Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wedding Daze.

I've spent the past week in The Bahamas living through in-law family preparations for a wedding. An important event at the best of times, this one is special as the last of five children gets married. Marriage is not for everyone but there are lots of social conventions that lead people to tie the knot. Even those who have tied it once and found it untied, learn to tie it again--better the second or later time around, we hope. Weddings, like births, always carry hope,

We have had the rehearsal of the ceremony. The flower girls, including Miss Bliss and her cousin, Zaza, took a while to understand how to do the fancy march steps. But, with Bibles in hand in place of flowers, they mastered it well enough. So, did all the young ones, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Of course, the rehearsal is so odd because of its informal attempt to get the formalities right. "Who's gonna be the priest?" we had to ask because the presiding official was actually not there. A little odd that, and a first as far as I was concerned. Maybe we have moved to self-service weddings, like automated check-in at airports: no priest needed, please swipe your ATM card so that the church can get paid for the use of the building.

My in-laws do a lot of things together, so no one should be surprised that a lot of family time and effort has been spent together on the preparations. At its simplest, most of the women were involved in making the event happen. It's a ladies' thing about weddings. Somehow, the guys tend to revert to a role similar to that during procreation: a few necessary interventions followed by a long period of watching and waiting and hoping that the outcome will be good.

We had many pleasant things to observe, such as the making of party favours: a couple of the relatives are into catering for a living so they are on top of this process, as delicious icing covered cookies are prepared to go into delicate little boxes for the guests. Miss Bliss, who unwittingly is absorbing family traditions, was on hand to squeeze the icing tube with a great aunt and decorate a few cookies. I don't know if for her trouble she got to nibble a few of the goods. This was not designated as "man's work", so my role was to go and find sustenance for the crew. They could have contented themselves with chicken chowder and fresh bread from the kitchen; that sounded great to me and I booked one portion of that.No. They wanted conch salad, conch fritters and "sky juice" (a wicked combination of gin, coconut water and condensed milk, whose potency creeps up on you, and the happy-all-over feeling just happens).

I remember for our own wedding a mere six years ago (anniversary coming this weekend), our wedding had had an island theme--much in contrast to the reality of autumn in Washington DC. That had involved a wonderful feat of making the cake seem like it was set on a sandy beach: amazing what you can do with sugar.

The marriage is about a joining, and there needs to be much family rejoining for it to be really special. So, visitors have come from afar, like us from Barbados; our children from the US and Canada; other family from other Bahamian islands.

The collection of generations and relations is best cemented by a meal. What better day to have that than Thanksgiving Day, which although an American holiday is familiar to us and enjoyed immensely. We love a good roast turkey at Christmas and this is like a dry run: get that stomach ready. That it fell the day before the wedding was wonderful. Well, that turkey went down well, and though it could not gobble any more, we gobbled for it. We did not have the regulation 4000 calorie dinner that Americans reportedly eat, but we had a nice spread with stuffing, avocado pear (a must for any Caribbean meal), cranberries (we really ought to grow these in the Caribbean). Pumpkin pies and some small cakes were all we had for dessert. A wonderful creation that we had tried in Washington, pumpkin duff, was not on the menu.

The day before the wedding was also a day for buffing: hairdressers' appointments; manicures and pedicures, done thankfully by a lady who comes to the house--I know that she was there almost the whole day, till gone 8pm, doing feet and hands for at least 10 people. By day's end, the little girls, including Miss Bliss, had some neat "dos", with cute little bangs. The page boy's toes did not look like a bunch of black grapes anymore. All the ladies sported French polish on their hands and some had some dinky footwear in the form of wads of tissues between their toes. Watching them eat was so funny as they tried to ensure that nothing bad happened to their fingernails. We should have hired some feeders.

Today we started with an early family breakfast at 7am at Uncle Sam's--just a few minutes away by foot; but only I walked. Bahamians have evolved legs that only know how to press the pedals of a car. The rest of the day has become a frantic array of beautification: my daughter, fresh from the wintry clime of Montreal last night, headed off to beauty salons from 8am. It will turn into a feeding train as Bahamian souse gets delivered and redelivered so that the bridal parties will have some nutrition. I just saw a batch of fresh bread arrive, while my mother-in-law and I were slaving over roasting a huge ham. I wanted cloves and honey added; she had her special mustard baste to prepare. Press. Spread. Back in the oven, you beast!

The groom has not yet held a stag night so I'm not sure when that will be fitted in: the wedding is this afternoon at 5pm, but I am free the rest of the day.

I have to prepare for my part, reading Psalm 91.

The bride had severe migraine attacks yesterday morning and yelled that she needed a doctor. Why the stress? Still, she got some medication; took a nap and seemed better by early afternoon. Today, she seems to be too busy to have a migraine. Soon, a new set of real headaches will begin but I'm sure that she will think that she is headed for bliss.

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