Rediate Tekeste’s parents are Ethiopian, although she grew up in Cedar Falls. She left Iowa and moved to Ethiopia to explore her family heritage and just perhaps, find herself. She did, and she also found Fitsum Alemayehu Fanta, the man who would be her husband.
“I never expected to get married in Ethiopia. When I realized how lucky I was to have family in both places, and how important it was for my husband to have family at the wedding, I agreed to have our wedding in Ethiopia,” she says.
Looking back, she’s glad she made that decision. Family and friends from the U.S. were able to attend and Fitsum’s family was part of their big day.
“For me it was really important. We saw the meaning and the value of our family and friends from near and far being with us on that day. We were able to see their happiness and their joy in our union,” says Fitsum.
Rediate wore two wedding dresses. In Ethiopia, wedding celebrations last all day and through the night, so it’s customary for brides and grooms to change their attire for the evening reception.
Accompanied by her mother, sister, aunt and cousin. the bride tried on 16 or 17 dresses in four different wedding Minnesota shops before finding her dress at the very last store at the end of a long day. “The dress was on display in the middle of the showroom and I loved it, but I didn’t think it was practical to carry to Ethiopia or to wear on a hot day,” she recalls.
But her sister Mahlet convinced her to try it on, and it made her feel beautiful. This was the dress, she thought. Knowing that there were several big events on her wedding day, her sister also found a second dress that fit perfectly and made her feel sophisticated. So she said “yes” to another dress.
Four bridesmaids wore short frocks in sunny yellow with purple open-toed heels, and groomsmen wore coordinating yellow bow ties. The groom wore a light tan tuxedo with dark trim and a crisp white shirt. The bride carried a bouquet of yellow and creamy white roses.
Throughout the wedding day, there were multiple ceremonies, receptions and traditions that were observed by the couple.
“The exchange of vows was the most meaningful part of the day for me. After all the wedding planning, it was awesome just to get to the part that the whole wedding is all about and have it happen,” Fitsum explains.
Rediate agrees. “Another part that I didn't know I would care so much about was the traditional ceremony where we thank those that had a part in raising us … the people that helped raise us sit in a line, and we go from person to person thanking them for the part they played in our lives. I was just a mess crying and hugging away.”
She also enjoyed watching Fitsum arrive. Traditionally, the man comes from his house and picks up the woman from her family's house. “When Fitsum arrived it was the first time that I saw him and for whatever reason, I felt like it was the first time I had EVER seen him. He was so cute, and I felt like a little kid with a big crush,” she says.
Fitsum enjoyed sharing the day with family and friends. “. I also enjoyed the dinner reception entrance line — the music, the family, the decorations, the weather, and our guests were so happy. It created such a great atmosphere for us all.”
The day was perfect, he says. “Every program went seamlessly.”
“I can't imagine any of it going any better. Even the things that went wrong are things we still laugh about today. We went into our wedding just expecting craziness and praying that we would have the grace to get through it, and we did,” Rediate explains.
The following are excerpts from Photographer Tim Dodd’s blog. He traveled to Ethiopia to shoot his high school friend Rediate’s wedding to Fitsum.
One of Dodd’s favorite Ethiopian wedding traditions is Tilosh: “ … Where the groomsmen go to the bride’s family’s house and offer them gifts. What once was a formal gesture, like dowry, now has become more of a fun tradition and a way to break the ice with the groom’s friends and family. The groomsmen present fancy garments, shoes and jewelry as gifts for Rediate. The family intensely questions them about each item, proclaiming “These aren’t good enough for my daughter!” or “And just what exactly would she use this for?” The nervous groomsmen ended up having a lot of fun once the celebration began.
“… While Rediate secretly looked onward from atop a balcony, Fitsum approached the front gate of the house. As is Ethiopian tradition, the family was there to block the groom and his party from entering. The groomsmen had to pay a fee and push their way through the family to get to Rediate. It’s really a beautiful gesture and was extremely emotional for Rediate. She watched as her groom pushed his way through the crowd looking like a prince, beaming with the passion of getting to his bride”
“Another one of my favorite moments was when the bride and groom kissed the knees of their families. It was an extremely emotional tradition, where the bride and groom show their gratitude for raising them. It’s one of those moments as a photographer where you realize how important your job is. It’s that “I can’t miss this shot” feeling that shoots through you as a beautiful scene unfolds. I have to be cold to the moment so as not to be wrapped up in the emotion and miss the shot.”
“Having to ‘compete’ with the video team, I learned if I wanted to get the shot, I was going to have to do things that would never be proper at a wedding in the United States. At one moment, I stood directly in front of the couple and shot the whole church in the background. Although extremely taboo in the United States, I was fighting for that spot before the team of video cameras blocked that view, too. It was a winner-takes-all event, so I had to play along. I surely didn’t fly halfway across the world to sit on the sidelines!”
The day after the wedding was a smaller get-together, a traditional celebration called Melse. “This is where everyone would be dressed up with traditional clothes and hair styles. It was a shocking and beautiful transformation! So after a restful nights sleep, we were right back at it, doing wedding number THREE in two days!”