Saturday, I traveled to the village of Kumba to see a traditional African wedding with my neighbor Felix and a group of Peace Corp friends. We piled under a white canopy at nightfall wearing our bright African garbs.

The father of the groom was a smiling, bouncing, hand-shaking ball of pride. He entered the canopy like a heavy breeze with a laugh that took over his entire body and bounced off his bulging belly. The groom Sweden. Turns out he had a soccer game and could not come back to Cameroon in time for the wedding. His brother was the stand-in. Sounds odd, but this is common in traditional weddings as the ceremony is one of many that take place to mark nuptials. 

A traditional Cameroonian wedding is nothing like in America. There are no bridesmaids in hideous pastel-colored dresses or exchanging vows. Before the couple is pronounced husband and wife, the families must first discuss how much the bride is worth.

Um. Let me explain: The groom has to offer the bride's parents money or a "bride price" in exchange for their daughter's hand in marriage. The bride price varies depending on the woman's "worth." It's like insurance for the parents to secure their confidence in the husband's ability to financially care for a family down the line. The practice traces back to biblical tradition and goes on (not without criticism) in other countries like China, Thailand and parts of Europe.

Got it? Good.

The host (picture a Black Vanna White) kicked off the ceremony apologizing for starting four hours late. A popular Nigerian club song "I Don See My Wife" blasted through the speakers as bridesmaids came dancing down the stairs in hip-hugging lime green dresses and head wraps. They made a formation like a basketball team lining up for the starting five and ushered the bride (and her stand-in) down the aisle. 

We spent the whole night on our feet dancing and clapping, far removed from the swollen cares of tomorrow.  

Thanks for the pics Julia!


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