Thursday, November 18, 2010

That wedding I mentioned before...

Well, it was ours. For a variety of legal, technical, and yet deeply romantic reasons (read: my visa status), A and I decided to get legally married last week--though we'll still have our Jewish, real, and deeply romantic wedding next fall.

And yes, you do have to get us two gifts.


So, what does an American wedding in Botswana look like? Well, lucky for you I am devoted to blogging that very information.

(If I could, I'd do it all over again, but this time I'd stand up straighter.)

First, about a month ago, we went to the American Embassy--the most high-security place in Botswana. After being essentially strip-searched, A and I were rewarded by being allowed to pay $100 for a signed affidavit saying neither of us had ever been married before. We then headed over to the Botswana marriage registry, where it costs $6 to get married. (So make that $106 if you're American--we always pay the white people price, sigh.)

Our names were posted publicly for three weeks (called "posting the banns") and anyone who wanted to object to our marriage was allowed to do so. Luckily, nobody did, although I did see some posted objections to other marriages!

Then we came back, again with witnesses, to sign the marriage registry and finally, last Thursday was the big day.

(A thinks if his eyes are closed nobody can see him.)

The bride wore a lovely traditional German print skirt and white top with tan sandals, much to the delight of the Batswana in the room. The groom wore a coordinating blue shirt and his navy pants, which are the nice ones, for the occasion. Our witnesses also looked resplendent.

Our courtroom wedding took place along with 8 other couples, much like a cult except that we were allowed to choose which person in the room we wanted to marry.

(I almost picked this other dude, but The Leader thought it would be best if I married A.)

We were the only suckers stupid enough to show up at the requested time of 7:30 a.m. Other couples started strolling in around 8 and the ceremony got started at 9. Our official photographer also documented this cute little girl.

(Good job, photographer.)

And me reapplying my lipstick.

(I was a total bridezilla, obvi.)

Since we got there first, we got married first. But before we could get married, the district commissioner had to give us a lecture about the responsibility of marriage. We'd been warned about this and had expected it to be quite funny, but actually it was pretty tame. She told that the pillars of marriage were love, respect, and trust, and not to hide text messages from each other or we wouldn't be able to trust one another. All good advice. She lectured in Setswana and then in English.

After that, A and I stood up. We requested to say our vows in English, which was allowed. The D.C. made everyone applaud me for looking pretty. Then we said our vows.

Or at least, we thought we were saying our vows. We were actually vowing that we'd never been married before, were over the age of 21, and mentally healthy enough to know what we were doing. But A still looked deeply into my eyes while saying it.

Then our witnesses vowed the same.

And then we got to exchange rings. We used my engagement ring and a cheap $5 ring we bought at the mall for A--that way our real wedding rings will be special.

The D.C.: "Although you are under no legal obligation, if you so choose, you may now kiss the bride." We kissed, blurrily.

The room was filled with applause and ululating, most of it from people who had come to support their own friends and family but pretended to be equally excited about our marriage. I felt a swell of emotion, and then we moved on to the next couple. And the next couple, and the next. After five couples, they dismissed the first half of us.


Outside in the parking lot, we started to relax, hugging friends, drinking a sparkling grape juice toast, and checking out the "Just Married" sign, written in soap on our car by the roommates. I was enjoying myself so much that I hardly noticed when my purse was bumped as a man walked by. By the time I had confirmed that my cell phone was gone, the guy was nowhere in sight.

A says he thinks of this, my first pickpocketing experience in Botswana or anywhere, as "something borrowed."


Coming up next...the party!


  1. Congratulations! Now you will have two wedding days to remember. What day will be your anniversary? Do you get to celebrate two of those each year as well? I must admit that when I talk about you being in Botswana with A I stumble and call A your "husband-fiance, sort-of". Guess I'm just getting used to the big news!

  2. I think we'll mark our anniversary on September 4, but November is full of celebrations for us--our first date, our "legal" wedding date, a's birthday, and yes, we both had our bar and bat mitzvah in november, respectively.

  3. Mazal Tov-ish! Do the local couples usually have a religious or cultural ceremony, too, separate from the civil ceremony?

  4. Yikes!!! And mazal tov!

    Can we also applaud you in September for looking pretty? Also: if you had been married before, would you not have been allowed to get married?

  5. CONGRATULATIONS! And what an amazing/ridiculous story :) A good one for the kids/grandkids!

  6. Mazol tov! Did you applaud all of the brides for looking pretty, or just the pretty ones? Can't wait to read about the party.

  7. Julie--yes, people often have several parties/ceremonies, religious, cultural, in a church, in their village, in both the brides and the grooms village.

    Rebecca--yes, you may applaud me. No, we couldn't get married. If you get married anywhere in the world, all other countries automatically recognize your marriage, unless that type of marriage is illegal in their country, like gay marriage or whatever. So good thing we're not gay, cause that's illegal here (being gay).

    Kate--thanks! I agree. :)

    Alison--They actually didn't applaud the rest of the brides. I think they were mostly excited about my skirt/that I had made a mild effort to be culturally appropriate. :) Party photos coming soon!

  8. that's really exciting! congrats!

    I want to know what the objections people posted were...

  9. Congratulations! What a wacky world we live in, but I'm happy you guys get to have two weddings. Admittedly, though, the first one will be hard to beat. But at least the next one will have cake!


  10. Kissing blurrily looks a lot more fun than kissing regularly.

  11. roamingolivia--I'm pretty sure you could only object on legal grounds, like if a person was already married or not 21. Not if you thought they weren't good for each other.

    Artful Stew--thanks!

    Yan--It is awesome.

  12. so glad to read this first hand account... this is all so exciting. Also happy to hear that the train cake is alive and well over there. Love the gummy bear addition- we never thought of that! Love from the Boston North family ...
    Flori et al