Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cultural Tidbits from a Latin Wedding

Last night I attended my first non-American wedding. We received the invitation a few weeks ago from the bride who works at our local grocery store, and attends the same church as us. The bride's four names were listed as being the woman who would marry her fiance, who only had 3 names listed. Whew.

I called a family we know to see if they could baby-sit Renae as I didn't know what kind of wedding this would be. Would it be ultra formal like Spanish weddings? Or would it be like a middle class American wedding where kids are invited? I decided going with just Jesse sounded like the best idea.

Saturday morning rolled around and Renae woke up with a fever. Darn it. That meant one of us would be going to the wedding. Alone. We had already missed another Latin wedding at the same church and were grilled with questions as to why we didn't come. Oops. Jesse stayed home with our sick little girl while I dressed up, and headed out to the wedding. We had no idea what was expected for a gift (there are no Target's here to register at) so Jesse sent me with money, and a blank card to write in.

I arrived about 10 minutes late which I assumed would be ok since the bride is from Ecuador, and the groom is from Colombia. I guess since the pastor running the show is Spanish, the wedding started at 6:00 p.m punto. Oops again.

I was pleased to find that I'd dressed appropriately. Some people had more formal attire than one would wear to an American wedding, but most were in nice dresses if they were women, or collared shirts and ties or suits for men. The bride and groom sat at the front on a decorative bench for most of the time. I was sitting near the back so I was able to observe the many poeple who came in late after me. I guess the Latin Americans who came late were assuming the wedding would start late too. So I was half right, right?

The ceremony lasted longer than I had expected. The pastor talked for a LONG time. During this time I tried to focus on understanding what he was saying, but I was slightly distracted by the Spanish man who came in mid-way to drop off some clothes for the churches clothing distribution. He walked to the middle aisle to see what was going on. When he discovered a wedding taking place, he went to tell his wife who tried to get him to leave. The man felt the need to talk to someone about his "sizable annonymous donation" (Return to Me anyone?) so he chose me. Talking with the older Spanish generation is usually difficult, but when another man is speaking in Spanish in a microphone at the same time it gets even trickier. I realized he just wanted to tell me that he was leaving a bunch of stuff for their clothing distribution, he was leaving a LOT, and he had talked with a woman named Edith, and when would this wedding be over? Meanwhile, his wife was in the background trying to get him to stop talking! I think I communicated to him that I would make sure the donation made it into the right hands. (Who knew I'd sat in the wedding coordinators seat?)

Perhaps the funniest part of the wedding was towards the end, during the vows. You know how Asians have the sterotype of being camera crazy? I think we need to reassign that sterotype to Latin Americans. Oh. My. Word. At one point I think I counted 10-12 different people standing up all over the room (some on stage, some right next to the pair) taking thousands of pictures. One guy even had his video camera AND his camera going at the same time. And he was seated in the very back. Darn it-why didn't I take MY camera? I could have at least taken a picture of the camera crazies.

(P.S. The vows were fun to hear as the bride had to say, "I, Maria-Jose Guitierez Lopez Santiago de la Montaña . . . ." I made that name up. You get the point.)

The reception took place in the basement of the church. People had brought different appetizer type things and everyone just kind of jumped in the circular buffet with plastic plates to get what they wanted. Soon after, the dance begun. This is when it got fun. First of all, at times it felt like Junior High dances all over again. I was dateless so I sat on a chair by the wall and hoped no one would come ask me to dance out of pity. Second, did I mention that the room was full of Latin Americans?? There were Columbians, Peruvians, Dominicans, Brazilians, Ecuadorians and a few Spaniards too. It was a wee bit intimidating to even try and dance merengue when everyone in the room was born shaking their hips in perfect rhythm. Yes, there was a congo line. Somehow it seemed cooler since everyone was not a white American trying to dance like a Latino.

I was eventually asked to dance by a kind middle age man from Ecuador. Usually when you dance with your uncles at weddings you feel cooler because of course you can dance better than them. But, like I said. I was the white girl surrounded by a bunch of Latinos. They ALL danced better than me. Even the kids.

It was a fun night and I'm glad I went even though I felt slightly out of place most of the night. And by the way, I discovered that the way they do gifts is a plate is passed around and people just put money in it. I'm so glad I didn't arrive with a toaster!

1 comment:

kpjordan said...

You're so funny! I love your ending. Sorry you had to go alone (I don't like attending weddings by myself), but sounds like it was fun for you.