05 January, 2013

Lessons from an Oxford bridesmaid

Oxford is a fascinating place, especially over Christmas. Mulled wine and mince pies are everywhere; homes, churches, street corners, cafes and pubs. Glorious! Less glorious, and just as common, is the rain. Locals stroll through it like it's a warm, sunny day, while us foreigners dash hunched and bent from doorway to doorway, nipping into the first pound-store we see to buy umbrellas. We consistently managed to forget our umbrellas when we left the house in the morning; it wasn't raining then. Silly us.
Oxford's homeless people have pet dogs, Oxford's buildings manage to look both ancient and intellectual, and Oxford's giant buses patiently compete with pedestrians for space on the tiny roads. Oh, and people of all ages ride bicycles in all weather through streets, cobbled alleys and fields at all times of the day and night.
Anyone want to give me a job in Oxford?

As fascinating as these things were however, the strangest and most delightful thing I saw in Oxford was not the mulled wine or the giant buses or even the rain-impervious, bike-wielding locals. It was the silver ring on my brother's finger.

Twin brother, married. Weird.

Josh's wedding is one of the few British weddings that included ululating and lobola (bride price). The bride's family is probably grateful there were only about 15 of us Africans present, who knows what mischief we could have gotten up to if our numbers had been higher!

As a bridesmaid in the wedding I had important, behind-the-scenes access to what went on and I came away with a host of highly useful tips. I thought I'd share a few of the things I learnt:

1. Smiling all day gives you a headache at night. Pace yourself.
2. Doing your own "button-holes" (corsages) and bouquets cheaper and can be conveniently learnt from your local library flower-arranging book. Or from online printouts.
3. The secret to a professional-looking French manicure is cotton ear-buds and a little nail-polish remover.
4. You should always check if a bride's dress covers her shoes before scrubbing the bottom of them (so that the congregation can't see the scuff marks when she kneels).
5. White fluff (the kind that comes from a bridesmaid's cardigan) can be removed from a black suit (the kind that the groom wears) using rolled up cello-tape. Or a lint roller if you're lucky enough to bump into a well-organized and kind hotel guest.

More importantly though, I learnt that a marriage involves the joining of two old families and the creation of one new family; it's not just the joining of two people. This family-joining and family-creation takes hard work, a bit of pain and a lot of love.