When Alfredo first told the team that he and his fiance, Judith, wanted us to attend their wedding, my overwhelming thought was “Wow!”. Now, I’ve been to lots of weddings in my life, but it has always been people I have known for a while and the invitation was not a surprise. However, this invitation meant more since this relationship is fairly new. Somehow in our few
months here we have come to mean enough to this couple to be invited to a very important event in their lives, and we felt honored.
We quickly realized that we had no idea what Peruvians do for weddings or what is expected of the guests. So we asked around, which is when we discovered that all the guests wear really fancy clothes. As in, formal dresses, suits, ties...the works. Needless to say, we had, um, forgotten to pack our glittery gowns, high heels and pinstriped suits.
Luckily, we found out that Megan and I could rent said fancy dresses and shoes, so that left the dads and daughters. The guys decided to have suits tailor-made and were happy with the results. And after some shopping around, we were able to find Cinderella-style dresses for the girls as well, so everyone was looking pretty sharp.
The irony to all of this shopping is that Peruvians don’t understand the concept of efficiency. So we all had to shop at different stores, sometimes even for different parts of an outfit. Dress and shoes here, hair clips there, toddler socks elsewhere, purse at the market, makeup at the mall. And opening at 10:00 means opening sometime in the 10:00 hour, and just because the store is open doesn’t mean the appropriate salesperson has arrived yet…you get the idea. We spent lots of time getting all the details together and were ready to be done. Even though Megan and I were tracking down the last items late Friday afternoon, we were happy with what we put together.
The wedding began at noon on a Saturday and we had been told the party would last until about 8:00. It was held at Quinta Shaefer (no, not a hotel). The site had a flower garden, pond with fountains, small waterfall, and was generally one of the nicest locations I’ve seen in Arequipa. First, a woman led the couple in the quick civil service, followed by a priest conducting the religious portion. Before long, they were pronounced married, the attendants/witnesses signed something, and the couple left for a little while as the guests settled back into their seats at the tables.
By now it was about 1:30, and soon Alfredo and Judith returned to have their first dance, which was followed by a quick speech from each of them and a toast. Before long, waiters were coming around. After choosing water or Coke, we received four different courses of hors d’oeuvres—a cracker with a fruit spread, coconut fried shrimp, some kind of eggroll, and tenderloin & veggies. With each course, waiters brought different drink choices, occasionally refilling water or soda. The couple also came around to each table and took a picture with the attendees, so we got a chance to hug and congratulate them.
At about 3:00 or so, they cleared the tables of plates before bringing out the main meal of chicken stuffed with cream cheese and red pepper, a vegetable bundle, potatoes and a fruit salad of a sort. They had children’s plates for the girls of chicken nuggets and french fries. After we had all eaten and they had cleared the plates away again, the cake was brought out.
Soon it was time to start dancing. Alfredo and Judith started it off together, then paired off to dance with their parents. Then they handed their parents over to dance together and continued pulling new partners from the guests until the dance floor was well populated. Greg and Ana even gave it a shot, then we all decided to head home.
Overall, it wasn’t all that different from a nice American wedding as far as the feel of it. It was a time to celebrate with this new family, and had the added benefit of being fun for our families to just hang out and let the waiters bring us the yummy food. We talked and laughed and applauded and took pictures. It was all in Spanish, the food and drink were different, and most of the guests were strangers, but for the most part I felt right at home. Maybe that is why it felt like such an honor…because being invited to witness a special event makes you feel connected in a new way, included and appreciated. And in this country that feels like home and yet can be so strange, that felt good.