I was invited to a wedding on Saturday afternoon at St Etheldreda's, our lovely little Catholic church in Ely. The wedding ceremony was scheduled to take one hour, from one-thirty to two-thirty, after which there was a reception in a local village hall.
Boring stuff, I hear you say. Wait.
First off, this was no ordinary wedding. Both the bride and groom originate from Cameroon. By half past one, the church was PACKED with friends and relatives, mostly from Cameroon (I was one of the few palefaces there, having been invited by the bride's mother). The men were mostly dark-suited with stiff collar-and-tie, but the women... oh my goodness! The women! My words cannot do justice to the amazing range of styles, vivid colours, vibrant patterns. And the hairdos! And the unbelievable hats, some like giant piles of folded satin, some like those creations that Edwardian ladies favoured: lacy broad-brimmed and as tall as the Tower of Pisa.
No African wedding would be complete without music, in this case, provided by a Congolese choir brought in from London accompanied by guitar, bongo drums and rattly things I have no name for. Everything was sung, bongo-ed and rattled: the antiphons, the Gloria, the Gospel Acclamation, the Lord's Prayer, the Agnus Dei, quite often in the native language.
And you can't sing à l'africaine without dancing and tapping your feet. We even danced our way down the aisle to congratulate bride and groom after the solemnity. My little Catholic parish was a riot of colour and noise and harmony and laughter and love. My head is still buzzing: it and St Etheldreda's will never be the same again.
Envoi: did I say one hour? The church finally emptied at six-o'clock, four and a half hours later. Some wedding!