Josh and Sue Magyar send greetings from Tanzania and these thoughts about how weddings are observed there.
We’ve had the opportunity to attend worship at the Sokoine Lutheran Church—one of our Maasai congregations in the Morogoro Diocese. One particular Sunday was not just any ordinary Sunday, however, as the worship service included two weddings.
This is not out of the ordinary here in Tanzania — to celebrate weddings within the order of worship on a Sunday morning. In my opinion, it’s not a bad idea either. Once you get past the extended length of the worship service (about four hours), you see how the weddings are important to the community of faith as much as the community is important to the families of the bride and groom.
Also, the hopeful and perhaps vulnerable nature of people when they are tying the knot lends itself well to the prayer life of church. When else do we make such a profound leap of faith without truly knowing what the future will hold for us than at a wedding?
Having this ceremony as part of the worship service — where we honor God, who gives us life, guidance and promise of security/salvation — just before the prayers of the church makes total sense.
We’ve also noticed that at the three weddings we have been to this year, the brides (and to a lesser extent the grooms) have remained stoic, or even sad, during the wedding.
At this wedding we asked the best man to explain why the brides were so sad, staring at the floor and even sniffling during the vows, while the rest of the people were in a joyous mood. It is customary, he said, for a bride to respect her family in this way. The wedding marks her exit from her parents’ household and her arrival in the new home she will make with her husband. It would be disrespectful to show too much joy about leaving someone who has taken care of you since birth, he said.
So while in America it seems natural for the bride and groom to be happy on their wedding day, in Tanzania it is the opposite. But many people assured us that, although these couples displayed their sadness, they were not sad about the marriage.