Marry me. A desert wedding without a groom


Thirty years ago I was married. Just me, a bunch of desert flowers and seven Anangu women dancing in our underwear in Central Australia.

I was painted with tribal markings and danced for hours until the ochre dirt became embedded in the creases of my heels.

It took weeks to wash out.

It was my wedding day. There was no groom, no confetti and no stress.

The music was the banging of sticks and the rhythmic singing and swaying of the Anangu.

Fit for a wedding feast: eating a witchety grub.


I hadn’t asked them to marry me. When they knocked on my door and mumbled “pitja” – come with us, I had thought we were going hunting for rabbits or lizards.

My boyfriend had travelled from London, to Alice Springs, flown to Uluru where I had picked him up from the dust strip airport and driven 100km in a rattly Landrover to my house. More a two-room worker’s hut really and known locally as The Dogbox.

He waited in The Dogbox while I was married to him. No one explained why this ceremony happened but I assumed it was because he would be staying with me, in my bed, and marrying us was a way of making that acceptable.

After hours of dancing I returned with a bunch of bush flowers in my hand. My boyfriend looked suitably shocked, not having attended his own wedding.

I smelt of the margarine the women used to rub the ochre markings from my body.

And I was smiling. I was young.

Yet it is only now I realise what an indelible memory that wedding has become. No photos, no thank you cards to write, just memories of pounding feet on the desert floor to marry me.




One Response to Marry me. A desert wedding without a groom

  1. By Susanna, October 4, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks Janet, I only just saw your comment. One day, I am sure we will catch up and talk, at length about the paths we took.

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