There’s Nothing Quite Like A Karoo Wedding

The excitement of a Karoo wedding day is electric. The ‘jolly host’ troops out to welcome each arrival, each new horse or cart, explains BA in the December, 1859, issue of The Cape Monthly Magazine. “All young men are ushered to an outbuilding to spruce up. (Damsels do this indoors). The lads are given a basin, a jug of water, and a solitary comb, which they all share.  Each looks extremely satisfied as he completes his toilet and allows another to step up to the basin, towel and fractured mirror. At last each  man finishes arranging his hair by the simple process of spitting on his palms and smoothing down the fretful bristles into fashionable sleekness.  Then the young swains gather in little groups. Then, after the parson has done his bit, everyone moves to a large woolshed or barn to feast on venison, poultry, mutton and peacock, “an unequalled delicacy of the Karoo.”  The air is filled with convivial speeches.  Looking around it becomes apparent how many guests have made an attentive study of the fashion pages of the Illustrated London News. The first squeak of a violin has an electric effect. Chairs and tables are swept away while amateur fiddlers tune up like fifty stomach aches. Karoo lads, despite their heavy boots are extremely agile. They rush to partner solid sylphs and nymphs of impressive girth, but it soon becomes apparent that Karoo damsels are both light of heart and heel. Most are equal to tapping out the intricate steps of each dance. Older, more staid men puff rhythmically at their pipes talking of wool, weather and market prices. While mothers speak their eyes never leave the dancers, all the while checking that their daughter’s honour is in no way besmirched and constantly scouting out suitable sons-in-law.”  BA and friends enjoyed the wedding.  They left at four in the morning.  On the way home their cart overturned and slid down an embankment. Sunrise found them all with unaccountable splitting headaches. “We felt these were caused when the horse lost his footing and the cart landed on top of us!” he writes.

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