It was, by Trinidadian standards, a comparatively quiet affair – but so respectful and over-flowing with love and harmony that it was wonderful.
A young man who was a member of our church in Sangre Grande (one of our rural preaching points) was marrying a lovely Hindu lassie, who had converted to Christianity. The ceremony was to be conducted at the home of her parents
We met at the home of the Groom’s folks and drove in cavalcade (horns sounding all the way) the short distance to where the Bride lived. Their home was just a plain wooden structure down a dirt track; a small house but filled to overflowing with family, friends and well-wishers.
And what joy! What happiness! What sharing of love and friendship!
Christians and Hindus together, linked together (however temporarily) to participate in this beautiful occasion.
The atmosphere was relaxed and informal.
Immediately before the wedding ceremony itself, the couple became officially engaged (!) – accompanied by loud cheers and applause.
Then the solemn words of the Church of Scotland’s Book of Common Order (there was a degree of surrealism here), before the legal paperwork was tackled.
And, as we finished, a guest spontaneously burst into an unaccompanied solo of the 23rd Psalm.
We then moved outdoors and, under the shade of a banyan tree, the men sat down at long tables,waited upon by the women. Well, it had been the menfolk who had prepared the meal (as is traditional,I was told).
And what food! curried goat and chicken, dhal and channa (chickpeas), rice and roti (like a chapati, but better).
In the background, tablas were being played, hummingbirds were a-humming, crickets chirping – and I tried not to look at the tree to which the poor goat had been tethered before given the coup de grace.
In one corner,a group of old men, hats on head, were huddled together exchanging confidences and recalling past glories; in another, youths boldly flashed their smiles at girls who looked demure and only giggled in response.
What a wonderful day. Here there was no artificiality, not a “wedding-planner” in sight, no videos – just simplicity and innocence and yet, at the same time, great profundity. And, above all else, great joy (why, I even thought I saw two lizards dancing together!)
And then perhaps strange in our eyes – after the meal was finished, all the Groom’s side of the family left, taking with them the young couple back to his parental home.
With car horns sounding, we drove back to another reception there – with more food of a similar kind and of identical large quantities.
Then followed more speeches and warm words of welcome to the girl who was now part of the family and who, from that moment, would be taking up residence with her new husband and in-laws, as is customary.
It may, I suppose, seem strange to some that a Church of Scotland minister should be conducting a Church of Scotland marriage ceremony some 4000 miles away and in unorthodox surroundings.
But Christ knows no barriers.
And seldom have I been given such a warm and sincere welcome on that particular day.
The Kingdom of Heaven is likened to a Wedding Feast – that incident was the perfect illustration of it.
(p.s. I got a doggy-bag of my favourite goat roti to take home)
pps I revisited Sangre Grande on 22 February 2016 – almost 34 years after the events described above. I went to the home of the mother-in-law of the bride. Almost immediately a photo was produced; it shows the wedding party and myself.
Later, I was to go into town and there I met with Patsy – the bride in the photo. We embraced warmly. What a welcome and what a lovely and loving family.
Patsy Dattoo – 2016