Friday, May 14, 2010


Wednesday, I only performed two wedding ceremonies. It was very slow at the county building. All areas of business were slow. Who knows why.

One of the weddings really stands out. When clerk D brought me the license, she said the bride was in a burqa. In order to check her picture ID, clerk D had to ask the bride to lift her veil or niqab. If they will not do that at the desk, the clerk will take them into the back for privacy.

I was a little stunned by the burqa (which I have since found out is called a sharshaf in her country, Yemen). You don't see that many in downtown Oakland. Nor have I seen the full covering as hers was. She was covered from head to toe. She had a very narrow slit at the eyes (be sure to click on niqab above, the picture to the right is her type of veil). Even her hands and arms were covered in gloves. Her burqa/sharshaf was a little different from some I have seen. Instead of being like a wrap, it had sleeves. The whole outfit was black except at the end of the sleeves where there were some delicate tassels and beautiful colorful embroidery.

She neither spoke nor understood English. The groom translated for her. He was nice to her. He held her hand in a nice way and not a controlling way. When I asked for consent , she nodded yes and said yes in English.

I always feel uncomfortable doing weddings if one of the couple speaks no English. I have to trust the translator really is translating. I have to trust the non English person really wants to be married. I try to read the body language of all the people in the room. Is this a forced marriage or just an arranged marriage? If I am really uncomfortable with a situation, I don't have to do the ceremony. I can stop the wedding. And I have done that once. Did I get it right this time? I think I did.

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