Monday, 13 September 2010

A Bolivian Wedding

Just over a week ago we got to experience a truly cultural experience as we were invited to celebrate in the festivities of the wedding of one of our work colleagues.

The service was due to start at 12.30, and we were ensured by the bride to be that it would certainly be no later than 10 minutes late in starting, so we arrived promptly at 12:30 and waited, and waited and waited. It was good to have Alana with us who kept both ourselves and our friends entertained with balls of plasticine.

About 3 quarters of an hour later something began to happen, those leading the service took up their positions at the front and began announcing the arrival of various members of the wedding party, from the minister, God parents, parents, ring bearer, flower girls and finally the groom followed by the arrival of the bride. To our westernised mindsets, it all seemed a little disorganized with members of the announced party not having arrived on time or the reluctance of some of the little ones to come forward, with bits of music fading in and out between entrances.

The service itself once it got underway was not quite as we are used to with no singing but lots of talking and many prayers and words of encouragement from various different people. At the end of the service the wedding party formed a line and all the guests were invited to pass along the line to greet people and offer words of encouragement and congratulations.

From the church we moved onto the reception venue, and were very surprised to see not just one wedding cake or even 2 or 3 but in fact a total of 15 wedding cakes, all delicately layered with cream, with an intricate pattern painted around the edges. Before the bridal party arrived Alana decided to take a closer inspection of the cakes and to our utmost embarrassment decided to try them out!

Once settled at the reception our waiting continued as more guests begin to slowly trickle in. Time was ticking by and getting onto 4 o’clock before there were any signs of the bridal party arriving, by which time we were all beginning to feel a little hungry. Once again Alana did very well with keeping our table entertained by giving out crayons and getting everybody to draw pictures in her book. Eventually the wedding party did arrive and we were launched into another mini service as the legal part of the wedding was carried out with the registrar, and more photos.

Then it arrived... the food or at least a large platter filled with crisps, we all hurriedly made space on the table for it only to quickly discover that we were actually only to take a few for ourselves before it was taken to the next table, but at least the hunger pangs were stayed for a little while longer until the real food arrived. It wasn't quite what we were expecting but was greatly received all the same - a pork sandwich for everyone!

After the food was finished we waited expectantly for the next installment of what was going to happen next, which was a parade of all the gifts where everybody lined up in order to present their gifts to the married couple, which included a dresser, dining room table and chairs, and pining money to their clothing! Once free of their gift each person was then presented with a fizzy orange drink and a small plate of pastries.

At this point in the celebrations, 5pm, most the folks we knew were saying their goodbyes so we took the opportunity to also make our exit, particularly as Alana was beginning to get a bit boisterous with some of the furniture. We had been told that the whole thing was due to finish around 10 in the evening, so the events of the next 5 hours remain a mystery to us along with who got to eat all of those 15 cakes!

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