An African wedding actually begins when the groom (via the bride's family members - never directly) asks her father for her hand. Eventually, the OK is passed back down the chain and groom and father sit down to negotiate a "bride price" to be paid by the groom. Additional fines charged if the she is already pregnant!
Following the payment of the bride price, an optional church wedding & reception may occur after several months. Caroline, an MMED (3rd year IM resident -- out of 5!), and I attended this wedding reception of another classmate.
After the ceremony and pictures, the bridal party is introduced dancing into the reception tent. I fell in love with the Zambian pop song by Mampi, to which they are dancing.
The MC coordinates speeches, jokes, dancing, and the delivery of gifts. The gifts here are striking. There is no registry. You do not request "No boxed gifts." In fact, your large (bigger the better) household appliance is lugged to the wedding site, put on display for all to see, and then carried before the bride and groom while giving a speech and congratulating them. If you get 3 microwaves, too bad!
Caroline organized her co-residents to each pitch in $40 to purchase this washing machine and gas stove.
Children were out playing with the clown or bouncing in the "jumping castle."
The bridal party, in this wedding, changed their clothes to perform another funky dance to this popular Nigerian song. They went on to perform 3 total dances in between the distribution of the gifts/speeches. Simultaneously, plates of meat, rice, salad were delivered to each guest; there were probably 300. People moved freely in and out in any degree of formal or informal clothing. The whole affair is quite relaxed, except for the part where the MC pointed me out "Ladies and gentleman, we have an Indian here!" and later danced with me in front of the whole crowd!