Just this past week, I was at one of those Maori weddings people always talk about, but hardly anyone has actually been to. It was for one of the local village girls, Hera. She is such a sweet girl, and absolutely delightful to spend time with. I made the frocks, so I was graciously invited. It was quite a spectacle.
I walked into the church, a small one near the edge of the town, feeling proud knowing that there weren’t many white people invited to the wedding, but I was one. At any rate, I had naively assumed that with this superiority, I would be seated near the front of the congregation. This was, it appears, quite naive of me.
Upon arrival, the Maori greeters directed me to my seat. I found myself packed like a sardine into the back pew, with the rest of the white guests. Too shocked, and recognizing it would be best not to make a scene, I sat.
I was in the company of some of the most prestigious men in the county – the magistrate and several wealthy land-owners. Attempting to climb the social ladder, as one does, I began to converse with the magistrate beside me. I mentioned that I had made the frocks for my dear friend Hera, and her bridesmaids. Rather unexcitedly, he mentioned the arrangements being the traditional job of a relative, and that I should probably consider myself lucky I was invited at all.
Our conversation was cut off by a horrible loud noise. My new-found “ally”, noting my shock, said it was the welcoming call, and nothing to be concerned about. The procession began soon after.
Hera was a vision in a white dress, quite conservative but very stylish, with elegant puff sleeves, and floor-length cotton (silk being far too expensive out here in the country). Rose and her other bridesmaid were quite pretty in lovely rich green cotton frocks.
Did I ever tell you about Rose, the sister? I can’t recall. She’s at varsity, a very well-spoken and cosmopolitan woman, very clever. She came over to fit her frock, and for some strange reason she was horrible offended about something I said, I can’t recall what, and she dragged her sister off without so much as a goodbye! I gather she can be quite temperamental, but she generally seemed quite friendly.
Anyhow, the wedding ceremony was very strange. There were a great many Maori chants and bizarre vows and activities; it seemed almost pagan. They even gave Hera a cape of feathers to wear. Can you imagine? Over my dress? I was quite slighted, but I did try not to say anything – although I may have gasped when they put the cape on.
After the ceremony, there was apparently a feast, but having left my two children at home, I really felt I had to go see that they had been behaving. Although, I can’t say I minded missing the celebrations – I was quite shocked as it was, and I can’t possibly begin to imagine what dishes they might have been eating there. Nothing for my delicate digestion, I’m sure.
Anyhow, I hear the children screaming, so I really must go. I do hope this reaches you soon.
With fondest affection,
Your dear friend,