This past weekend I had another Chilean first--a wedding. There were many similarities with American weddings, but also some very interesting differences!
The wedding was at a beautiful old building, made of stone with a pretty courtyard outside with stone pathways leading around. It was a warm and sunny day. The setting was absolutely perfect. When I got dressed in the morning, I looked for a light, colorful outfit that would be befitting for a spring afternoon wedding. However, a large number of the guests wore all black! Had it been an evening wedding (which apparently most of them are here) there would have been even more black dresses. Very interesting.
The wedding was supposed to start at 12, and the ceremony area was still getting finishing touches at 12:30. The wedding didn't start until 12:45 because the bride wasn't there yet. No one was concerned that she wasn't coming or that she had cold feet, but rather, it was accepted as perfectly natural. We're in Chile, and punctuality is really more of a suggestion here than an expectation.
The ceremony was pretty typical. Although two large differences stick out in my mind. One was a part of the ceremony and one wasn't. There were two cords on a table up front. The bride held one end of a cord, and her parents held the other. The groom came and cut the cord in half. Then they did it again with the bride cutting the cord the groom was holding. Then the two halves that the couple had in their hands were tied together by the pastor. So, really, they did tie the knot. :o)
The other difference during the ceremony really made me laugh. There was a photographer and a friend taking video roaming around the front throughout the ceremony. As were about 4 other people trying to get pictures of their own. They walked to one side, they walked to another. They walked behind the canopy, they stood in front of the audience (although mostly off to the side). They weren't embarrassed or awkward one bit. There are less social restrictions on things like that here. But it was quite entertaining for me! :o)
At the end of the ceremony, we threw rice as they walked down the aisle (yes, actual rice), and they got in a car and drove off. They took some pictures at a pretty spot downtown and then went to a restaurant where they had one of their first dates. Awwww! While they did this, we cleared the chairs away and roamed around the courtyard, eating appetizers and talking. At this point I managed to get powdered sugar all over my black pants. Nice.
Finally they returned and we went inside for the reception. We all sat down to eat, and the food was really good, but for some reason it was all I could do to eat even half of it. During the meal, though, I think I laughed the hardest I've laughed since I got here. I almost choked on my food. One of my friends, Cristian, had dropped a little bit of dressing on his sleeve. So what did he do? He got the salt shaker and dumped salt all over it. I have seen this a few times since coming to Chile. Apparently if something is oily, they pour salt on it to absorb the oil. It seemed to work, because about 10 minutes later he showed me his sleeve, and there was a small pile of salt stuck to the stain, drawing out the oil. A few minutes later, I look over at him because he's staring intently down the front of this shirt. He had a huge splatter of dressing all over his shirt and tie. When he realized we all noticed, he got a little embarrassed; however, since he is a hilarious guy, he made the best out of it and turned it into a very funny moment. He took the salt shaker and started dousing himself in salt. Then he pretended he was taking a shower in salt. Then he took his fork and knife and acted as if he was going to eat his tie, now that it was well seasoned. And of course, the salt that had collected in his shirt pocket provided many more joke opportunities throughout the reception. I was laughing so much. I really think he had more salt on his clothes than on his food!
When the bouquet tossing time came, they made me join in. I was trying hard to avoid it, since I'm not a fan of the tradition, but it was unavoidable. After making several jokes about catching it from my seat (since the toss was happening right next to my table), I stood up. It was then that I realized that I'm tall. Ok, well, I've known that for quite some time, but it was impressed upon me again when I saw the tops of EVERY girl's head. I was about a head taller than all of them. Did this give me an advantage? Not really, because I was near the back and didn't try to fight for it. Oh, well! Later, when it came time to toss the garter, I was walking back to my seat just as he threw it. I was thinking it may be dangerous to be so close to the crowd of men, but figured I could survive. Well, just as I approached my chair, the garter hit my arm and fell at my feet. I almost was trampled by the mob of guys! (Ok, well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I did have to back up quickly!)
Another interesting moment in the reception was a little auction they held. I don't know if this is typical at a Chilean wedding, but it was an interesting idea. They auctioned off all the centerpieces and gave the money to the couple. It was fun and a nice gift for the bride and groom!
The last thing that stood out to me was the most awkward moment of the day for me. During the reception, it's customary for different groups of people to take pictures with the bride and groom. This is all directed by the MC. It started with family, then friends, and so on. I was sitting WAY back in the corner, and glad to be since I didn't know the couple very well (in fact, I had just met the groom that morning!). The MC (who is a pastor at our church, Yentzen, and a ham if I ever saw one) called the people I was sitting with to go up. Then he called me too. I tried to pretend I didn't understand, but they made me go up. Then I thought I was going to be in the picture with my friends, but no. He directed me to wait. I kept trying to sneak away, and the people around me kept pushing me to the front. It was impossible for me to hide. I don't really blend in here. :o) So finally it's my turn to get in the picture, and guess what? It was just me! No big groups like the others....just me. I tried to go over to bride's side, since at least I know her a little, but I wasn't allowed. The groom held out his arm and trapped my hand to his side in a vise-like grip. I really couldn't have escaped if I wanted to. Ok, so really, it wasn't that embarrassing, but it was a little awkward. But once I was informed that it's not unusual for the couple to take pictures with people they don't really know, I felt just fine about the whole thing. :o)
After I left the wedding, I was walking to the car and a stray dog (well, I think he was stray...there are a lot of them here) jumped up and put is front paws on my stomach. Seriously, he came out of no where! I kept trying to throw him off, and he kept jumping back. I grabbed his front legs and tried to drop them back to the ground. I did this several times. One time, he stayed on his hind legs and stumbled toward me with his paws still in the air! It was quite comical! Luckily he wasn't really dirty or rabid or anything. He didn't try to lick or bite. Guess he just wanted to dance! :o)
Well, this post has turned out longer than I expected. But hopefully it gave an entertaining description of my Chilean wedding experience...and not a boring one! :o)
It was a great day, and I was able to practice a lot of Spanish. I'm still painfully deficient, but I can see a huge improvement in the last few weeks. I even translated a few sentences for a visiting American! Please continue to pray for me in that, since it's my biggest hindrance right now.
School is going well. I just finished the first quarter, and when I wasn't at the wedding, spent the rest of the weekend doing grades. I'm glad to be done that! No one is failing my class (thank goodness!) and for the most part the kids seem to enjoy it (or at least tolerate it). :o) Please pray that I will find a relatively kind way to keep them quiet, as they've become more talkative in the last few weeks.
Oh, and one last thing. Please pray that God will give me restful nights, because I have not slept well the last week or so.
And, as usual, pray that I will be used for His glory in the lives of the kids that I have the pleasure of seeing every day! I really do love them all!