Today was the auspicious occasion of Betty and Mortom’s wedding.
I didn’t know Betty or Mortom… but showed such enthusiasm for a real Solomon wedding in the lunch room at work that I was invited along anyway! I am exceptionally grateful that they were so gracious and charming about it.
As has now become the norm in the Solomons, this was not a ‘holy’ wedding… rather a forced one. The bride and groom to be had spent a night together (once!) so were now obligated to get married. This was signaled by the lack of tradition, the smaller scale of the wedding (only 250 family members!!), and the fact that Betty did not have the veil covering her face as she walked down the aisle. This also explains the number of teenagers who are married in the Solomons.
The service was simple and sweet… though I was subjected to nudged and poked ribs every time the pastor mentioned ‘choosing the right partner’ or ‘spending your life with the one you love’… The theme was purple and I was also given a series of purple clothed babies to hold to ‘practice’ for when I would inevitably have children. While the bridal party nipped off to the botanical gardens for photos after the ceremony we sipped red cordial that tasted very much like raspberry jelly and talked about cultural differences, weddings and traditions. While divorce is rare in the Solomons, adultery is less so. Even more common is handing over your children to other family members on remarriage for a ‘fresh start’. I really enjoyed the familial atmosphere – everyone looking after, feeding and supporting each others kids.
When the bridal party returned the feasting began. I have never seen so much meat in my entire life. There was an entire room filled with pig, more pig, chicken in a thousand varieties, minced beef, minced pork and some other unidentifiable meats I’m still not sure about. In fact, the only thing that wasn’t meat (aside from the cake) was the slow taro balls. For a hungry vegetarian, slow taro balls are exceptionally delicious. On a regular day though, they taste somewhat like burnt mashed potatoes. Solomon Islanders do love their food, and the plates were piled high. In fact, having finished my taro balls rather quickly, I was sent back to the queue to fetch meat plates for the teenagers too shy to join the queue! I was surprised the parents asked me to do that… If it was my mum she would have said ‘starve’ if you’re not willing to get it yourself!
As it was discovered early on that we live in sin in Australia, I was taken aside by some of the girls in their 20s to discuss boyfriend problems. Dating for a year. Not sure if we should get married. Sometimes he doesn’t answer my calls. Don’t tell my mum/dad/brother/sister but I’m going to sneak off to meet him now… A date could involve ‘going walkabout’… hanging out… stealing a kiss when no one is looking… And much more for the older girls.
The afternoon carried on similarly… People sat around talking… digesting… A few different people tried to sing with the benefit of a live DJ present… And the rest of us watched and hung out. They didn’t open the presents at all… In fact, there were surprisingly few (attributed to the nature of the wedding)… and I doubt many surprises. I’m sure I saw half the people at the SmartShop that morning buying multiple sets of the same glasses… (Household items are the done thing, so I took a glass bowl – the options really are very limited)…