The Sunday News
Rutendo Nyeve, Sunday News Correspondent
WEDDINGS by nature are joyful occasions, they are replete with all the glitz and glamour, pomp and fanfare but military weddings are a class above the ordinary. They provide a slew of unique customs, specific dress codes that are often followed with detailed discipline, then there is etiquette to navigate all for the joy that is a microcosm of the happiness expected in the matrimonial home.
The month of April has for the past 40 years been memorable for Zimbabweans particularly in Bulawayo for two major events which are the Independence celebrations and the hosting of one of the biggest international exhibition shows the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair. Both of these major events have seen the military playing a pivotal role through different duties and responsibilities that include the exhibition of their different drills and tactics.
While measures put in place by government to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 saw these two major April events being suspended with the Independence Day celebrations held virtually, two military weddings were held in the City of Kings and Queens where the military personnel took the opportunity to showcase their drills and skills.
Wondering what to expect at a military wedding, this reporter was invited to both weddings. A day before the country celebrated its Independence, Private Artwell Nkomo from 1 Infantry Brigade tied the note with Ntombizile Ncube in Luveve. On 24 April, Corporal Abdul Chaibu of 11 Infantry Battalion and Corporal Loriencia Mavundu who is with the army band tied the knot at Glengarry gardens.
Like all nuptial ceremonies, military weddings are celebratory and meaningful events but with an added air of patriotism and a flair of discipline. The military wedding is meant to honour the couple’s union while emphasizing their dedication, loyalty and pride in the country.
The celebratory and meaningful event characterised by an air of patriotism has five unique aspects of a military wedding that distinguishes it from a civilian wedding include the officiating officer, swords/SKS bayonets, the bridal team, cake cutting and the ark guards.
Unlike a civilian wedding, a military wedding has an officiating officer and a guest of honour. The officiating officer acts as the eye of the army and represents the army commander as he gives feedback to the higher authorities. All things normal, a military wedding must be attended by all ranks thus the officiating officer bridges that gap.
Swords or SKS bayonets are one of the key significant features in a military wedding. Commissioned officers use swords while noncommissioned officers use bayonets. These signify the weapon the soldier will use for the rest of his/her life.
These are used to form ark guards that protect the couple in every activity as they are believed to be an asset of the country. When they enter the venue of the ceremony, they walk under the ark of arms as a way of safeguarding them and their marriage and telling them to guard jealously their wedding. The ark guards are also the bridal team of the day and escort the couple’s cars as they march from their homes to the wedding venue.
One of the significant activities of the day is the cake cutting. The cake is guarded and the wife has to clean the bayonet several times until the best man is satisfied that it is clean. This signifies that a soldier is always smart therefore the incoming wife (if she is not a soldier) must uphold the standards.
At the end of the ceremony, the aunts and wife then contribute money as a form of appreciation towards the bridal team which will be mounted by 13 military personnel and a Guard Commander. One Chaplain Luphahla stationed at 1 Infantry Brigade who also wedded in a military style on 19 August 2019 described the experience as amazing as it revealed the other side of the army which many people in our communities where not aware of.
“I personally wedded in a military style on 19 August 2019 and the experience was amazing. The military wedding was introduced to close the gap in fact to make the army complete so to say, seeing we have chaplains of our own, so instead of our own members going outside to seek marriage help we do it inside and the member is free to choose any venue of their choice.
“When I wedded, I received the full support and coverage of the army. This included the army band, bus to ferry my relatives, food for the event, waiters, caterers, fuel, amongst other necessities. In other words, it’s a full support when resources permit. You are also given an officiating officer of your choice,” he said.