A friend and I gate-crashed a wedding. Or, maybe not strictly speaking because the groom’s brother messaged my friend that his brother was getting married as I speak, please come. My friend immediately relayed me this and we decided that friends have a right to show up on this occasion. A similar event occurred with another colleague also with the project team. He was the groom in the wedding I chanced one afternoon I visited the Cathedral.
We were colleagues in early 2000, field staff of a WHO-funded project in CAR. We all became fast friends, the kind of friendship that develops among soldiers thrown randomly together on the frontlines although apparently not as fast where our individual weddings were concerned (I too didn’t inform or invite them).
He came in as replacement of a team member who left (the one I saw getting married at the Cathedral), and when I eventually did too he requested to be transferred to my area. As part of the turn over, he and I spent a couple of months going around in my area. The memory I have of that period is one of easy days with the locals. While I had to struggle in the beginning of my assignment to win their hearts, they gave theirs to him the instant they saw him for he’s a jolly good fellow.
After I left the project, I met him again after nine years, by chance. Now as we were making our way to the head table to greet him and his bride five years after our last meeting, I became a bit emotional- what a sister would feel perhaps for a favorite brother or a mother would for her son on his wedding day. He was astonished to see us, but with the same jolly demeanor still.
Done with the customary wishes, we circulated among guests outside the hall where my friend introduced me to the groom’s father. Learning that I was with his son on the same project, he told me that xxx who was also a teammate died last year. I was, oh my god what! what? repeatedly. Realizing my reaction, I covered my mouth to stop myself from further hysteria.
She was abroad the last time we communicated. We said to meet up the following year when she’d be home for vacation. We were looking forward to it. When she didn’t confirm in the weeks close to our meeting, I emailed her twice to ask and have never received a reply. It was always at the back of my mind why she didn’t. She knew my email. I gave her my number.
“She got ill,” said the groom’s father. I wanted to ask him for more details but guests were calling his attention and he had to go. My friend and I were on the veranda that time, a cold wind blowing us blue. The bone-seeping chill was suddenly a good thing because I needed something strong to counter the shock from the grim news.
When finally the groom and bride were called to the floor for the first dance, I couldn’t help but tear up. I told my friend so. My feelings were on a swing.
Right after the couple were seated, their ninong (godfather) made a toast and spoke some words of wisdom. The speech was full of humor which elicited laughter from those who could relate although everybody even the poker-faced nuns appeared to acquiesce to his “proven” secrets-to-a-happy-ever-after-marriage: (1) have respect for each other, always; (2) try not to mold the other into your image of perfect; (3) remember that your finances/earnings/assets from now on are first and foremost conjugal property (him being a judge, I thought he was going to add, “and, oh, remind me to have you both draw up a prenup after this if you haven’t yet.”).
The groom’s family and relatives then serenaded the bride with the song Welcome To The Family after which the couple proceeded to the tent at the entrance to join the native wedding dance. The groom was set to unfasten his bride’s garter during that time. My friend and I stayed to watch the groom dance. We laughed as we watched him. We recognized the colleague we knew in that dance.
Brothers of the groom told us that the couple would be traveling back on the weekend for abroad where both are working.
Days are short when people are having fun.