Friday, October 8, 2010

The Best Ukrainian Wedding So Far: Part 2

The next day, or rather the same day, it went down. I woke up early, had breakfast with Cousin Arsen and Lesa that included more than a little vodka. I took it easy, as I knew it was going to be a very long day. Cousin Arsen went to play at a short thing at the bride's house in Verkhivtsi. He was back in just over an hour and we headed over to Ivas' house in neighboring Karashintsi.

You know, the whole family is made up of very jolly, good-natured people, but as I've noticed, when the wedding day comes around, everybody looks like they're being led to the gallows. I've decided that this is just their way. Anyhow, everything was in place and this is what went down:

The band got themselves organized. That's Cousin Arsen on the sax (that I gave him 8 years ago), Andri is on the drums (he morphs into a keyboard player later on) and I forgot the accordionist's name. That's also Cousin Arsen's son Volodya hanging out. OK, they say a few ceremonial things, then Ivas' Roman-in-law (his sister Marika's husband) pour champagne for everybody:

Then Ivas dances with his ma:

Afterwards, mom and dad (my Cousin Ivan) sprinkle Ivas with water and salt. They also get candy tossed at them:

They smash the plates with the water, salt and candy against the house (sorry, no action shots), then the bridesmaids line up on either side and they march after the cake, hefted by Roman-in-law:

This is what it says:

That's "to many years" in our lingo - not "too many years." And then the march begins with the band leading the way:

Here was the problem: Oksana lives way the hell over in Verkhivtsi, so it was impractical to march over there. So we just marched a little ways and then the cars came up behind us. Cousin Arsen and I rode with Cousin Andri in his Classic Orange Zhiguli (which is actually the same as a Lada, but the Soviets had two brands just to give the illusion that people had a choice) and off we went to Verkhivtsi.

When we arrived, the mock sale of the bride took place at the gate:

Ivas haggles over her price with various proxies. He keeps bringing out bottles of vodka from somebody's trunk, but it's not enough. He's got to put down some cash, too, which he does. They argue more. Further bottles of vodka are produced:

The negotiations become so heated that at one point I turn to my Cousin Vasily and say, "Uh oh, there's not gonna be a wedding. And I came all this way." That got a laugh from the crowd. Shortly after that, they concluded their business. Oksana was "sold" for 20 bottles of vodka and $120. They let us in and we all waited by the door for her to appear. And there she ıs! Those two are NOT bridesmaids; they're attendants. The real bridesmaids are with the groom.

They go out and kiss everybody and then as many people as possible pile into the house where they have a sort of farewell ceremony. There are songs and everything. The bride says goodbye to her father, friends and old life (kind of ironic because this is where the two of them are living, so she's not saying goodbye to anything). I gotta tell you, everybody was crying: men, women and children. I have no pıctures. I couldn't get a straight shot into the room, so I just listened to what was going on while people all around me were bawling their Slavic heads off.

Once that business was through, they lined up again with a second cake:

They get doused with water, salt and candy again, this time by dad and both grannies, plates get smashed (once again no action shots) and we're off. Incidentally, the second cake reads like so:

It says "to happiness, to the future." So with the band in the lead, we trudge through the mud towards the church. This is a Ukrainian village. The roads are dirt. When it rains, you get mud.

One of the things I failed to capture along what Cousin Arsen calls "the death march" is that when the couple encounters anyone along the way, they have to stop, bow and throw them candy. This happened at least three dozen times, yet I failed get a shot. Oh well!

Meanwhile, the geese were indifferent to the festivities:

The ducks were, too:

Ducks and geese being ındifferent. There you have it. Anyhow, Ivas and Oksana stopped at a chapel along the way. That's another rule: you have to stop at all chapels along the way.

From there, it was a quick scramble up the hill to the church:

No, not this church. It's not finished yet. It was at this tiny one off to the side:

The paint is peeling and it's about the size of a tool shed, but it's pretty bling inside. They had these grape-shaped lights that responded to sound. There was something very casino-like about it. I kept expecting a sign to flash on that read: THE LOOSEST SLOTS IN TOWN!! Anyhow, the priest and choir greet the couple at the door. The service is almost completely sung. It's quite beautiful when everybody's on pitch - you hear me, tenors? So it also lasted quite a while. There was a lot of crossing and bowing. OK, everybody refers to themselves as Greek Catholic (also known as Uniate), but except for some details, you'd swear it was Russian Orthodox. I know there are a few major differences, but it's not even close to the Catholic rite. And that's just fine. Another similarity to the Orthodox ceremony - wedding crowns:

This is a bad photo, bad they're there. Sorry for the night-scope shot. I didn't want to blind the priest. By the way, he had a very nice voice. Here's a shot of them with both of her grannies. Nobody looks happy!

And now, it's official!

Still, nobody looks happy.

Anyhow, so they file out of the miniscule church and we head off to the reception in Hrimailiv. They brought in a bus for that, because even though very few people were at the houses and the ceremony, lots and lots want to go to the reception. In fact, our "bus" was just an oversized minivan, which managed to squeeze in something like 40 people.

So that was the wedding. Next up: the reception.

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