Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Samoan Wedding - the ceremony

Last week I received a call from a friend of mine, Fa'amao, asking if I would like to attend her brother's wedding. The wedding, held today, replace the normal Sunday morning service delivered by Fa'amao's father. Having attended a "normal" service twice before (for White Sunday and Easter Sunday), I was keen to see how a Samoan Christian wedding would unfold. Of course, I also wanted to join my friends in their celebration of the occasion.

Their church, the Light of Life (Malamalama o le Ola), is a small one, a little way out of Apia on the way to the airport in the village of Vaitele-fou. The congregation is of reasonably small size, although today there were not only the usual attendees but also friends and family of the bride and groom. Consequently the church was filled to overflowing.

Fa'amao's father did not conduct the service today, leaving that task in the hands of another pastor from the bride's village. I'd be hard pressed to really say much about what his service contained as it was entirely in Samoan. Nonetheless, with my (extremely) limited knowledge of Samoan and a reasonably decent idea of how wedding services go, I was able to follow most things. Certainly I understood each "Amen", "Hallejuah", "Praise Jesus" and "Glory! Glory! Glory!" as they were shouted out many times throughout the service by most of the congregation.

The bridal party made its way into the church one couple at a time. Four sets of bridesmaids and groomsmen entered first, then the two young boys bearing the bouquet and ring. The groom, Aukuso, entered the hall next, the young children behind the pastor craning their necks to get a good view of him. They strained their necks even further when Aukuso's father accompanied the bride, Finatasi, shortly afterwards.

Tasi was not delivered to Aukuso's side as one typically sees in Western ceremonies. Rather she held back and Aukuso turned to her and sang a song of love and praise (to both her and God) as he made his way to her. Only then did they walk together to the pastor to take their vows. Aukuso slipped the wedding band on Tasi's finger, they were pronounced husband and wife in the eyes of God and Aukuso lifted Tasi's veil and they kissed. Lovely. The ceremony concluded with Aukuso and Tasi leading the way out of the church to the area set up for the reception.

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