Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Samoan Wedding - the reception

Aukuso and Tasi's reception started immediately after the church service finished. It was held under a large tent in the yard next to the church (and Aukuso's home). Whilst the guests snacked on various nibblies and ice cream (it was a very hot day) my attention was caught by a formal presentation from the bride's family to the groom's. Two matai, one from each family (and hence village) stood some twenty or thirty metres apart from each other. The matai representing Aukuso's family received the other, who talked for quite some time in relatively elaborate speech. (No, I couldn't understand any of it, but the language itself was different from the day-to-day Samoan you hear on the street.)

All of this was quite relaxed in its delivery but it was clear that it was an important part of the day's proceedings. Gifts of fine mats were presented to Aukuso's family and the receiving matai spoke on behalf of the family to acknowledge and thank the bride's family for their gift. Later in the afternoon the presentation was repeated, but with the groom's family presenting many gifts to the bride's family and indeed to the pastor who supervised the wedding ceremony.

After this initial presentation concluded, we were seated to enjoy some lunch and each other's company. Without even trying I found myself sitting at the bridal party's table. I sat with the pastor and we ate and talked as the afternoon progressed.

Aukuso and Tasi had two cakes for their wedding. One was a four tier cake and the other a single layer cake. Rather than cut the cakes up for everyone to enjoy, the cakes were apportioned and presented to select individuals in recognition of their social standing and importance to the day's proceedings. The four tier cake was split between twelve or so people. The other cake was cut into quarters, two of which went to individuals with the rest being cut up for everyone to enjoy. As each (large) portion of cake was presented to people the best man acknowledged them and thanked them for attending. Imagine my surprise when I heard my name being mentioned ("Thank you to John from Australia for being with us today"). Before I knew it I had an enormous slab of cake sitting in front of me to take home. This, on top of the not-insignificant amount of food already sitting in front of me.

The reception ended with a small number of performances by the church's youth groups. They danced to a few songs, some words were spoken by Aukuso's father and finally the pastor led the gathering in the last prayer for the day. Within fifteen minutes of the conclusion of the prayer pretty much every guest had taken their leave. I stayed behind to help clear up and relax with my hosts (whom I had not seen since Easter). Perhaps an hour or so later, after many hugs and kisses, I took my leave of the family and made my way home.

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