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Friday, April 17, 2009

A Haitian Wedding

You want to know what a Haitian wedding is like? If not, you can save some time and not read this blog, cause I tend to go into too much detail. This will be only about the wedding, so don’t worry about missing other stuff.

Met ElFabre got married on Sat. He’s one of the guys here at Canaan that’s in the local administrative position. He’s been engaged since before I came (over a year ago) but he kept saying a woman wants a guy to be able to give her a nice home, and things, before he can marry her. He’s been building his house over this year.

So the wedding was set for 3 o’clock. One of my questions was, knowing that punctuality, or rather the lack of it, is a sure thing, at what time this wedding would actually begin. Knowing it would be late, I didn’t even plan to be ready before 3:30. Even then, I’d see everybody still walking around in work clothes. And if asked if they were going to the wedding, it was either a “sure” or “I don’t know”. This continued till after 4 p.m. and still, if asked what time the wedding will start, they’d still say 3 o’clock.

So about 4:15, with most of Canaan still not dressed, Bobi and I went to the chapel. Inside we found the 5 bridesmaids in blue waiting, as well as Rosemay (Canaan girl) and the bride (all decked out in her bridal dress and veil). We thought ‘how strange that Rosemay is also dressed in a white bridal dress, though with a tiara instead of a veil’. We debated about that while we kept waiting till 5ish. I told Bobi that the bride looks different. I hadn’t met Adeline (the bride) more than a couple times in the last year but this just didn’t ring a bell. I even told Bobi ‘what if they switched with someone else’. I said this just doesn’t look like her and I don‘t believe it‘s her. It was weird. Then the party went out. People were actually starting to fill up the chairs.

Then Stephanson (from Canaan) comes in and stands waiting till Rosemay comes in dancing, and there started the elaborate wedding dance. It was really fun to see. I may never again be satisfied to see bridesmaids walking demurely down the isle!!! Apparently this wasn’t the longest or most elaborate wedding dance ever, but it was interesting to watch - all a story. The ladies would drop the single flower they carried and the guy would stoop to pick it up and stay down looking up, all in a continual dance. There was even a “fight” among two of the guys over the ‘bride’ and her choosing one over the other. I thought it strange that she went and said down without anybody, behind Rosemay, who I figured was the maid of honor but thought ‘oh well, this is Haiti - who knows how they do it’.

Stepanson and Rosemay, the first in the wedding dance

Then the tempo changed, and lo and behold, the real bride walked in. Sister Gladys came in with her and the wedding proceeded with less minor differences. They stayed sitting, even for the vows, and only knelt for the prayer and rings. It was kind of cool, when they answered “yes, Pastor” for the vows, afterward the pastor asked the congregation what they had said, and everybody answered “yes Pastor”. It seemed more like the witness that everybody is.



The danced was performed again with the exit of the bridal party, but not as extensive.

So here’s the custom regarding the bridal party and the white dresses:
You have the godmother, which was Sister Gladys (and the male counterparts). She sits with the bride through it all. Some people’s opinion is they like to pick people with money, rather than someone close to the bride, which could be why they had a problem finding someone to fill the spot. They even asked me to do it, but that was a firm ‘no’ from me. I don’t even know the bride.
Then you have a queen, which was Rosemay, and the reason she was wearing a white dress with a tiara. The other girl in white dress and veil is the princess and the rest of the girls are bridesmaids. Apparently this is the custom for every real wedding. They have their guys of course, who are the king and prince. By dress you couldn’t tell who was the bride.

They served a plate of food prepared in a take-out plate, so serving went fast. They had over 100 people there, I’m sure. There wasn’t much of a dance afterwards that I know of, though that is usual. No gifts that I saw.


Bride and groom, queen, princess and bridesmaids


Godparents with bride and groom

And now, what do Haitians do for a honeymoon?

Some go straight to their houses without a honeymoon trip, but if possible their parents will bring them food for a week. Others do go on some sort of trip. I don’t know what this couple did, since what they really wanted and asked for was denied. Can you guess what that was? Probably not, so I’ll tell you.

They wanted to come stay in the guest room here at Canaan that is on top of the girls’ dorm and be served by the people of Canaan for a week. That brought an emphatic “NO” from Sister Gladys, but I’ll admit I feel a little bit like chuckling about it, trying to imagine that. There’s been a “honeymoon couple” here at Canaan once in the past and some of the little kids couldn’t figure out why they slept till noon, and some other little kids tried to enlighten them -“You know what they do..”

Not conducive atmosphere at all here at Canaan.

And now, hopefully they will live “happily ever after”.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am curious...did they exchange wedding bands?

Elsie said...

Yes, they did.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Elsie. I bet it was worth going to. They look beautiful - all of them. Have a great week!

Love, Colleen

Mrs. American Wife said...

As a haitian myself, I thought this was an interesting article, but I would not call this a typical wedding in any respect. The customs observed in this wedding are probably regional (as I have never heard nor observed such customs in any family wedding I've ever been to... my own included). In my experience, typically the the groom, groomsmen, pastor are at the alter, followed by a procession of bridesmaids, then comes the bride down the aisle accompanied by her father. Vows exchanged, rings exchanged, wedding kiss, etc. Reception afterward followed by a honeymoon. My husband and I went to the Poconos for a month. God bless!

Anonymous said...

As a Haitian myself, I fell like you were a bit racist. Please don't generalize one Haitian wedding for the rest of Haiti. Haiti is a big island compare to many others. I have never been to the other side and don't begin tounderstand their ways. Please do us a favor and don't speak for all Haitians. We don't need your labeling.

Anonymous said...

I think your generalization of a Haitian wedding is highly inaccurate and demeaning. You were in a remote area. With all due respect to those folks, they do things according to their means.

Anonymous said...

may be i will marry my Haitian man in America

Hands of Light said...

I was asked to be the Godmother. What duties/responsibilities are of the Godmother?
What duties/responsibilities are of the Godfather?
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

i have noticed in several haitian weddings, one custom is to sit down during the ceremony. the bride and groom sit instead of stand. that is for the ones i have seen and heard in Port au prince, Carrefour and surrounding areas...

Loriann said...

I really don't care how they do it. I'm just hoping that my Haitian man will ask me to Marry him.

Anonymous said...

I don't care how they do it, I just hope my Haitian man will ask me to Marry him.

Anonymous said...

my ex-husband is Haitian but we got married here i the US all my ourselves with no family by a judge. All his family was in Haiti.

When my fiance & get married, he is also Haitian it will be a beautiful thing...

Mimi said...

I really don't see why everyone is getting upset. I myself am Haitian and believe me, I've been in so many weddings that it takes my toes and fingers to count. Face it. THESE ARE TRADITIONS! I live in the U.S. and all the wedding I've been in were here. Maybe most traditions vary by regions, but for the most part the weddings had a bride, groom, groomsmen, bridesmaids, a princess, flower girls, and some even had a shadow. So yeah, these are traditions and as Haitians in the US, some of us try to Americanize every thing we do.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call this a traditional Haitian wedding. I am Haitian, and I've been to a few weddings in the states, Haiti, Europe, and Canada. Different parts of the country do things different of course. I must admit, but no matter what part of the country the couple is from the common denominator is generally if the brides family can everything is over top (a big show)! The brides maids may also wear white, the maid of honar also has on a wedding dress not as big and extravagant as the bride of course. She's has to be decked out in lace, stones, and silk all over. You could have made 3 different wedding dresses w/ my cousin's wife's wedding dress. She couldn't fit in the limo almost. The flower girl dresses look like little ballroom/pageant dresses, the junior brides maid dress is a mini wedding dress. I will say the big deal is food!! Never mind the cake, that food is a big deal!! I don't care what anyone says Haitians love to eat and cook!! We love our food, and enjoy it! No matter what part of the country your in if your rich or poor there will be lots of food at the reception. You can a budget of $25 or $100,000 most of it will be spent on food. If you don't have much family (auntes, uncles, god parents ect.) generally help out. Each person may brings a plate. We also love music. You may not get much dancing out of the older men, but they deep down inside enjoy watching. They play too cool. As far as honeymoon if you can afford it you go if not you don't.

That being said, I can't say this is a racist comment the blogger made because that's what she experienced. There's not much positive out there about us Haitians in the media. We are always depected as poor. I hate that too trust me. I am very proud to be Haitian and love my country. I hate seeing these pictures of poor, ugly Haiti. So if had a beautiful Haitian wedding or vacation post your pictures! Not all of Haiti is bad. We have to show everyone else the beauty of our culture. Have a great day!!

Anonymous said...

As a haitian my church is about 4hours long. I think thé reason thé bride And groom seat is bc thé church ceremony usually last 1hr to 30 mnt if nt longer.

Anonymous said...

Iam à haitian leaving in NY. Thé godmother is usally responsible thé bride bridal shower, dress And haïr?

Anonymous said...

Wow ... I feel like the author of this article just saw one Haitian wedding and thought "oh well thats how every Haitian weddings are so I'm going to post about it on my website for the world to see".

MsVal said...

My, my you ladies are catty!

Hi Elsie!

Thank you so much for this blog. I am Haitian born, but raised in America. I want to incorporate Haitian tradition in my wedding and this gave me a few ideas. Wish I could have seen that entry dance though ;-) Please excuse the bickering between Haitians in response to your blog... that's just how most of us do but it's all love underneath it all. We all just wanna be correct. Now they will probably get on me for speaking for them... LOL! Gotta love my people! Be blessed ladies!

MsVal said...

My, my you ladies are catty!

Hi Elsie!

Thank you so much for this blog. I am Haitian born, but raised in America. I want to incorporate Haitian tradition in my wedding and this gave me a few ideas. Wish I could have seen that entry dance though ;-) Please excuse the bickering between Haitians in response to your blog... that's just how most of us do but it's all love underneath it all. We all just wanna be correct. Now they will probably get on me for speaking for them... LOL! Gotta love my people! Be blessed ladies!

Anonymous said...

Every Haitian wedding I've ever attended (a LOT) has been this was or similar to what was described in the article. Personally, I don't care for them... They are much too long and overly elaborate. A simple stroll down the aisle takes at least 15 minutes b/c each bridesmaid and groomsman does a dance. *yawns* The receptions are usually horrible b/c no one cared enough to do seating arrangements nor was there a need to rsvp - which is insane to me. I always end up leaving the reception shortly after I arrive at the venue due to lack of seating. Many people (family included) do not get to eat... What's crazy is that the majority of these weddings are planned by wedding planners... smh. I have at least 3 more of them to attend this year.