On Saturday, we attended the civil wedding of a colleague. Following the practice of many European countries (often started by reformers like Luther and Calvin), Côte d’Ivoire requires that weddings be performed by duly authorized civil servants. So the wedding took place at the local city hall. In fact, the town has constructed a hall just for weddings. I could see why, they were running them through one after the other. I was told that there would be 22 weddings that day.
We waited outside with other guests for the wedding of our colleague to be called. Brides and grooms waited in a separate room. In addition to wedding guests, there were ladies dressed in traditional garb with traditional white clay (kaolin) body painting. Giving something to beggars is considered to be a blessing on newlyweds, and these ladies were taking advantage of that belief. One had a bell she ran to attract attention.
Our colleague’s wedding was called a few minutes past the announced time. We were ushered into a large room from the back as the guests from the previous wedding were going out the side. We were urged to take our places quickly. In front was a colorful mural and a large table. The two witnesses were seated at the table, there were two empty chairs on our side of the table and one on the opposite side. A clerk, giving instructions, was standing at a small podium to the side.
The mother of the bride was ushered in to applause. Then the groom stood at the front awaiting the bride who came in from the back escorted by her father who gave her to the groom. He escorted her to one of the empty chairs and sat in the other. The mother of the bride went up to them with a few other family members and then sat to one side of the platform. The clerk announced the major’s representative and asked us to stand. He came in from the side wearing a suite and the mayoral sash around his middle. He asked us to sit.
The major welcomed everyone, and then explained the legal status of marriage, including reading verbatim from the marriage two articles establishing the mutual responsibilities of spouses to each other. He gave a very short explanation and then asked the bride and groom to confirm that they accepted those responsibilities. They then had to each say if they Asked them to say whether they were opting for community property or separate property. He then gave them more legal information about marriage including who decides where the couple lives – they decide together – and what happens if they can’t agree – a judge decides.
He also gave them general advice based on the law. Then he pronounced them man and wife, congratulated them and the ceremony was over. It lasted maybe 20 minutes.
We were hurried outside to a special spot made for taking photos. The photographer quickly got the right people in various photos because we only had about 20 minutes until the next wedding party arrived. We left before the bride and groom went off to a family reception.
By the way, couples can opt to have a religious ceremony after the civil wedding and many do, but it has no legal standing. (Click on a photo to start a slide show. Click here to see the photos if you are not seeing them well in email.)