In Kenya, it is common marriage practice for a man to ask the parents of the woman for permission to take her as his wife. Once they agree, the woman comes to live with the man and they are considered "married." While many Kenyans would say that it is preferable to have a church wedding, church weddings come with a very high price tag. They like to have fancy dresses, cars to be escorted in, lavish food, etc...just like the first world brides they see on movies and in magazines. While these things are not wrong in and of themselves, the desire for lavishness has created a culture in which couples consider themselves married, but have never taken vows before God.
Through quite a few conversations in class, these men, although they have been married through Kenyan culture for quite sometime, decided that they wanted to take vows before God. But they also wanted to set an example for the people back home...that weddings are beautiful, not because of how much money is spent, but because of the vows that are made. They told us plainly, that they wanted to be men of God, to take their role as husbands and fathers seriously, and they want to lead by example, the people that they shepherd. It is their hope and prayer, that more church members back home will follow their example and take vows before God in simple ceremonies before beginning to live together as husband and wife.
So, at their request, after graduation was finished, we went back to our compound and had a beautiful and simple ceremony. Our boys set up the chairs like we do for church and our girls ran around the yard picking flowers and decorating with ribbon. Rachel (the wife of the family that we share our compound with) made two cakes and we bought two crates of soda. The Zuo family (who has done this recently :) ) wanted to make the day special by blessing the brides with new dresses. And the husbands managed to sneak out at some point to buy wedding rings.
I rarely cry at weddings, but watching these men and their wives (and others like Herbert and Beatrice...remember them? They are expecting their first child now! :) ) stand up and be leaders in righteousness brought tears to my eyes. I'm so thankful that we got to be a part of this day. What a privilege!
It is not an "African thing" to kiss in public or at weddings. When Eric was talking to the guys about the wedding before hand, he said something like, "and at this point in the wedding, in America...the groom kisses the bride...are you interested in that?" And surprisingly they all said, "yes!" I think the wives gave their husbands a talking to later that night...heh! heh! :)