The Senegalese Wedding

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By Caitlin Fellows
June 20, 2018

The food, the music, the dancing: a Senegalese wedding is always a memorable experience.

Attending a Senegalese wedding is a completely unique experience, and a great way for a Peace Corps Volunteer to become immersed in local culture. The morning of a wedding, only the family is at home; by mid-morning, the bride goes to another house to get ready before she comes back in the afternoon.

Once the bride leaves, more people (all women) arrive, and begin preparing the day’s feast. Groups of women sit around chopping pounds of vegetables and meat, which are cooked in a giant cauldron-like pot. Peppers and garlic are pounded in a mortar and pestle to make a sauce. When everything is ready, it is all put together to make what we Peace Corps Volunteers affectionately call "party ceeb" - fancy rice with meat and lots of vegetables. A tasty meal we only get to enjoy on special occasions. Throughout the cooking process, all of the women sit around talking and drinking attaaya, a strong, sugary tea commonly enjoyed amongst locals. The children run around barefoot, playing and getting into mischief.

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Caitlin and her friend attending a local wedding

After lunch, a DJ arrives with giant speakers. The women who had been cooking return home to change into fancier party attire. Only one’s best outfit will suffice. Indeed, one of the best parts of attending a Senegalese wedding is admiring everyone’s beautiful clothes. Then, more people arrive, and everyone starts dancing.

In the early evening, around 5:00 p.m., all of the women (and a few men), get up to go to another compound. The kids aren't supposed to come, but they follow along anyway, and no one seems to mind. At the other compound, a few women go into one of the rooms and brings out suitcases, which they carry back to the compound of the bride, while a few people drum on bowls and sing. A few of the women ceremoniously open the suitcases to present all the gifts, and announce who gave what. Fabric to be made into clothes and cooking utensils are commonly gifted to the bride-to-be.

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Women carrying suitcases back to the bride's compound

Then, later in the evening, the bride arrives. People are sitting around talking, listening to the music and dancing when all of a sudden loud horns can be heard. Everyone clears a space, and shortly after, the bride and her friends come roaring into the compound on motorcycles with horns honking and lights flashing. The motorcycle drivers usually do a lap around the compound before stopping and letting the bride off. Then it's picture time - everyone who has a phone is taking pictures from the moment the motorcycles stop. Sometimes there is an official photographer who will take group photos of the bride and her friends.

What happens after the bride arrives is different at every wedding as well. Most of the time dinner is served, there is more music and more dancing, and everyone has fun. When Senegalese people party, they seem to have limitless energy, and often continue dancing well into the night!

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