Wedding in the Absence of Groom

I remember one time sitting on the lakeshore on the other facet of Lake Malawi, in Senga Bay. The sun was about to say good bye. As usual this time, almost half of the villagers sat on the lakeshore waiting for those who went fishing. I talked to my friends how interesting it was to see young men and women colonize the returning boats to solicit yandiwo (handful of fish for relish) from the fishermen. On these shores fish is not wholly commercial, especially when it comes to yandiwo. So we did not want to be left out in the game, we joined the bandwagon and finally went home with a happy free of charge catch.

There were speculations going on among the villagers; all of them were claiming that the night of that particular day would be the best ever. That roused curiosity in me and I tried to figure out what it was that would make the night great, but still I couldn’t sense anything tangible. As darkness started closing in on the village, the atmosphere was overwhelmed with noise from drums mingled with loud singing. I later learnt that there was a wedding festival the following day, a rather peculiar and special wedding ceremony.

It is this special wedding which has brought me to this topic today, a partial wedding which involves the real bride and a surrogate groom. These weddings happen when one party, especially the groom, has traveled and is not to come back sooner. Upon investigating, sometimes the bride has no knowledge of how the real groom looks like, how old he is and so forth. In other words the bride gets married either to someone she knows but is not around or to someone she has never seen before. The questions might be, how and where do these people meet? Do the partners undergo courtship before they get married? What kind of couple do they create after they get married? Do these people really enjoy their marriages? The list of questions might seem endless.

There are many possibilities of how these people meet for their marriages. For instance, the suitor might have already proposed to the woman before leaving the country. This means that these people know each other and the wedding is arranged in the absence of one party in order to establish relationship and awareness between the two families involved. Furthermore, this sort of marriage is also there for security reason. The suitor wants to protect his wife from losing her to other men. In other circumstances these forms of wedding are arranged because the man needs the wife to follow him wherever he is.

The other possible way through which these marriages are arranged is through parents, relatives, or friends. In this case, a suitor sometimes orders people of his clan to search for him a wife while he is abroad. There is a high probability that this form leads to forced marriages especially for girls who end up being victims. Most parents force their daughters to marry people whom they don’t know for the sake of money and materials. On the other hand, it is the parent of the suitor who searches a wife of the suitor without the suitor’s knowledge. This is done with the intention that they should have grandchildren within their clan or tribe. In other circumstances the parents recognize the inability of the suitor to search for a wife so they do this on his behalf.

The most interesting thing is that these sorts of marriages have brought some people to better and stronger families. But for some they have just added miseries and threats to their already buckle life. I will touch on these two aspects in my next entry.


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