My Debut as a Kenyan Wedding Singer

On Christmas Eve Day, I had been asked to attend the wedding of one of the nursery nurses, and to sing for the ceremony. She had heard me singing at church, and wanted me to be a part of the ceremony. I was incredibly honored, and quite a little bit nervous about how this might conflict with other holiday plans, especially leading music for our own Christmas Eve carol service. Kenyan weddings are notoriously flexible regarding time, and some friends of ours went to a wedding that started in the morning, and had to leave at 4pm, when the bride hadn't yet arrived.

In the end, I decided to go, and Rachel and Maggie stayed behind, once we learned it was 3 hours away, and down some pretty bumpy roads, but eight other Kenyan staff came along in the Jolly Green Giant, and we headed out at 7am for a 10:30 ceremony.

Once we took off, I was informed that we had been asked to stop in a town we were passing through to pick up the wedding cake, which was actually five cakes, and it took a while to find boxes for all the cakes. Our total stop there lasted about an hour, and I killed time by finding an awesome sign to add to my collection at the adjacent pharmacy:

Then we were off. I knew they wouldn't start without us, what with me playing the processional and our van providing the wedding cake, but I kept thinking that this would be the first Kenyan wedding ever delayed by the white guy showing up late. Thankfully, the last leg was shorter than we thought, and we arrived just a bit after 10:30. We walked into the church and found this:

(n.b. the two guys in the photo came with me)

An hour later, there were only about two other people there. This was the low point for me, as I pictured the Tenwek congregation showing up for a Christmas Even service while I plodded home on dark, Kenyan streets. Then, suddenly, at about noon, a caravan of people showed up, providing us with a pastor, a wedding party, a bride and groom, and I swear, about half of the congregation. In the back of the red truck below, you can see a dozen or so well-dressed wedding-goers.

And just like that, by 12:15, I was playing the processional on the church's keyboard.
And in they came. I'm told that this wedding was a mixture of traditional and modern wedding practices. You can see the bride walking in, escorted by her family. But behind her, in the doorway, you can see about 50 of her family members, who processed in after the bride and filled the first 4 pews.

A great view of the wedding and the congregation. A little too great, you might say. As in, how did you get this great photo without being crazy conspicuous as the only white guy in the building?

Well, I didn't. One of the other nurses asked to borrow my camera, and I thought that was a good idea, seeing as I couldn't take a picture of myself being a Kenyan wedding singer. I had noticed that the two guys I assume were the official photographer and videographer were super aggressive with getting good shots about two feet from the bride and groom. What I didn't expect was that holding my camera would give our friend the same license, and so he wandered around the wedding party while everyone was seated, taking photos with impunity. I have some great shots.

The exchange of rings, very sensibly way up in the air, so that everyone can see it.

Singing the song she requested for the lighting of the unity candle. Thanks to Ivasha for being my mic stand. Highest congrats to Beatrice and Philemon. Thank you for letting me be a part of this day, and may God bless you greatly as you start your life together.

(I got home with about 40 minutes to spare.)


Sarah Lorenz said...

Great story--thanks! But can you shed any light on the "flexible" timing? I've heard of this before, but what is the thinking behind it? Do they really intend to start at 10:30, and just get behind like I do when I'm trying to get three kids out the door? Or does everyone just know that 10:30 means "add 2-4 hours"?

Josie McCamish said...

So, so interesting, Eric...just like all your journal entries. Keep writing!
When do you return to the states?