Last week I had the honor and surprise of being a bridesmaid in one of my Senegalese friend’s wedding. I first heard about the event a month ago when my friend was showing me, the new toubab, off to all her friends while giving them an oral invitation to the celebration. A few weeks later I was invited to her house for the receiving of Le Premier Cadeau, meaning the first gift. This is sometime before the wedding when the groom’s family gives the bride’s money to pay for the reception.
My first hint that I might have a bigger role than just being present and giving congratulations at the wedding was a week before when a friend and relative of the bride took my measurements for a dress that was going to match hers for the celebration. However Senegalese women enjoy dressing the same for all big events so I figured it was going to be like that at the wedding.
The day of the event was spent running to and from the tailors where the dresses were receiving final touches and waiting for the bride to return from the hair salon. When she arrived in full Senegalese makeup and dress, complete with purple eye brows and gold glittering lashes she was met by a cacophony of African drums and entourage of dancing women. Camera man in the lead the group danced their way through the house.
That night a tent-like altar was set up on the roof of a house and everyone waited for the bride’s arrival in plastic chairs. Sitting with three of the other fellows I soon realized that I was the only one wearing the dress I had previously thought many women would be wearing. Then the camera man appeared and a couple, the girl wearing the same dress as me, began a solemn walk down the aisle. This was followed by people pointing at me and yelling in Wolof and French that I was not were I was supposed to be. Having been previously told by a friend to sit and wait a bit embarrassed and confused I stayed in my seat. That was until a boy appeared in the entry way alone and waiting. At this point I realized he was alone because I was supposed to be walking with him so accompanied by lots of laughing and yelling I walked up the aisle to walk down it again. This was followed by the bride entering in a new outfit, more filming, pictures and lots of laughter. All in all it was a night to remember.