It was a big occasion for me. But I wasn’t happy. The young man’s father had told me that the wedding was fixed for the school holidays in May.
“But I will be in Suva at that time for my annual retreat and a short holiday. You are supposed to discuss the date with the priest before confirming it.”
“But our two families have agreed to this. My son is a teacher and the holidays will give us time to prepare well. The invitations have been issued so it must go ahead.”
To make things worse they had fixed the wedding for a Sunday at 10:00 a.m. the normal time for Mass. The wedding was to be at the bride’s uncle’s home. It wouldn’t include Mass because many of the guests would be Hindu. To compromise I switched Sunday Mass in Naleba to after the wedding and insisted that the family including the bride and groom must be present. There was some opposition, but the groom’s father realized that he had to give on this.
The wedding was fairly straight-forward as the families had included only a few cultural rituals. I remember the bride’s father standing apart and crying loudly as she was leaving with the groom’s party. On arrival at Naleba, the bride and bridegroom walked the short distance from his home to the small church for Mass.
The groom later filled me in on some background. “It is our custom that after the wedding the bride and groom be very reserved and should not be exposed to outside people. The bride should go directly to the groom's home… The elders at my home were very angry. They said that after the wedding we should have come directly to the house without going to the church or anywhere else. They said that it is against God for newly married people not to go directly home to the house.”
Clearly, we had culture clashes on both sides.
Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji.