Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Weddings

A little over a year ago I visited Горно Дряново (Gorno Dryanovo) for the first time. I loved it and vowed to return. The volunteer living there told me I needed to come back for a wedding, and she promised to tell me when there would be such a wedding. As her departure date grew near and I still hadn’t heard anything, I resigned myself to the fact I wouldn’t witness a wedding in Gorno Dryanovo. Then, at the last hour, I was invited to a wedding. And not just any wedding. Her wedding!

So, in mid July, I returned to Gorno Dryanovo for a village wedding … sort of anyway. It was a staged "made for TV" and "made for the village babas" "wedding." No matter. The entire weekend was beyond brilliant. Prior to the "wedding," a group of us put the final touches on a map created as part of the World Map Project, opened a new sports’ center (and kicked some Bulgarian ass in soccer thanks to some favorable officiating), and celebrated the groom’s birthday. The entire time we enjoyed the company of the hospitable and gracious locals, and, ultimately, we joined the entire village in celebrating the "wedding" of two people who we’d all grown to love. It was the perfect end to two years of service together and perhaps the best weekend of my service in Bulgaria.

Even though I knew the village would be the perfect place for some amazing "wedding" photos, I left my camera at home and just enjoyed the festivities. Details of the "wedding" can be found here, but I think pictures tell the story as good or better than words.

This is one of my favorite shots of the happy couple (Photo by James Gholson).

The second wedding had no chance of comparing to the first, but it was fun, interesting, and a great thing to have been invited to. Since it was my first actual “Bulgarian” wedding, I did bring my camera along (but I hung out in the back far away from the action and behind a lot of other people). Here’s what transpired.

The bride and groom were separated. The bride and her friends got ready for the wedding in one place, and the groom and his friends “prepared” for the wedding in another place.

A little after 3:00 p.m., the groom and his entourage departed for an apartment where the bride was holed up.

Here are the groom's friends waiting for him to come out.

At 3:30, the groom's entourage arrived at the bride's apartment. The groom came with a bag full of coins which he would use to bribe his way into the apartment. Some of his friends had crowbars and other tools for breaking in the door just in case we were refused admittance.

The groom's entourage gathered outside of the bride's apartment.

People watching from above.

The pied piper leading everyone into the apartment.

After being admitted, the groom first had to find the bride and then he had to find her shoes. Not surprisingly, the shoes didn’t fit requiring the groom to make them fit by adding money to them. Once the shoes fit, the bride and groom kissed, and everyone had a drink or two to celebrate.

The bride was found and the shoes fit, so everyone could drink and be merry.

Then everyone left the apartment, and the wedding party went out into the courtyard and danced horo.

The triumphant bride emerged.

And then the dancing started.

Following a couple dances, it was off to a civil ceremony, which would make the wedding official.

The governmental hall was like a cattle call with one wedding after another. Great care was taken to make sure no two brides crossed paths, as such an encounter would bring bad luck to their marriages.

Waiting to enter the wedding hall.

Inside the hall.

A strange ritual where the bride and groom attempt to eat each other.

Exchanging vows.

They're married!

"Oh, well," the groom thinks, "Nothing I can do about it now."

The reception line.

Some of the many flowers, chocolates, and other gifts.

The newlyweds emerge.

After the civil ceremony, everyone piled into their cars and headed to the church so that the wedding could be recognized and blessed by the church.

An obligatory flower girl pose before heading off to the reception.

I wish both couples nothing but success and happiness and thank them for allowing me to be part of their most special days.

1 comment:

  1. This is a perfect example of a typical Bulgarian wedding. Looking at the pictures I had the impression it was our daughter's wedding- with the dancing in front of the apartment block, with all the neighbors looking through their windows or from their balconies, then the triumphant ride in the beautiful cars, the balloons, the horns blaring. However, what you have shown in pictures is, sort of, the prelude to the fun part of the wedding- the reception. Our son-in-law is American, we live here in the US and have been to quite a few weddings. They all pale in comparison with the fun at a Bulgarian reception. The first thing is that it lasts much longer from let's say 5 pm to at least midnight at the restaurant. There are special rituals there too, but the memorable part is the dancing and the amount of food and alcohol consumed!!