US missionaries tie the knot in a colourful Pokot wedding

Tonny Estes and Teresa June during their wedding at Chepungus village, on July 20, 2019. Inset: Teresa gets milk poured on her face to bless her wedding. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
The mid-day sun baked the bare grounds at Chepungus village in Tiaty Sub-County in Baringo.

But in total defiance of the heat, wedding songs rent the air as Pokot women danced and young men sat in groups, once in a while breaking into laughter.

Teresa June, the bride, patiently waited, with a traditional milk guard strapped to her back, a green shawl for a veil.

Her gown, was exceptional-a beaded dress made out of skin goat.

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The groom, Tony Estes, patiently waited for directions on how to finally say ‘I do.’

He wore a red and black Pokot shuka, held in place with a traditional beaded belt with Kenyan flag colours. In his hand was a walking stick and like his bride, he wore sandals curved out of old tires.

The couple stole smiles at each other.

Metres away, food simmered in large cooking pots. A camel had been slaughtered to celebrate the community’s ‘daughter’s’ wedding.

The aroma wafted through the air, tantalising palates of the already hungry Pokot men and women.

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“I am getting married to the love of my life, here at home. I am an adopted daughter to one of the families here and my brothers and sisters are here to witness my big day,” says Teresa.

It is a love story that traversed continents; one brewed in a pot of Pokot culture.

Teresa came to Kenya nine years ago, settling in Chepungus village in Paka.

She was a missionary and fell in love with the Pokot culture. Her love for the culture saw her get ‘adopted’ by Peter Loyamuriak and his wife, Chepurai.

And when love came knocking and Teresa said ‘I do’ to her long-time boyfriend Tony Estes from the United States, she knew exactly where and how she wanted her wedding: the Pokot way.

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“I instantly fell in love with Pokot culture when I first arrived here. Almost ten years later, I wanted to get married under this beautiful culture as their daughter,” she said.

“When I came here, we blended so well. Those days, there were no roads and health facilities but in a way, I helped them. I became part of them. They are my family and I am greatly honored by their warm welcome,” Teresa said.

Tony, a fellow missionary who arrived among the Pokot in 2010, came to be regarded as one of the community’s foremost sons. 

On her big day, her Kenyan ‘mother’ Chepurai, prepared Teresa for her wedding. Her gown, skillfully sewed with love from goat skin adorned with beards.

The two lovers jetted into the country last week to exchange their marriage vows at Chepungus village, Tiaty Sub-county last weekend.

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Just like ordinary traditional weddings  under Pokot culture, the bridegroom paid dowry and other special gifts to the family and relatives before he was allowed to take his wife home.

“Tony had to pay dowry to my mama and papa and also bought gifts. He paid dowry in form of cash and also bought a camel and other gifts to my family and relatives here,” said Teresa.

Earlier, Tony had sat with the elders to negotiate  dowry. As he did this, Teresa was being dressed up in traditional Pokot wedding regalia inside a small hut and receiving crucial tips on how to be a good wife.

After the dowry was agreed upon, Tony was ushered to a cow shed to receive his wife, a ceremony which saw the bride’s parents pour milk on the couple’s faces as a sign of blessings.

To seal the wedding , the women strapped a guard full of milk on Teresa’s back as she was led away to her husband.

As per customs, the love birds were then escorted to Tony’s hut followed by singing and dancing villagers.

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PokotTony EstesPokot cultureTeresa June