Sitting at the dining room table over Christmas, mum and I reviewed 2017 in between bites of our bagels and both agreed that my sister Sarah’s wedding to partner Nady was the number one highlight.
Sarah had always said she was never getting married. A decision, whether spurred by stubbornness or feminism, we had long come to accept. Of course it really just took the right person to come along (and for marriage to be the answer to a barrage of various international visa requirements). Nady came to Australia for Christmas 2016 and instantly won everyone over with his huge smile and enthusiasm to rival my father’s, a man who excites over the opening of an envelope and whose catchphrase is repeating ‘how good is this’ while gesturing at whatever is happening at the time. Hours after being grilled by brutish Australian immigration officials, having a Romanian passport, an Egyptian name and being inbound from Rwanda will, sadly, do that to you, Nady met 20 of Sarah’s closest friends and their babies followed by 35 Brewins at our annual Christmas beach weekend.
“So why Rwanda?”, a question I’ve faced at least 50 times. The pair met at the London School of Economics while completing post graduate studies in international development. Then they moved to Rwanda, where they’ve lived for two years. The plan was a very low key affair to coincide with mine and Andy’s trip to East Africa. Naturally, the occasion blew out a tad as these things tend to do and my parents, Canadian aunt and about 20 international guests ended up coming. Unfortunately because it was quite last minute, there were many people who would have liked to be there who couldn’t make it. They were there with us in spirit and not forgotten.
It was a morning ceremony at the registry office followed by a small champagne reception at home drenched in duty free Veuve Clicquot. Then in the evening there was a big reception hosted by friends at their large house overlooking the hills, complete with an amazing local food stand, marquee (booze tent), photo booth and a ridiculously fun dance floor. The next morning about 40 of us headed to Gisenyi, on the shores of Lake Kivu, to keep the party going.
I fancied myself as the unofficial wedding photographer. And having seen the photos from the professional photographer I feel I could easily open a wedding photography business there…
The entire occasion wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of Kigali’s extremely proactive expat and local communities, aka Nady and Sarah’s friends. From the flowers to organising an office to marry them after one pulled out at the 11th hour, to the dulcet tunes and excessive air horn from DJ Toilets (not so named because he was shit, I promise), everyone did an outstanding job of getting Sarah and Nady hitched. Especially when Sarah was busy touring East Africa with Andy and I in the four weeks leading up to the wedding.
It was a fairly untraditional wedding. There was no hiding from each other in the morning. I did Sarah’s makeup. They travelled to the ceremony together in a car with a couple of friends.
We took a bunch of photos before the ceremony, while waiting for the paperwork to go through.
Before long it was time to head in to the ceremony. I assume the room was mostly used for citizenship ceremonies, given it’s patriotic decor. It was a long, secular ceremony entirely in Kinyarwanda and English. The terms of the contract they were entering into were clearly outlined, clause by clause, including what would void the marriage, like domestic violence and one of them disappearing for 12 months. Sarah and Nady were told of the responsibility their union and children would bring to Rwanda and its future and to seal the deal, they recited vows while holding the flag!
It was fascinating!
After the ceremony we headed back to the house to get ready while Sarah and Nady had their professional photos done. In the two minutes warning we had before they arrived home all the guests lined up along the driveway with champagne, confetti and ‘All you need is love’ playing on a speaker. I managed my one annoying little sister act of the day; to piff sequins directly at Sarah’s head.
The party that night was next level amazing. Unfortunately I didn’t get a single photo, except for this crappy iPhone shot during the speeches:
Here are a couple of the professional shots:
This doesn’t at all do justice to how beautiful the place looked with all the fairy lights, tiki torches, candles and flowers. Sarah and Nady exchanged the vows they had written, as well as locally made rings. There were speeches, I played a message from our very unwell grandmother who would have loved to have been there. We danced our feet off and had the best time.
There was no time to be tired the next day as we boarded a charter bus to Gisenyi, on Lake Kivu near the boarder of the Congo and Rwanda. We continued the celebrations there. These fantastic photos are from Sarah’s friend Anders Kjemtrup (check out his instagram here).
And we danced.
Sometimes in the water.
But mostly we celebrated these two:
Thanks for being the highlight of my year guys, love you lots xx
Beautiful picture. Looks like so much fun.And it’s true I guess it takes the right person to break down your walls. I’m in that stubbornness boat. I’m happy for her.
Wow! What a spectacular occasion, and the photos are so natural and spontaneous! I just love the excitement and joy in every shot. Thanks for sharing, I never expected to be a wedding guest in Rwanda! May the bride and groom share a long life of peace, good health, and happiness.
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