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wedding at malealea

Saturday 18 th January 2003 (Organised and planned a week before the date!)

Hollywood could not have staged it better! After three clear hot sunny days it was not surprising to awake on the 18 th January 2003 with ominous dark clouds over the mountains after horrendous winds during the night. But we all carried on with the preparations regardless, ignoring what we presumed must come. The bridal arch was set up on the front lawn (decorated with variegated ivy and pomegranate flowers) with the Thaba Putsoa Mountains as a glorious backdrop. Flowering agaves were dug into the ground in a semi circle each side of the area set aside on the vast lawn for the service and the chairs put out leaving an aisle for the bridal couple to come down to the altar table in front of the arch. As an added touch the flower girls were sent off to get birdseed to sprinkle on a raised area ostensibly to attract the peacocks for the photo shoot

At 9.30am, the priest – Rev. Father Joseph Ntlamelle who came from Mohales Hoek met with teh couple to go through the service and the marriage certificate details and asked whether they had signed an Ante Nuptial contract. Horrors, they had not given it a thought! Being out of range of any telephone someone was dispatched a way away to a high mountain where there was cell phone signal to phone an attorney in Bloemfontein to ask what they should do about it. He very kindly offered to drive to Wepener (halfway between Bloemfontein and Malealea) with an A.N.C. (he had been invited to the wedding but was unable to come) to meet them at 1.00pm. Sighs of relief and off they went, a 1 ½ hour’s drive (wedding scheduled for 3.00pm)

Meanwhile preparations carry on – tables and chairs for the feast were arranged behind the ceremony chairs on the vast lawn in front of the main lounge with this amazing backdrop of mountains. Many, many candles were decorated with ivy and pinecones and put into holders, large ones being stuck into the ground. By now the menacing clouds were dispersing and a hot sun shone down (wilting the ivy and people alike). Many prayers are now offered up for the weather to hold and many fingers crossed.

During this time it was noted that some of the peacocks were missing a considerable number of their tail feathers!

Great relief was felt when the couple eventually returned with their A.N.C. at ten to three. Time is not strictly adhered to in Lesotho and although the priest had been informed that the ceremony would take place at 3.00pm originally, he was not too fazed when I told him it would be a little later and would he like a cool drink, and hesensibly asked for a cold Hansa.

Guests, choirs and people waited patiently for the great moment when at about 4.00pm I looked up to see a very proud Mick leading to the altar an absolutely stunning-looking Jacqui wearing a matt silver sparkly low backed dress with a bouffant skirt and carrying cream roses followed by the flower girls Jessica, Katie and Kerryann carrying small baskets of rose petals and bridesmaid Debbie in a slender silver gown carrying a small bouquet of roses, where stood the patiently waiting groom. The show was on.

Also in this group was the matron-of honour Agnes, or Aggie, former nanny to th eJones’ children and now the Lodgekeeper, wearing a traditional brown print dress and blanket. Instead of the wedding march (which I have just remembered was purchased specially to be played before and after the ceremony), were the renderings of the various Basotho choirs which accompanied the bridal party to the ceremony and again after the ceremony to a silver balloon be-decked open safari vehicle for the next stage of this unusual wedding. The programme stated ‘bridal couple and guests will tour the village and meet the people, so off they drove very slowly accompanied by a mounted escort of about 50 Basotho Horsemen dressed in red blankets on the one side and blue blankets on the other side of the vehicle. During all this the singing, shouting, and ululating was terrific with everyone in festive mood. At the finish everyone congregated down below the Lodge outside the fence and a large circle was formed with the riders on the outside, forming two circles riding in opposite direction, Mick being one of the riders in blanket and hat!

Photographed once again against the dramatic background of the mountains the riderswith their Basotho hats and blankets were a sight to behold. The bridal couple standing in the middle of the circle were approached by a group of women coming slowly towards them dressed in yellow/black blankets, dancing and singing bearing a Basotho blanket which was carefully arranged around the bride’s shoulders. They were followed by yet another group of dancing and singing women bearing gifts for the couple. At this stage I must mention that a great many of the riders and participants were wearing some magnificent peacock feathers either in their hats or as nosegays! The last act with the people was a group of male Sibaca Dancers who came into the arena stamping and singing in Sibaca costume.

From here family and guests made their way back to the Lodge for a breather from all the excitement and a welcome drink while more official photographs were taken around the arch. The villagers made their way to their feast as Mick had arranged for an ox to be slaughtered and gallons of joala ba Sesuto.

As it was still light at 6:00pm everyone was able to settle down and watch the beautiful evening sky light up the mountains with pinks, golds and mauves while sipping champagne.

As the light faded seats were taken and all the candles lit in preparation for the last part of the day when Jacqui’s uncle, Dave acting as M.C. called upon the father to say a few words. He made an excellent speech standing next to a glowing Bride, afterwards proposing a toast to the bride and groom. This was followed by the best man, recounting various anecdotes concerning the couple, during which time he was constantly heckled by a very vocal peacock (or peahen?) who had woken up. As he proposed the toast to the bridemaids so a magnificent full moon rose behind him on the one side of the scene while on the other a huge cumulous cloud had lightning silently flickering through the great folds behind the mountains with the candles in the foreground. Dave in introducing teh Bridegroom n said he’d heard of all the wonderful things he’d done but how he was able to produce a full moon at such a time was unimaginable. This was truly a wondrous unforgettable experience – Had Hollywood tried to contrive this combination of events it would have been considered overkill. I would add that not for a moment did anyone think about the moon being full or indeed exactly where it would rise as plans were made for the whole event fairly precipitately. If this had been planned as such it would surely have been a rained out failure. ........

A warm windless evening with a clear moonlit sky ended a momentous day.

Khotso Pula Nala.