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Published: August 12th 2008
(pictures will be posted later)
I thoroughly enjoyed our Russian ceremony and reception, although admittedly, preparing for it may not have always been bliss. The idea of a wedding is pretty much the same in any countries so I won't go on and on about first we did this, then we did that, next we did that...but instead I'll elaborate on a few of the peculiarities. The Bride:
First off, I must say my bride-to-be was really stunning. There's something so beautiful about a woman all beautified (to use her words), in a white dress, and flush with attention, but when it's your bride to be, I can now say from first hand experience it does set you back a step or two. Wedding Palaces:
In Russia you can be wed in a church or a palace of weddings. A palace of weddings is best described as a state sponsored non affiliated chapel. The Barnaul Wedding Palace was a renovated Soviet Era building with exterior blue cement walls and white columns with a curious balcony on the second level of the front of the building. We arrived in a black Passat station wagon which for a minute looked
like Hurst (Sean you would have liked it, ("very very nice") minus the decorations. Ole's (Maria's twin) friend, Vova, had decorated it in wedding frills that included pink ribbons, bows, a wedding license plates, the works... Once we arrived we were greeted by an onslaught of Maria's friends and family where I found myself hugging and shaking hands with all sort people I didn't know, but they treated my like family or an old friend. It was great. From there we signed some papers, showed our passports, and then all of a sudden from the corner of the room and old guy on a synthesizer is playing an organ version of the effervescent wedding song - DUH - Duh - duh.... We were escorted through a hall where her friends and family lined the walls standing. We were placed squarely in the middle of the room which was probably 50' X 50' and an authority of the state read us the traditional versus of, "Do you take...," but it was all in Russian and for all I know I had agreed to be her life long servant! Anyway, I said "Da," which means "Yes" in Russian. I didn't realize this
would happen, but right then and there a waltz started playing that Maria had picked out. It was a classic waltz, perhaps the one from the Nutcracker (not a good wedding song thought) and it had a variable tempo, which meant it was very difficult to dance to, but that's what they expected from us right then and there. So we turned out an impromptu 2 minute (long time for ballroom dance) waltz/Viennese waltz which was filled with natural turns, spin outs, and dips. I was surprised that it came out as naturally as it did and I think our guests were surprised as well. From there it was more congratulations, small talk, hand shaking and hugs. Her father was obviously moved and I'm happy he could share in the moment. Because of his health I was concerned he would not be able to make it. From there the balcony came in to play. We all gathered and took the first sips of many glasses of champagne combined with more congratulations, small talk, hand shaking, hugs and picture taking. You wouldn't know it from my recollection and I wouldn't admit it again, but I didn't say much and even had
to bite my lip a few times. A ratcheting up of moments like this help you realize that 'wedded' feeling that people almost annoyingly ask, "Do you feel married yet?" Reception:
The reception had a master of ceremonies that ran the show. The woman was a bit full of her self, but she did a great job. She bragged that she's won wedding competitions all over Russia, Austria, and Germany and was a bit insistent on her way even when Maria disagreed. Surprisingly she (master of ceremonies) got her way on almost everything and I could have probably learned something from her in that regard. I was sure of one thing after meeting her, and that was I wanted the most competitive wedding possible so as to beat any other weddings (hope you got the sarcasm). Bread wars:
There was a fun little competition set up where whoever took a the bigger bite out of bread would be ruling the house. I went first, but knew that I had to make an impression because once the competitive juices were flowing I was afraid Maria would go all out, and perhaps she might have a trick up her sleeve.
I had to win, and it's always easier to have the benevolent power and give it away than not have it and fight for it! It was a traditional round pie-like bread not a loaf. I anchored my jaw into the bottom and like a trash compactor compressed nearly half the loaf into my mouth. I couldn't talk for a few minutes, but I received an approving nod from many of the Russian men. Maria, you are in trouble. Ballerina's, singers, ballroom dancers, the works:
One thing I never saw in a wedding was ballerina's, ballroom dancers, and singing performances, but here you go right in front of us. It was highly entertaining. "GORKA!":
In America after being seated and preparing for your first meal it's typical to clang a way with the silverware and glasses, but in Russia you yell Gorka! Gorka! I was prepared and yelled back "Niet Paseaba!" That means "No thank you," as I jokingly let them know I knew the deal with Russian. Speech:
I gave a small speech, not in Russian, but with Maria translating: It went something like this: "Thank you everyone for coming and sharing this moment with
Wedding Pictures by Max
There is the first class wedding planner in the background
us. I'm very happy to be marrying Maria and I look forward to the rest of our lives. For this moment, I have prepared a song." *long pause* All the women gushed and were quite surprised to have this groom sing a song to his bride. I continued, "Relax, I'm joking, trust me you don't want me singing," and the roared with a healthy laugh. "I let everyone know that I want them to eat, drink, be happy, and tell Maria how beautiful she is tonight" Champagne and Vodka - Prost, Naustrovia, cheers:
As with most weddings, drinking played a major role and I was regularly faced with the choice of rudely turning down a toast or getting drunk. I did not want to be rude so I will need to reference pictures for a clearer take on the our Russian wedding. Pictures -
If there was one thing Maria and I both agreed on and wanted was good photographs, because they are the moments set in stone. The invitations, food, conversations, dancers, singers and the like will soon be forgotten. Maria was in charge of it and she had probably visited 7 or 8 different people to
see their portfolios. In Russia there is a very distinct style of wedding photos, which to be nice about is pretty darn cheesy (I will post examples). Maria eventually found Max, a younger guy who also agreed with her more modern, journalistic-like photos that we were looking for. Max and his cute girlfriend/assistant, Luba, really did a great job and we are really looking forward to the final product, which should be ready in a few months. Undoubtedly, it was Maria's favorite part of getting married.
I'll be posting pictures and video later, stay tuned...
Next stop is Moscow and then Munich.
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