Defying protests and poverty, Haitians get creative to wed in style

By Reuters Staff

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – As anti-government protesters in Haiti’s capital blocked principal roads and clashed with police last year, Stanley Joseph and Daphne Gerard used the city’s winding and potholed backroads to make it to church for their wedding, decked out in all their finery.

The bride had wondered if they should postpone their big day when it became clear a majority of their guests would not make it, due to the violent unrest that had gripped Port-au-Prince for months.

But they had spent a lot of money and time planning.

Joseph, 36, felt they could make it work, although that meant chartering a plane to bring Gerard’s parents up from the country’s south-east.

Such is Haiti, where couples often have to surmount seemingly endless obstacles, from unrest and hurricanes to power outages and, above all, poverty, to get wed.

But wed they do, and in style.

“We always have problems in Haiti. You can’t wait. You just have to get on and overcome them,” said Joseph, who wore a silver suit and lilac tie and boutonniere, matching the bridesmaids’ lilac dresses. “I was stressed but happy.”

Marriage is not as widespread in Haiti as in other Western countries, given the long-standing Creole tradition of ‘plasaj,’ an informal marital relationship that is common in rural areas but not legally recognized.

Yet marriage has greater prestige and is particularly favored by Haiti’s wealthier, cosmopolitan urbanites, according to Haitian sociologist Tamas Jean Pierre – not least because it is recognized abroad.

Protestant churchgoing communities also favor marriage, especially if a couple is expecting a child. Some religious schools will only accept pupils if their parents can provide a marriage certificate.

“Often the reverend himself puts pressure on the couple, saying it is the will of God, which you cannot disobey,” said Haitian ethnologist Isaac Ducléon. Continue reading