You see, I had to go on dates with men from my village who asked me out. As much as it pained him, it was necessary to keep my parents happy. That was the only way I could argue that I was not closed up to other men. Let’s not go into what went down over the course of 2 years. We had informed our pastor of our unique predicament. She did not see any reason for us to back down. We decided to give my parents 1 year to come around. In the mean time, we prayed, fasted, confessed the word and kept hope alive.
My parents assumed I had given up. I spent little time at home. When they called, I avoided the topic. They would warn me and remind me of what awaited me but I didn’t engage them. I really respect my parents so much. From nothing, they both made a life for themselves and gave us all the comforts they could afford. I knew they only wanted the best for me. Did I mention that I am the 1st of 6 children? That means I had no older siblings who could speak for me.
Why do my parents believe in marrying amongst our kin?
1. Back in the day, it was believed that the best behaved girls would be noticed and courted by the sons of the land. The wayward girls married outsiders who knew no better.
2. Marrying within would guarantee their access to you. You would be home for holidays and participate in activities where they could show you and your family off. Think weddings, thanksgiving services, burials and so on. These are gatherings where the childless or those whose children were n’ere do wells developed high blood pressure .Imagine having no one to cheer you on or support you in old age.
3. They genuinely believe that a man who knows their pedigree will treat you better. After all, his family knows yours, they probably live a stone throw away from your ancestral home. He should be wary of ill treating you.
After 1 and half years, we were tired of waiting. We had known each other for close to 9 years. The whole thing was becoming a drag. We had been to weddings of friends who met long after we did and we got tired of answering the inevitable questions. Finally, we decided to give my parents an ultimatum. During this period, my fiancé had gone 2 or 3 times to see my dad. He walked him out after lecturing him on how unsuitable he was. To his credit, he was not violent. My mom kept up the pressure with phone calls and texts, warning him to find someone else.
I sent some relatives and family friends to appeal. They were so sternly cautioned that they regretted agreeing. One called and told me to elope. The other was so miffed at my mother’s tone he told us to damn the consequences. Another was bought over by my mom. She began to call me daily to forget the whole thing.
“The bible says children should obey their parents”, she said. “I am a mother, I know how they feel”
“Aunty, I sent you to beg for me. Now you’ve turned against me”, I cried.
“I know but your mother burst into tears on the phone. She said your dad doesn’t sleep at night. The disgrace will be too much”
“Disgrace? Is he a leper?” I wondered.
“You wouldn’t understand” she insisted.
I understood. Let me tell you, even a pastor we approached was afraid to speak to them. There was palpable tension in my house, you could slice it with a knife. I was losing my mind, fretting over the crack in our relationship. My siblings were on my side but, even they began to feel the pressure and begged me to do ‘something’ about it all. The word of God became my sustenance. I could not go without studying it any day as it emboldened me.
One day, I remembered how a lady shared a testimony of how her dad who opposed her marriage to a Yoruba man finally gave in. The man collected the microphone during the Thanksgiving and said he opposed not on tribal grounds or whatever. While he was speaking, I felt God tap my shoulder.
He said, “That is how your dad will attend at your wedding”. Why was this important? You see, we had gone to our pastors and reported that my parents were becoming more belligerent rather than back down. I heard of a couple they wedded on a Friday in the church office. Subsequently, they had a reception for friends. I had always feared that we would have to elope or settle for a court wedding. While that is okay, I really desired the blessing of my pastors. These issues made me shed tears every night. I didn’t mind missing out on a long bridal train, aso ebi, numerous family attending, and more. What I wanted most was my pastor’s blessing.
Remember I used to be in the choir. You can imagine how many weddings I had sung at. For my own to be hurriedly done in a dinghy court, was too painful to bear. Pastor asked us what we wanted to do, after 1 and half years of pressure. She was so angry about the whole thing, insisting they had no scriptural ground. We told her we wanted to wed without their permission. She gave her okay, promising police protection on the day, if need be. I went home and told my people the wedding date but not venue. They raised hell before informing my siblings that all who attended were disowned.
My fiancé had a job but was no way close to being able to cater to 5 adults. I realized they might have to stay away. A different kind of pressure ensued. Planning a secret wedding, dealing with threatening phone calls, keeping a happy face for those who were not in the know, assuring my in laws that I would not back out, on and on. So many scriptures boosted my faith. “The curse causeless not come” Prov.26:2 and Num. 23:8. Jesus reassured me that I would not suffer any evil because I did not set out to rebel or hurt any one, I just wanted to marry the man I loved. Why was it difficult for anyone to accept?
Dad played a trump card. My in laws paid him a formal visit. While he did not threaten them, or wax violent, he told them in unmistakable terms, that we would never have his support. That shattered their confidence. My mother in law, was so angry, she said we should have a private ceremony but not expect her or my father in law. I understood how she felt but, her stubborn son would not listen. What was our confession?
1. My parents would give their consent before the set date.
2. They would be physically present.
3. My dad would give me away
4. There would be no altercation or distress
5. We would be blessed with children, houses, cars, and more afterwards to silence all nay sayers.
We confessed these daily, with quaking hearts and trembling knees,until our faith became unshakeable. I went on, ordering a bridal gown, we paid caterers, and more, while threats were hanging over our heads. My fiance planned to hire security to guard the reception venue.
1 week to the wedding day, I received a text from my dad who was in Scotland at a conference.Steeling myself for more threats, I clicked on it. The gist of it was that he had hired a lawyer to prosecute us (I wonder what for?), but God spoke to him that morning to forgive us. He asked us to postpone the wedding and invite my in laws to do the traditional rites. I could not believe my eyes! When I forwarded it to my fiancé, he called to ask if I was making it up. God had answered our prayers so suddenly.
The next issue was getting him to permit us to go ahead with the date already set as we had paid the vendors and invited guests, some of who did not know the story. It was to be a Friday wedding with a handful in my pastor’s office. Guests were to attend the poolside reception. Most assumed we just wanted an intimate wedding, not knowing what was hanging over our heads. 2 days before the wedding, I called my dad and pleaded with him to accept the date we had set as we could not move it. I offered that my in laws come the next day to do the rites and he agreed.
The day before the wedding, my fiancé and his family travelled to see my folk. Due to traffic, they arrived at about 10 or 11pm. Friends who could not believe the miracle tried to restrain them. They felt my dad had something sinister planned. I called my sisters and they said my mom was cooking up a storm, whistling happily, and setting the table. That was all I needed to hear. No way they were still angry. The rites were done in my absence. I was called to give my consent on phone.
My mom started calling all her friends that night to attend the wedding the next day.
“Whose wedding? Why is it so sudden ?” they asked.
“Don’t bother about that. Just wear the aso ebi I mentioned”, she replied.
My in laws spent the night, after a hearty meal and a warm welcome. The next day, my mom stayed back to buy a lorry load of wedding gifts for me. I’m talking of washing machine, deep freezer, microwave, boxes of fabric, e.t.c. She arrived the reception in grand style with her colourfully dressed friends. My dad had come earlier and not only gave me away but signed the licence.
You can imagine the kind of tears I was shedding all day. To cap it all, my mom, (who is a fashionista), hugged me and said my gown was beautiful. Wow! God dazed me with surprises. This is just a summary as I cannot narrate it all.
Suffice it to say, God has kept all his promises. When we got married, my husband did not own a car, property, or have the best of jobs. Today, 5 years later, God has given us cars, property, businesses, jobs, 3 children, and all round comfort. We have enjoyed good health. Above all, our parents are in best of terms, with us and even with each other. I remember my father in law calling my mom on her birthday, before he went to be with the lord. There is no friction whatsoever. That’s the God we serve.
I leave you with my mantra.
God bless you.
This piece was first published here on Dr N's blog here in 2014., and Cassie drew my attention to it recently. Many thanks to Dr N for letting me re-publish!. If you've got an Inter-Ethnic Love Story to share, please get in touch! Whether it ended good or bad, there's always a learning point to take from such stories, and as you can use, it can be totally anonymous. If you'll like to be interviewed instead (like the ones below), do contact me as well!