Skype Down The Aisle - Traditional Weddings Go Virtual For Rwandan Diaspora

A Rwandan wedding (photo montage)
A Rwandan wedding (photo montage)
Fulgence Niyonagize

KIGALI – In Rwanda, getting married has always been a complicated affair.

Before anything, the families of the bride and groom sit down for a long negotiation. Once they have exchanged gifts and agreed that the couple should indeed marry, and of course settled on what the dowry will be, the traditional wedding can start. It is followed by a church wedding and a civil wedding.

Until now, Rwandan couples living abroad would send photos of their religious wedding ceremonies to their respective families, but that was not nearly enough to replace traditional ways. Most often they were pushed by family guilt-trips into flying home to have a traditional ceremony with friends and families.

Alexis Rusine, a sociologist, explains. "In Rwanda, nothing can replace a traditional wedding, not even a religious ceremony. Couples feel obliged to do things according to tradition, which dictates that, in order to get married, the bride must bring a large dowry. They have to get married to avoid the shame and guilt social pressure puts upon them."

A Muhanga villager adds, "A man and woman who are living together without having had a traditional wedding feel isolated, they are too ashamed to spend time with each other’s families, and when they have children, they cannot take them to see their grandparents."

But now, technology is helping to change the equation, as Rwandan couples living abroad can have their traditional wedding… online.

"When fiancés greet their guests, all we have to do is turn on the projector and speakers, open up a computer, and thanks to Skype, the family can see the couple, in Belgium or wherever, dressed in their wedding outfits and waving to them as if they were here with us," says C. Kayitare from Muhanga, who recently witnessed a virtual wedding.

If the connection fails, photos of the couple will suffice. "When it is time to present the couple, framed photographs are presented and placed in seats reserved for the newlyweds," adds Stanislas Ntirenganya, a wedding MC.

"Some Rwandans still feel they have to come all the way from Europe or America to have their traditional wedding. If they don't, they believe people will think badly of them," says Rusine.

A cheaper alternative

However, in the face of all the costs, more and more couples are choosing the virtual option. "Couples would rather organize a virtual party to spend less," a young, married Rwandan, who lives in the U.S., tells us. Another explanation why a Rwandan couple would chose to get married abroad is that many of them cannot return to Rwanda for political reasons.

The advantages can also extend to the participating friends and relatives: when couples opt for a virtual wedding, guests do not feel obliged to offer a financial contribution that is widely expected of those with the means.

It is also interesting to note that when Rwandans marry foreigners (Europeans, Americans, Asians), they still often choose to hold traditional ceremonies, with the non-Rwandan bride or groom respecting and upholding the traditions of Rwandan culture. Here again, some opt to fly home, while others now have the opportunity to skype down the aisle

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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