After our bizarre, ten-minute wedding ceremony in Kenya was over, I wasn’t sure if my Peace Corps volunteer hero and I were really married. What I did know was that I had a 9-karat gold ring on my finger and that the equatorial African sun was hot enough to give me hallucinations.
I did not hallucinate, however, or even imagine, that years later (like yesterday), both my prince and I would forget the anniversary of that weird wedding ceremony. No. We woke up, spent a lovely slothful day in our house in the south of France and never gave it a thought. Shame on us, because it was most certainly an event to remember: It was the day I became Wife Number One. Allow me to entertain you with the story:
Here Comes the Bride
On a sunny tropical morn in June, my hero and I walk to the District Commissioner’s office in the town of Nyeri for the joyous event, at least we’re expecting it to be joyous. It turns out to be rather bizarre, but we don’t know that yet.
Our wedding party of twelve strong awaits us at the door, a hippie lot consisting of one Swede, one Brit, a couple of Kenyans and several American Peace Corps volunteers, all dressed up in their finest jeans and cleanest shirts.
We squeeze ourselves into the small office, a humorless space devoid of festive adornments and full of stale air. Behind the desk stands the District Commissioner, a Kenyan man of solid build and serious demeanor. Also present are two mystery maidens, pretty Kikuyu girls in neatly pressed frocks. We do not know who they are, but soon discover they’re here to serve as our witnesses in case we don’t have any. We do, but the girls do not leave because (I assume) seeing wazungu (white people) getting hitched in this town is not a daily occurrence.
It may well be a very rare occurrence because the DC, wearing a suit and tie as is befitting his status, is sweating bullets. And not only from the heat, because along with the sweating he is also trembling and displaying a nervous tick.
After various solemn greetings, the ceremony commences. The DC directs himself to my man, ignoring me. Totally. As if I were invisible.
“Do you understand,” he asks, his cheek twitching, “that this is a civil ceremony and not a tribal one?”
My husband-to-be says yes, he does. So do I (this is, after all, Africa), but my understanding is of no importance apparently. I am not amused.
“And that under civil law, you can only have one wife?”
My man says, yes, he understands.
The DC’s hand trembles so much he drops his pen. “And do you understand that if you want another wife under civil law, you must first divorce the first one?”
Ye gods. Is this an omen? Am I making a terrible mistake? They are talking about getting rid of me before I’m even married. How cool is that? I’m standing here in all my bridal glory, miniskirt and all, and the DC is talking to my man as if I am not even here. I’m overwhelmed with emotion at this sacred matrimonial moment. I’m sure, dear reader, you can identify.
My not-yet husband says he understands about divorce. (He hails, after all, from America.)
I’m aquiver with nerves. Should I get out of here, rush back to Holland? Marry a dentist instead? What was I thinking, traveling to Africa, marrying a foreigner?
“However,” the DC continues, cheek twitching some more, “in the event you want a second wife but don’t want to divorce your civil-law wife, you’ll be allowed to marry a second one under tribal law.”
This is good news! My man won’t have to get rid of me if he wants another wife! I’m overcome with emotion. (This is, after all, my wedding day.)
After some more of this scintillating discourse, we finally get to the one single question I have the privilege to respond to:
“Do you take this man…”
I say yes, I do.
Years have passed. So far no second wife, tribal or otherwise. No second husband either. We both still wear our 9-karat gold ring. The only diamond I have is my man. (Oh, wow, my fingers just typed that line all by themselves!) I hope next year I won’t forget our anniversary. It really is something to celebrate.
NOTE: This wedding was not a recent event, and I’m sure that the ceremony I have described has been changed and modernized. So if you want one just like it, you are out of luck.
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Have you ever looked back at your life and wondered how you got to where you are now? Have you ever experienced an unexpected bizarre event? Scroll down, hit that comment button and entertain me!