I was lucky enough to attend the beautiful wedding of Samantha Russell and Johann du Toit.
The wedding was held on Guy's property in Kittengela, right where the river comes to a bend and the bank flattens out to reveal these massive rocks lining the edge of Nairobi National Park and the plot. This spot is amazing, and I promise I will get the pictures to everyone as soon as I can!
I thought this wedding would be something extremely out of the ordinary, but aside from being in Kenya, it was a very simple, romantic, thoughtful ceremony. We walked through the tall yellow grasses down to the ceremony site where we were greeted by about 12 ushers (like groomsmen) and escorted to a hay bail covered in burlap and fastened with wheat. There were also large brown vases filled with different types of grasses and wheat. Johann is a farmer (represented by the wheat) and Sam did all her PhD research with ecosystems by studying different types of grass (hence, the grass).
Once all 150 guests were seated and it was time for the ceremony to start, the bride walked down the aisle in a beautiful white Italian silk gown. The groom was wearing a shirt and vest to match both the bride and the ceremony site. Anyone watching could have easily mistaken this for a wedding in California. There was a welcoming Hymn, a few readings by the parents of the bride, best men, etc. There was an Apache Marriage Blessing read aloud, a signing of the registers after reciting vows, and prayers read for the deceased, and then also for Kenya (since the referendum was only 4 days away). Before the recessional, we were all asked to have "sun downers" with the bride and groom, and also that we stay and party until sunrise! Sun-downers are a HUGE tradition in Kenya (maybe elsewhere also?) and it is basically gathering at sunset with a drink and sitting and chatting with friends. I am bringing this tradition to California!
Kenyan weddings are awesome. We had a delicious meal with tomato soup, chicken, steak, salad, rice, and all the beer, wine, and champagne anyone could want! They REALLY wanted their guests to stay. After the three best men gave their speeches, and all the in-laws gave their blessings and advice the dancing began. Kenyans know how to dance, and they definitely know how to party! The dance floor was busy all night and into the wee hours of the morning. I tried my best to stay up with the bride and groom but had to turn in around 4 am when I found myself barely keeping my eyes open in front of one of the fire pits. :) It was a beautiful reception under huge white tents that placed in the middle of a National Park was so simple, but so perfect! They let the beauty of their country speak to who they were and everyone celebrated their happy future under the stars. I was told there were about 20 people left at 6am which I thought was extremely impressive since the bride, groom, and all the in-laws were included! They received special pastries for lasting all night, and had another drink with the bride and groom to signal the official end of the occasion.
I have to thank both Sam and Johann for inviting me to their wedding and also to Shirley and Jonah for extending that invitation to me. I had so much fun getting to know their friends and family, and they were both so kind to me at the wedding. I kept thinking I was the luckiest girl to be in a place where I could actually feel people's warmth and everyone wanted to have fun and enjoy being together! I keep talking about this amazing sense of community I feel here, but it really is a phenomenon in itself! Kenyans just seem to be bound together naturally, and this wedding was no exception.
Sorry to get all mushy on everyone, but I really had the best time. I will never forget watching the bride's mom and father-in-law dance to Shakira's "It's time for Africa" song at three in the morning while the rest of the guests scream the words at the top of their lungs. You all missed out. :)
The Cherry on Top: I was also invited to the traditional Masai wedding thrown for Sam and Johann by the Masai people near where they have been living while Sam did her research. Please look up the Masai under "images" or something on Google if you don't already know something about them. They are some of the last remaining traditional indigenous tribes in Africa, and in the area where Sam and Johann live, they actually still hold traditional ceremonies that aren't for tourists or money. They are beautiful pastoral people, and I got to see some of the traditions that absolutely NO ONE gets to witness because they are sacred the the tribe. National Geographic would be SO jealous! I will describe all that I can put into words when I blog about my safari...
So, everyone needs to add "Go to a Kenyan Wedding" to their bucket lists because even if you're not into the whole romance and love bit, you can always attend just for the masses of food, alcohol, and dancing! :) What an incredible night.