Preparing a wedding feast is a mammoth task, involving women from all branches of the extended family. As with an Aussie event, the men tend to do the heavy lifting; erecting tarps, unloading plastic chairs and building a temporary fence around the venue with coconut leaves and sticks. Then they squat under the shade for the rest of the day while the women chop and stir and stoke and wash. The average wedding has around 300 plus guests - that is, most of the village - and the food preparation begins at dawn on the big day. Rice, pig, goat and noodles are standard, with additional dishes added relative to the wealth of the family. I have a morbid fascination with the massive vestibules of boiled meat, and emit involuntary shrieks of horror when my lens hovers too close.
The groom's parents foot the bill for all food and water (the reception is alcohol free aside from the odd nip of sopi out the back), and family members are asked to make a donation toward the catering and "hire" of equipment. The pots, woks, plates and serving bowls are community owned and are stored at the chief's house in between events.
Hanging out the back with the ladies around an oversized pot of boiling rice is always a valued experience. I feel a sense of kinship that is absent in my Australian life where I don't even know the name of my neighbours. Over the years I have learned more insider snippets of custom, gossip and tradition, and my roving camera and meat avoidance is always welcome entertainment.