Staying in the resort was a couple from Japan, they were on their honeymoon and had asked if it was possible to go through a local wedding ceremony, and the resort obliged. The resort had done nothing like this before. They invited the entire guest list to the ceremony pool side at approximately two in the afternoon. After our return from the Skull caves and the waterfall there was time for a quick lunch before the proceeding started. The first question the girls asked is “what do you wear”, the answer came back firmly, whatever you like come as you are. That’s okay but I was dress in a singlet and boardies, we decided this was probably okay after all it is pool side.
The Tawali Resort is on a ridge overlooking the Solomon Sea. To get to the pool side wedding, there is a couple hundred yards downhill walk through a maze of raised walkways and stairs amongst the jungle and other accommodation. The circular walk way branches down to a flat area that has a swimming pool, gardens, bar and the dive shop and a second wharf area.
We didn’t know what to expect, after all none of us had ever seen or been to this district before much less a traditional PNG wedding. We gathered slowly by the pool, the pool entrance that now had a jungle wedding pergola, built with bamboo poles, a thatched roof, and green leafage hanging down decorated with white and red frangipanis and hibiscus flowers. On the floor is a woven flax mat, on that was a smaller mat with a brown fringed edge and on that was a large rock of some kind, the place was just waiting for a wedding to happen and so were we.
Every member of the group of invited guests are complete strangers to marrying couple. We gathered around at two O’clock and waited. We didn’t know what for, or to be honest when. We waited, and waited, and twenty minutes later a camera man in khaki shorts, a white shirt and a green pork pie hat, came down and set up JVC handicam on a tripod, with his movie camera facing the sea close to the walkway. Curious, we went to look at what he was filming.
There was an outrigger canoe powered by two young lads in traditional dress. Two kneeling local ladies between the paddlers, also in traditional dress, Held a mat over a crouching figure in the canoe. Decorated with streamers of some tassel style leafage, possibly old ripped palm leaves and painted with black strips separated by a pair of vertical white dots, the canoe was in a holding pattern, they too looked like they were waiting for a wedding to happen.
Where is the groom? We were all getting a bit restless, is it time for another beer, should someone make a wine run and ensure the girls don’t go thirsty. Then came the spear wielding warriors in tribal dress, beating a white plastic down pipe drum and escorting four young ladies who in turn were surrounding the lucky groom.
The groom has a beautiful white and red feathered headdress on this appears to have a frame that look like sand crab legs, that blend perfectly into the colour scheme, his face has some small paintings on it, around his neck is a large brown and white shell bead necklace and over his shoulder is an almost crochet like, shell shawl. This piece of garb is stunning, his loin cloth is a brown and white woven material, with a garnish of leaf hanging from his waist band, and he has wrist and calf adornment and is wearing a pair of white spats! He is having a ball, I can tell, I wondered if white spats was a Tawali tradition or just added as a Japanese extra?
The drums keep the beat as the warriors, dance and whoop around us, rushing forward and then retreating as they push their spears in our direction. This spectacle is leading the groom to his beloved bride, who is now at a beach about 100 yards away from where we saw her awaiting his arrival in the wedding canoe. It is exactly 2:30pm, what timing, the Japanese would have been very proud of the exactness of these arrangements.
The bride is under the cover of a woven flax mat, remember? She lands, with her hand maidens keeping the covering in place as her husband to be arrive with his four virgins and a troop of spunky warriors. The hand maidens, who ensure her future husband does not see her, escort her up the beach. There is much joy as the warriors whoop and bang their drums and keep the throng back by poking their spears at us and the soon to be wife of their charge gets closer to that magic moment where she is handed over from her hand maidens to his escort of virgins. (Probably not actual virgins but it’s good for the story)
The veil is down, the groom is handed his new bride by the hand maidens, and the warriors escort her to the wedding pergola following in his footsteps, with his ladies still his escort. They are positioned on the mat by and elder who leads a ceremony that consists of chants and the exchange of tokens. The ceremony is over.
The happy couple emerges from the wedding pergola side by side, flanked either side by spear welding warriors, maidens and guys banging the plastic pipe drums and head back to the bridle outrigger to head off for traditional wedding photos. They make a stunning site both in the wedding outrigger on the calm bay in a village on the Solomon Sea, this shot is taken many times before they head back to the resort by canoe. Wedding party of warriors and maidens are now fair game for wedding photos for us guests. Various members of the watching gallery line up to have their photos taken with face painted bare chested men and women.
What a day, time to sit by the pool and sink a few bottles beer and wine and enjoy the glow of what has been a very fantastic day.