Wedding Service

Once upon a time there was a traditional Cape Malay wedding …


They just don’t do the traditional Cape Malay weddings like they did before. They can not ! Not only would they cost a small fortune, but they would almost certainly be COVID super spreader events. But oh, they were wonderful, recalls Gasant Abarder in a new #SliceofGasant.

Abarder, who recently launched his book, Hack with a grenade, is one of the most influential media voices in the country. Watch his weekly column here, exclusive to Cape {town} Etc.

“May your marriage be modern enough to withstand the challenges of the times we live in. But traditional enough to remember the values ​​that make a marriage work,” said a wise man, whom I can’t remember. no name, a few decades ago. in a couple’s bedroom on their wedding night.

What was I doing in their room, or at the bruidskamer, on their wedding night, you might ask? I wasn’t even family! As many people who could squeeze in filled their rooms to hear the wise counsel. This was the norm over 30 years ago after a traditional Cape Malay wedding.

Growing up, there were few occasions so memorable. An event like this saw the bride and groom pushed into the background as families busied themselves with planning the event of the year. The couple who are getting married don’t have much to say about their big day.

It was not uncommon for each of the two receptions – one for the groom and the bride – to have 800 guests in all (if you count uninvited guests and addicts). As if by magic, there was enough for everyone and a barakat (a doggy bag) on ​​top of that!

Attending my niece’s wedding on a public holiday last week reminded me of traditional Cape Malay weddings when I was growing up almost 35 years ago. Many of these traditions have been suppressed. My niece Rafeeqah’s wedding to Fawwaz had 30 guests in a beautiful and intimate occasion – in part due to COVID-19 restrictions.

But many moons ago, these were epic events planned months in advance. It was all kanala work (a colloquial expression for free service) and the full range of craft skills of the Cape Malay slave community came to the fore. From the aunt who takes many months to painstakingly bead the wedding dress to the other aunt who makes the elaborate headdress for the bride, called a medowra.

Uncles would have taken many hours until the last minute to make the bruidskamer perfect with little to no intervention from the bride or groom. At the time, parents paid for everything and so it was part of their gift.

It was not uncommon for the wedding procession to consist of 32 people, including the bride and groom. The day itself would span 12 hours and be a driving blur between photoshoots at the Cape Botanical Gardens, wedding receptions, and then the bruidskamer.

The couple also had no say in their welcome. Rectangular table tops called bladde were supported by trestles called bokkies, with benches called bankies for sitting on. They would fill huge civic centers with the stage reserved for the couple and their important suite.

Each table was covered with a simple newspaper (the roll usually provided by the uncle who worked for the press house). Each table had a floral centerpiece that was written off as one of the aunts inevitably took it home as a keepsake.

These receptions were so large that the people seated in the front would have already left by the time those in the back of the room were served. It was often a meal of curry and rice or breyani or roast chicken in the oven. Each guest was given a glass bottle of Bashews and there was a small take-out portion of Gatti’s ice cream and sickly sweet tea for dessert.

No matter how hard you try, there would always be whispered complaints from the guests.

“The tea was cold.”
“The breyani was dry.”
“The chicken was not well seasoned.”

Upon receipt of Rafeeqah and Fawwaz, there were no such complaints. The couple planned everything perfectly and in consultation with their parents. Because it was so small, they had time to linger and enjoy the time with their guests. It was a wonderful occasion – all in 90 minutes – with contemporary music.

At the time, the music would have escaped them as well. Families insisted on Caravans by Mike Batt upon entering their reception. And no one was going to tell the uncle near the microphone that he couldn’t misinterpret a song by Engelbert Humperdinck or Cape Malay choir favorite ‘Rosa’.

How times have changed. But it’s not so bad (especially since the uncles can no longer sing!).

I have lived by this sage’s words all of my life and it is working. Modern enough to keep an open mind. Traditional enough to burst into Engelbert’s “Please Release Me” when the need arises.

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Photos: Supplied