Wedding combines Liberian, American customs

September 05, 2001|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LIKE MANY brides and grooms the day before their wedding, Antoinette Tamba, 22, and Charles Waum, 36, admitted having a case of the jitters.

"I'm scared to death," said Waum.

It wasn't that they were unsure of their decision to marry. Waum and Tamba have lived together in Columbia since 1998 and have a 2-year-old daughter, Macarl. The source of their nervousness was their elaborate wedding plans, including more than 500 invited guests.

Originally from Liberia, the pair had planned a ceremony and reception incorporating traditions from their native country with American conventions.

"I'm trying to stay close to what my forefathers would do," Waum said. That meant ordering the couple's rings and traditional clothing for the 22 members of the wedding party from Africa, paying a dowry, purchasing a cow and preparing a Liberian-style wedding feast for hundreds of guests.

Waum came to the United States in 1993 and is employed by Nordstrom. Tamba arrived in the United States in 1997 and is studying for her General Educational Development diploma at Howard Community College. The couple live in Owen Brown village.

Weeks before the ceremony could take place, Waum honored one of his country's customs by paying Tamba's mother, Siah Johnson, a $150 dowry. He traveled to North Carolina to buy a cow to be butchered for the wedding feast. In Africa, Waum said, it is traditional to kill a cow for a wedding.

"This is the wedding of the century. People want to come to see the clothing and the rings and experience the culture of our country," he said.

The 10 bridesmaids wore hot-pink skirts and blouses embroidered with cream-colored thread. They wore pink head wraps, called boubous.

The 10 groomsmen wore gray four-piece ensembles of pants and a long-sleeved shirt covered by a gown called an abada and a matching hat. All four pieces were embroidered in silver thread.

The bride and groom wore clothing similar to that of the rest of the bridal party, but in white with a gold embroidered design. Tamba's veil was attached to a gold embroidered headpiece cut to resemble a crown.

"It is also traditional to wear white for a first marriage in Liberia," Waum said.

The wedding was Saturday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Laurel. Two limousines ferried the wedding party to the Washington Monument, where pictures were taken to send to relatives in Liberia who couldn't attend the ceremony.

The limo driver got lost, delaying the couple's arrival at the reception, held at The Other Barn in Oakland Mills, until 9:30 p.m. Family and friends prepared the food, which included soup, rice dishes, cassava leaves, baked fish, meatballs, fresh fruit and rice bread.

"Wedding cake is not traditional in Liberia, so not many of our guests ate it," Waum said of the six-tiered pink-and-white confection.

After the meal, guests performed traditional Liberian dances for the bride and groom until after 1 a.m. The newlyweds plan to visit relatives in Rhode Island, Philadelphia and Massachusetts during their honeymoon.

New coach

Mary Andrea Stretmater is the new women's basketball coach at Howard Community College. A graduate of Atholton High School, Stretmater played volleyball, basketball and softball while attending HCC.

A resident of Ellicott City, Stretmater shares the first name Mary with eight of her 11 siblings. She is a manager with Produce Galore in Wilde Lake village.

Wilde babies

Many first-time parents find it helpful to share tips with other parents. Wilde Lake Community Association will sponsor a support group for new parents, "Just Baby and Me," from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays, beginning next week.

This group is for Wilde Lake residents only. A $1 donation is requested.

Information: 410-730-3987.

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