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Published: January 10th 2009
A Colombian Wedding
Wearing masks, hats, and gigantic smiles, we spill over the floor, dancing Barranquilla’s carnival style in celebration of Aurelio and Zuzanna’s wedding.
For the second time this year I find myself invited to share the joy of two people celebrating the decision to share their lives. And again it is in a country I have never been to before. What can I expect from a ‘Colombian Wedding’?
Moka is one of the best men and has hired a handsome suit, and to ensure I look the part my day starts at the beauty salon. Would you believe that I have made it through 30 years without a manicure or pedicure? It’s true, so when my nails were cleaned, buffed, shined, moisturised and painted with four coats of polish I was quite shocked. For only a few British pounds I can see why it is not uncommon to come every few weeks. So with my nails AND hair done I shimmy into my new dress and we head out of the house by 10am.
Arriving at the groom’s house to see people wandering around in towels was a little bit disconcerting, but part of the
‘Latin timing’, I am beginning to get used to. Moka drove Aurelio and his Mum to the church as tradition dictates. We arrive at about half eleven, half an hour before the ceremony is due to start. After an hour the bride arrives. Admittedly though she had been in the car for twenty minutes waiting for guests to arrive. During this time I pretended to have a superb grasp on Spanish and understand everything that people are saying to me. A smile and a few simple responses can go a long way apparently.
The service is conducted in Spanish and Moka and Aurilio take turns at translating for Zuzanna. (She and Aurelio live in Michigan and speak English with each other, Zuzanna moved there from Poland when she was nine.) Looking pure and angelic in her dress, she has a glitzy trim across the corset style bodice adding character to a classic design. The exchange of rings with their sincere and heart-felt words of love makes me shed a tear or two. Although this is actually the second time however for the ‘crazy in love’ couple, as they had an impromptu civil service in Las Vegas six months ago
while on holiday. Everyone wanders around to offer ‘the sign of peace’ and when the ceremony is finished we all congratulate the happy couple and wish them the best for the future.
Like myself, Zuzanna now has a ‘new Colombian Family’, and it is not small. After photos outside the church we walk up a small hill for the reception were we are greeted by a glass of juice and delectable biscuits. I get introduced to Aurilio and Moka’s school friends before going inside for lunch, where I have been kindly seated at the head table. The size of Aurilio’s family comes to life when looking around the room, I guess when your Mum and Dad have several brothers and sisters each it doesn’t take long for the numbers to rack up.
A few speeches and toasts are followed by a glass of champagne and the first waltz. We are then treated to a menu that is introduced by the chef and includes a shrimp cocktail in a pineapple! My salsa skills are minimal to say the least and I far too quickly find myself on the dance floor trying to hide in the crowd. Thankfully the whisky
was soon served and I found a bit of Dutch courage. Although I didn’t need it when the ‘Barranquilla Carnival’ began.
This is a festival held in the north of the country, where Shakira is from, that is held in February and is basically wild booty shaking fun. It is impossible to stay in your seat, and an instant way to make new friends. The music is very different to Salsa, which is danced in pairs. You dance in a big group, swap partners and create trains. The guys wore traditional hats form the region while the girls wore Venetian style masks. Everyone wore flower necklaces. There was also the very thoughtful touch of the red and white ribbon around the hats to represent Zuzanna’s Polish background.
Games were played with the single girls passing a flower around in a ‘pass the parcel’ manner, to see who would be the last one remaining, I believe Claudia, Aurelio's sister, won this. The boys then passed around a glass of Whisky, each taking a sip, when the glass was empty the man left holding it, had to remove the brides garter with his teeth. The fact that he was blind
folded made it much easier for Aurelio to pretend his leg was Zuzanna's.
The most lasting image I will keep from this magic day, is when I was standing in the car park, which is below the hill from the venue, watching Moka lead Zuzanna out the back door in the darkness while the party continued brightly in the background. They successfully sneaked away, as is often the tradition, and we whisked the glowing couple off to the best hotel in Bogotá. (What a present!) Before driving off into the sunset ourselves, we took a peek at their room, which was patiently laid with rose petals and had chocolate dipped strawberries with champagne on the table to greet them.
I later found out that the party had continued on and in true Latin style they were still in full swing when the caterers for the evening event came to set up.
In the words of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Cool kids don’t have the time.”
I would like to thank all of the Diaz family for welcoming me to share in this special occasion and inviting us along on the honeymoon with 15 others! Villa De Leyva was great fun.
And of course my biggest wishes for Aurelio and Zuzanne who I am sure will continue to be the affectionate and caring couple I met on Saturday the 20th of December 2008. xx
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