The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddings

To get married on Haiti is probably more difficult than any other country in the world. 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, strikes and coups are constantly taking place on the island. The elements do not spare the locals either: tropical hurricanes often hit the island.

The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddingsNevertheless, young Haitians manage to find the strength and, most importantly, the money to play weddings, although historically marital relations are not too common in Haiti — in rural areas, many couples live together until old age without official registration. This is a legacy of colonial times - the tradition of placage, cohabitation of Creoles with colonists. But recently, marriage has become prestigious, and a wedding is an indicator of luxury.

The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddings

The reggae singer is preparing for a wedding with her drummer and composer. Carrefour City, Haiti, December 28, 2017

32-year-old reggae singer Mirle-Samuel Pierre is lucky: her wealthy cousin and godmother live in New York. Traditionally, relatives who have moved abroad pay for many wedding expenses, as well as buy the bride a dress and send it at their own expense. The cousin was generous and bought her goddaughter not only a dress, but also shoes, gloves, and most importantly — a tiara.

The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddings

The newlyweds are returning from the church where they got married. Tiotte commune, Haiti, December 7, 2017

25-year-old Santonax Toussaint and 22-year-old Louisemena Antoine return from the church after the wedding and hurry to the courtyard of the groom's parents' house, where the celebration will continue. When they arrive, their parents will shower them with rice and sprinkle them with holy water for good luck.

Wedding guests go from the church to the restaurant. Saint-Marc commune, Haiti, November 18, 2017

Most Haitians can't afford a bus, much less a limo. Numerous guests of the ceremony have to stuff themselves into rented cars to the point of failure: sit on each other's lap, lie down on top and even climb into the trunk. A car is still a good option. Many have to settle for scooters or walk in luxurious outfits in the tropical heat.

The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddings

The groom's friends. Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 14, 2019

In the capital, both the newlyweds and their guests have more money. The groom's friends can afford to buy identical suits and accessories for them.

The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddings

The newlyweds exchange rings in the church. Port-au-Prince, Haiti, May 28, 2016

Protestant church communities support marriage, especially if the couple is expecting a child. Some religious schools accept students only if their parents can provide a marriage certificate.

The godmother in a white dress at the wedding. Mariani Commune, Haiti, April 15, 2017

The godmother of Woodna Vernet also wore a white dress for the wedding, in Haiti this is not considered tactless. Bridesmaids and bridegroom's friends often dress up so much like the main characters of the ceremony that people passing by the church cannot understand who exactly has a wedding on this day.

The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddings

The bride and groom are waiting for guests at the table. Delma, Haiti, July 31, 2015

Many get married for the sake of legal protection. Placage is an unofficial practice, therefore, in case of separation, a woman will not be able to request alimony from a former roommate and will not receive a share in the partner's property in the event of his death.

The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddings

The bride and groom receive a blessing. Port-au-Prince, Haiti, August 2, 2015

One of the most important moments of the wedding ceremony is receiving a blessing from the priest. The godparents of the bride and groom are kneeling next to them at this crucial moment.

The groom sings for his bride. Carrefour City, Haiti, December 28, 2017

Musician Dakkins St. Eloy, who performs under the pseudonym Zikki, sang the song What a Wonderful World for his bride in the church. Frankly, the couple agreed to the ceremony only for the sake of the bride's parents. Unofficially, they chose a Rastafari wedding theme — and the groom put a colorful scarf on top of a white suit. After church, they did not arrange a reception, but instead went to a nightclub and had a great time. And, importantly, they saved well.

The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddings

The groom removes the garter from the bride. Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 14, 2019

Daphne Gerard doubted to the last that she would be able to celebrate the wedding because of the months-long unrest that gripped the capital of Haiti. Her fiance, Stanley Joseph, was ready to do anything: even charter a plane to bring the bride's parents from the southeast of the country.

On the wedding day, the bride and groom reached the church along country paths — all the main roads of the city were blocked by strikers. Joseph, who took over the solution of all the problems, was very nervous, but at the same time he was immensely happy when he finally put the ring on the finger of his beloved girl.

The godfather pours the groom. Cap hAitien, Haiti, October 31, 2017

Many couples arrange weddings in the same church at the same time to share the costs of the ceremony.

The glitz and poverty of Haitian weddings

Guests at the wedding ceremony at the buffet. Carrefour City, Haiti, January 2, 2016

In a country where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line on $ 2.41 a day, only the richest Haitian couples can afford to arrange a reception, feed all the guests, and then also go on a honeymoon.

Often the newlyweds do not arrange a banquet or, if it happens in rural areas, they serve very simple treats: pastries, fried bananas, rice or just coffee. Sometimes viands for a wedding banquet are collected literally by the whole village. Serious conflicts can break out at weddings if there is not enough food for everyone or if a very cunning guest tries to take the treats home.

If there is a cake at the wedding, it is usually not too big. Therefore, the treat is put on public display, and then the bride and groom take it home, where they eat it in a narrow circle of the closest relatives.

A table for wedding guests. Jeremy, Haiti, December 21, 2017

Even if the families of the bride and groom do not have money, they will still arrange the brightest and most luxurious ceremony, even if the tables with luxurious candelabra will look wild in a deserted courtyard.

Keywords: Haiti | Brides | Wedding | Photo collection

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