Weddings. Who HASN’T been to one, or in one, in the past month? No matter what country you live in, every society and culture embraces this special day month after month, year after year, with joy, delight, and great celebration. Each one brings a different couple together, and usually has some slight differences here and there in the ceremony and reception, but generally speaking, most weddings follow a typical pattern.
And, let’s be honest – sometimes the whiny, selfish child comes out in us when we have to GO to a wedding – dress up in a stiff, fancy outfit? sit through and listen to long speeches and exhortations? eat dry cake and mingle with people you don’t really want to talk to? Exchange an entire Saturday that could be spent doing errands or relaxing or catching up on bills and e-mails, with a fancy event? For us girls – find a dress that you didn’t wear to the LAST wedding you attended, and one that is WARM enough for winter weddings? Wa-wah-Wa. Such suffering 🙂
I certainly wasn’t expecting to have the opportunity to attend a wedding while living here in Kenya, but it just so happens that I got to this past Saturday!
Meet Kip and Naanjie.
Kip is a Kenyan who currently lives in Maryland and attends my home church, Covenant Life, and is a part of my Singles ministry group. I met Kip in December 2007 a few weeks prior to my two-week missions trip to Uganda. Having grown up in Kenya, Kip came and spoke to our team about cultural differences, what to expect, and how to act (Uganda is similar to Kenya in terms of society and culture). When Kip found out that I was moving to Kijabe for a year, he gave me his fiancee – Naanjie’s – e-mail and told me to contact her when I got to Kenya. So, Naanjie and I began e-mailing here and there, and eventually got to meet up in Nairobi in November to spend a day together and have some girl time. I LOVED her from the minute I met her – she is easy going, generous, hospitable, kind, spiritually-minded, and quite witty. Naanjie is part Tanzanian, part Kenyan.
As we continued to get to know each other, she eventually mentioned that Kip was flying into Nairobi in December for their wedding, and “would you like to come?” Would I ? Of course! What a treat it would be to experience a real, African ethnic wedding…not only would I get to GO to the wedding, but unexpectedly, participate IN it. A few weeks ago, Naanjie texted me and asked me to play “Great is Thy Faithfulness” on the keyboard during the Ceremony. I would be joined by “Angie,” (pictured below), who is a good friend with a booming, rich, sweet alto voice.
We had such a great time playing together – Angie also did the special song and I was just so encouraged by her faith and joy and heart of service.
And, what a beautiful location!
KAREN COUNTRY LODGE
Interestingly enough, the actual ceremony was very Western. It was only 40 or so minutes, and included very similar aspects to what you would expect at an American wedding – exchange of vows, rings, special song, Unity sand ceremony, message/sermon, scripture reading, etc. A few differences, though, are worth noting:
– The attendants whooped this loud, African shrill yipping sound as the bridesmaids and bride walked down the aisle, which was absolutely hysterical to listen to.
– Naanjie’s father passed away in 1996, so her mother, grandmother, and grandfather walked her down the aisle.
– When the message was given, it was actually shared by Pastor Richard AND wife of ten years, Yvette. They each took turns sharing two points based on the classic Ephesians 5 passage on marriage. I had never seen this done before, but it was SO meaningful. Having the wife’s perspective truly enriched the wisdom and advice that was passed onto Kip and Naanjie as a couple, because Yvette’s experiences and “lessons learned” related specifically to Naanjie’s new role as a wife. I really enjoyed this aspect of the wedding, and think it’s a great idea!
-While Naanjie wore a traditional “American-style” wedding dress, her arms were also beautifully decorated with black Henna flowers. It looked lovely on her. Kenyan women truly know how to be elaborately beautiful. Diamonds, Henna, make-up, hair, veil, the whole shebang…
After the ceremony, the wedding party took pictures while guests mingled in the garden by the water fountain and drank fresh Passion and Mango juice cocktails. Then, we did a “fake” send off to Kip and Naanjie, as they drove away in this adorable, white, classy Bug-Bug:
Then, we were seated for the reception under a big white canopy tent, and I spontaneously got to sit next to a friend who just so happens to work in Germantown, MD and lives in Bethesda. Small world, huh? When Kip and Naanjie were introduced and entered the tent, they immediately began dancing and all these friends crowded around them and danced with them for a good 15 minutes. I suppose this was the “warm-up,” because the ENTIRE evening was intermitently (sp?) filled with dances of all sorts.
Then, we all enjoyed a wonderful buffet of classic Kenyan fare, along with multiple types of chicken curry, beef stews, baked tilapia, mixed vegetables, chapati, and fresh fruits.
And, “Sir Henry,” the MC, kept the crowd laughing, while “Timmy Redneck” (Naanjie’s brother and best-man to Kip) shared a hilarious video interview that he filmed with Kip and Naanjie.
As the evening progressed, the other dances began. This was perhaps the greatest difference between most American weddings and Kenyan weddings. It isn’t so much the YOUNG people who “boogie,” as they say, but the older matrons -aunts, cousins, grandmothers, best friends to the mothers, bridesmaids, and special attendants.
They had a song for everything. SOUL songs. A song of celebration over Kip and Naanjie, a song of honor to the mothers of the bride and groom, during which fabric was piled upon the mothers, a song expressing “goodbye” to Kip and Naanjie since they going to be living in Maryland, a song for presenting multiple gifts to the wedding party members and parents of the bride and groom, and even a Sparkler song when the bridesmaids and special attendants to Naanjie danced just around her.
At one point, the long “conga” line of matrons pulled me from my seat, started laughing hysterically, and made me come sing in Swahili with them! It was such an out-of-body experience, but I felt so welcomed and accepted by everyone, that it just ended up being pure FUN.
Even as the reception came to the “first” conclusion (there was a big after-party where everyone stayed to dance till 4am, but i left around 12am with some others who were all staying at Timmy’s apartment in Nairobi), the festivities didn’t seem to end. Everyone was just so happy for the couple, and simply loved celebrating their life and love and new union. Everyone kept commenting, “This is such a happy day. I’m so happy.” They certainly know how to share in each other’s joy! And, Kip and Naanjie were so relaxed and happy every moment of the day.
Of course, I had the opportunity to greet Kip and Naanjie during the reception (no receiving line, just straight up to them at their dinner table!) and personally thank them for including me in their special day. It seems so strange that I am the American staying in Kenya, and they are the Kenyans leaving to go to America. It made me almost feel homesick for a second, jealous that they get to return home to CLC and life in MD and be among all my wonderful friends and family…but, our hearts are truly united and Kip and Naanjie and I have promised each other to hang out and be “Maryland buddies” when I get back next July 🙂 What fun THAT will be! Definitely something to look forward to.
Overall, the day was wonderful and an interesting experience that I will never forget. A few other random things that I just thought I would mention is:
a) I met an RVA grad,
b) there was this whole group of young, working professionals who are all Kenyan graduates from Michigan State and either live in Nairobi or London, and
c) I left the wedding at 12am in this awesome Mercedes that a relative owned, and shared a bedroom at Timmy’s house with a girl named Betty from South Africa who is a great, single Christian gal who went to college in the States and whose fiancee currently lives in Minnesota. Betty and I had a great conversation over tea on Sunday morning about faith and trusting God’s provision, and she has invited me to come visit her in “Lisutu” (a region in SA) whenever I want. Her idea is that we go to Cape Town together 🙂 It is definitely fun to make “connections” here in Kenya – never would I have imagined the friendships God had prepared for me along the way! Really, what better Christmas gift could one get than a great new Christian friend?!
Herein concludes the account of Kip and Naanjie’s wedding!