Sunday was very hot, with a vile blustery northerly wind that would send a branch of our eucalyptus citriodora crashing down onto the clothes line. But our minds weren't on the weather: rather, a wedding between D and A, a woman from Timor l'Este who's bravely marrying an Australian and moving, mostly, to Australia.
The service was held in a little catholic church in Rosanna. Everything about it was perfect, modest and thoughtful. No grand organ; no grandiose flowers; no strings of bridesmaids in stupid dresses. A handsome dark suit with silvery grey tie; a delicate and sleek white gown with a simple train that could be looped up around A's wrist: a veil that D himself lifted. It was just impossible for any of A's family to be here; and they will hold a second, traditional Timorese wedding with her family in a few weeks time. A's long dark hair was caught up in a simple knot; the veil held by just the right amount of sparkliness to match her necklace.
They had been planning this wedding with the priest for a long time, and he was so discreet, generous and welcoming with the largely non-Catholic congregation: explaining about the responses, and inviting us all to join in, as witnesses to D and A, and as part of our well-wishing to them. They walked slowly down the very short aisle (the church was circular), but I was so struck by the difficulty they had when M invited them to take their seats in front of us. They were both so nervous, and so caught up in the momentousness of everything, and the formality of their ritual clothes, that it took them a long time to turn their bodies into the right position for sitting down; and then to sit down. Not that there was fuss or discomfort; just a sense of ceremonial weight sitting heavily, perhaps especially on A's shoulders.
The Old Testament reading? Rebecca, of course, who leaves her family and homeland to marry Isaac. For the record, yes, I found it hard not to cry as they walked down the aisle, as they took their seats, as they recited their vows. And how lovely: D repeated his vows, phrase by phrase, after the priest. A, who is still learning English, spoke hers softly, but without prompting.
Palpable relief as they left the church to Pachelbel's Canon and headed out into the wind. Storm clouds gathered as we drove to D's house afterwards, and they decided to have the speeches first, before the rain came. D's mother spoke so warmly of A, and her love for her, and her pride in her son. D translated into rapid Tetum for the video cameras, then A read her beautiful warm speech in careful English. It was starting to rain, then, so D thanked us all for coming and they agreed to do the Tetum versions inside.
Everything then gradually transitioned into a casual family-and-friends party in the backyard: D's brother did the roasts and salads; and *his* daughter had made the cake, complemented by an extraordinary pavlova. D and A changed out of their formal clothes; some of the guests who live close by did the same; some of the family were already in shorts. I took off my hat - and shoes, at one point — and Joel removed his tie and braces.
The rain came pouring down, and at one point all the little kids were out it in, happily getting soaked to the skin. One boy stood under the tarpaulin, where the rain was dripping down, utterly mystified by the sensation of rain and water dripping down so luxuriously, holding out his tongue, looking up in wonderment, not really minding at all that a bunch of adults with cameras were taking his photo.
I think A and D are going to be very happy together: but it is not going to be easy. I'm not going to bang on and on about the cultural gaps between their worlds, though they are truly immense. But if their wedding was any indication of the thoughtfulness between them and the loving support of their friends, it augurs well.