Mass Weddings

In a month’s time from now, 200 girls from our tribe are going to be married. The weddings will start on the 10th of March and go on for a week, until all the brides have been married. Preparations have already begun in full swing and some girls have already been engaged – they won’t go through the process of finding a groom in those days.

In our tribe, we are open to polygamy. In fact, our leaders prefer grooms who take on a large number of wives. Also, we have a peculiar system of getting our girls married off. Every November, we call for grooms and after an elaborate 4-day process, a groom is found for every girl and they are engaged. The following year, in April and May, the girl goes to live with the groom. If they are found compatible, he proposes to her. She has until the next march to accept the proposal. The next march (16 months after engagement), the grooms are called for again. There are some new players this time. And a few who had come earlier back out. And this time, the matches that are made are final and the weddings are solemnized at the end of each day.

The process begins almost a year in advance when our elders go around hunting for prospective grooms. Then, starting January, the grooms visit our hamlet one by one. There is a requirement for a certain number of brides to go and “examine” him after which one of the girls writes an “analyst report” about him, which is shared with the rest of the girls. Remember that our tribe is an extremely cooperative one and are known in lands far and near for our unity.

This process of grooms visiting our campus and presenting themselves goes on till the day before the weddings. Some grooms are also kind enough to feed all the prospective girls who visit them. Through this, they hope, they will get a beter rating in the “analyst report”. Some other grooms also proceed to play games with our girls, but our girls generally don’t take well to it. However, our elders are keen not to offend any grooms so the hapless girls are forced to go and play along. Sad.

Preparations have begun in full swing for the weddings. Us people who are not up for grabs this year are helping out with the arrangements. Some people are being given special training in locating any bride at a moment’s notice. Others (like me) will be responsible for setting the stage for the weddings and all other infrastructure. A few others have the job of providing coffee and snacks to the guests. And the chieftain of our tribe will stand at the entrance to the wedding hall to greet each groom as he comes in.

On the D-day, each groom will be put in a separate room and he gives a list of girls he wants to meet. Girls are sent in to the room one by one where they can have a personal one-to-one with the groom. Sometimes a groom asks to meet several girls at once. God only knows what happens inside. At the end of each day, each groom gives a list of girls whom he would like to marry. The proposals are forwarded to the girls and some of them accept. A few will have proposals from more than one groom and have a choice. In fact, sometimes when a girl gets a proposal before the end of the day, our elders force her to accept it immediately and spit on the rest of the grooms who want to meet her that day. Others aren’t so lucky and have to accept their only offer. There will be a few girls left unmarried and they will hopefully find a groom the next day, when a fresh set of grooms arrive.

This process will go on for a week at the end of which everyone will be (hopefully) happily married. A week where tensions run high. A time when tribe unity will be at its highest. We helpers will heave a sigh of relief and get back to sowing the soil. And praying to the gods that we will get a good husband next year.

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