When Nancy invited me to her niece’s wedding, there were several things I knew to expect. The marriage would be arranged, the bride would be young, and there would be crying. These things are the norm in this country, and especially in River City.
When I laid eyes on the young bride, I realized that she was even younger than I’d expected. She looked about 12 or 13 years old. When I inquired about her age, the ladies looked at each other and decided that she was probably about 15 years old (nobody really knows exactly how old they are here). These women too, discussed that they were all around 15 years old when they married.
The bride’s sister eventually entered the room and seated herself next to the bride. They exchanged whispered words as they held each other and wept bitterly. While it is customary for the bride to cry at her wedding, this kind of crying and at this particular time was not normal. Some of the bride’s relatives shot the bride and her sister looks of shame. The bride’s tears, at an appropriate time, show that she will miss her family.
Most of the time, these tears represent a lot more than the sorrow of leaving home. They represent the fear of starting a new life in a stranger’s home, often being subjected to vigorous labor by her new mother-in-law. Of course, it’s also not unusual for the bride to be familiar with her new family; marriage between first cousins is still very common here.
As we prepared to leave the wedding, I took the child bride’s lovely hennaed hand and spoke gently to her. “I pray that God will give you a good life, that you will be happy with your new husband.” I don’t know what her future holds, but she is not the first and will not be the last young bride sold, or in her case, traded, for marriage.