lodge) were from several different local tribes with slightly different traditions, and everyone wanted to use THEIR traditions for our wedding.

Oh. And I'd thought my husband's family was refusing to pay the ten cows for me!

My Auntie sat me in a chair and put a veil over my head. “You must sit here patiently and wait for your husband. Look at the ground!”

I sat, looking at the ground. Then Richard pulled my veil over my head and kissed me. Everyone hooted and clapped. Later, he told me his Uncle had adamantly told him: “under no circumstances are you to kiss the bride. It just isn’t done. It’s disrespectful. Don’t do it!” Richard had dutifully agreed. But then, to his shock, the very same Uncle had led him over to me sitting there in my veil and told him to “lift the veil and kiss the bride.”


The Uncle shrugged. “We’re trying to incorporate some Western traditions! Go for it!”

He did.

The ceremony ended with Richard's Uncle putting a napkin-wrapped Coke can on the ground in front of him. "Stomp on it!" he instructed. (They'd added a very Jewish touch at the insistence of some of our Safari mates who were Jewish. It was sweet. But kind of ironic, no? Stomping on the ceremonial "wine goblet" and crushing it was the exact opposite of the speech about "protecting your new wife, who is just like polished glass." Ha!)

After that, they sat us down and told me I had to serve a meal to my new husband. I filled a plate and knelt. The ladies thought my kneeling technique left something to be desired. Richard did, too. At least I kept my eyes averted, like a proper wife.

As Richard was eating (with his fingers; they don't use forks), we all heard noises in the jungle nearby. Everyone looked up as an ENORMOUS bull elephant crashed into the clearing and stood there dazed by the firelight. It shook its head, as startled as we were. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the Safari Guides reach for his rifle. Everything froze for a very long minute. Then the elephant went back into the forest, like an apparition fading into the darkness. We all stared in disbelief.

The guides laughed, which broke the spell. “Time to eat!” Everyone got plates of delicious, traditional African finger food, even the poor bride who had to wait until the men had eaten. It was wonderful. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. Maybe the elephant will, too.

So now, you see, I am properly married. I just hope Richard doesn't come home with a second wife.

That's one story... I have more!

The trip was so amazing that I may have to write a book, ha ha ha.


P.S. Attached is a picture a friend took of us. It was just after the kiss. You can see Richard’s Uncle and my Auntie standing behind us. What you can’t see it the Zambezi River on my back. Hope you enjoyed the story.
Our African wedding
Our African wedding
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Re: An Elephant Crashed my Wedding

Post by sierramcconnell » June 28th, 2011, 11:17 am

AW! You two look so cute! :D
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

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Re: An Elephant Crashed my Wedding

Post by Chantelle.S. » June 28th, 2011, 6:54 pm

I'm sure the elephant will remember - they never forget!! Or so the legends go ;)
I've never been to any of those places. It's shameful, considering I was born and raised in South Africa. Boo on me!
That is a very very lovely story, though, thank you for sharing! And happy (belated) 20th anniversary! :D
"Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s." -Stephen King

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