For better and for worse

January 11, 1995|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer

Comfort A. Anyangwe of Silver Spring thought she would have the wedding of the year when she married Ericsyrol "Eric" Anyangwe in their native Cameroon on New Year's Day 1994.

She spent much of 1993 buying color-coordinated synthetic flowers and table settings. And she arranged to have the goods shipped from Maryland to Cameroon -- along with enough champagne, butter cookies and other food for more than 1,000 guests.

But the wedding turned into a fiasco, Mrs. Anyangwe, 28, claimed in a federal lawsuit. The 1,280-cubic-foot shipping container that held her wedding decorations and food was sent to neighboring Nigeria instead of Cameroon, she said in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

She is suing the export and shipping companies for $2.1 million for causing her "severe emotional trauma." Mrs. Anyangwe, the daughter of a former Camaroon politician, said she can't even watch a videotape of the makeshift ceremony.

The companies named in the suit dispute her charges.

The vice president of Silver Spring-based Export of International Appliances, which arranged the shipment, said his company is not responsible for the mix-up. "Our responsibility basically ceases once we deliver the crate to the shipside," said Bob Dhila.

Shipping schedules are not guaranteed anyway, Mr. Dhila said.

A claims manager with NedLloyd Lines North America, the Atlanta company that carried the crate from Baltimore to Africa, said a "delay clause" on the shipping documents relieves his company of any guaranteed delivery time.

The explanations ring hollow for Mrs. Anyangwe.

Mrs. Anyangwe, then a graduate student at Bowie State University, and her husband, a computer instructor at Strayer College in Washington, saved money for three years to finance the wedding. Mr. Anyangwe, 30, is the son of the chief of Cameroon's Oshie tribe.

She spent much of 1993 shopping for the decorations and food, she said, adding that shipping the goods was easier and cheaper than trying to locate all the items in Cameroon.

By October 1993, she was ready to have Export pack the container with the decorations, 13 drums of cooking oil, at least 12 cases of champagne, and enough popcorn, butter cookies, candy and tuna fish to feed the guests. Shipping the goods cost $4,200, she said.

But three days before the Saturday ceremony, Mrs. Anyangwe's mother-in-law told her that the shipping container was in Nigeria.

After ruling out a wedding cancellation, Mrs. Anyangwe, her in-laws, relatives and friends began a frenzied search, buying and borrowing goods for the reception.

"I didn't have any decorations," she said. "There were some women there who used some toilet roll to do flower decorations."

The wedding party's table was adorned with a borrowed white and purple tablecloth instead of the coordinated peach and white tablecloth Mrs. Anyangwe had shipped. Most of the guests' tables didn't have tablecloths; table settings were pieced together from paper plates, napkins and cups. And clusters of soda, beer and peanuts accented the tables, instead of the potpourri and balloon arrangements that were sitting in a crate in Nigeria.

"Nothing matched at that point," she said.

"The wedding went on, but to me it was a failure in my mind, because it didn't turn out to be what I wanted," she added. More than 500 people attended the wedding, according to the lawsuit.

News of the wedding that didn't arrive spread all over Bamenda, she said, adding that many people told her the wedding was fine. "I don't know if to believe them or not," she said. "They may be just trying to make me feel better."

But she has yet to be consoled.

"I hope I do get over it, because it was just my anniversary not too long ago, and all I did was cry because it reminded me of what I had to go through."

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