Here Comes the Bride
Had the good fortune to be invited to a wedding over the weekend with the unique, for me, venue of having the ceremony at the Parroquia which I found intriguing. Normally I’ll skip the service and show up for the reception. Judging by the vast amount of folks at this wedding reception, versus the mass, many Mexicans execute a similar game plan.
The mass was strikingly similar to a wedding up North with two exceptions focusing on Mary, another indication of the feminine nature of faith and culture here.
At one point during the mass the couple exchange coins given to them by their godparents to symbolize how what one has, both do. The exchange is done while a giant sized rosary is placed over the couple to bind them together as one.
Later the couple goes over to the image of Guadalupe to place flowers for her and ask for Mary’s help in their future together.
Even the sermon I found surprising. Normally, with the possible exception of former father, later fitness guru, Richard Simmons, priests aren’t normally gifted at pulling the congregation into the ceremony. This lad was by having a show of hands for who here knew the groom, then bride. As a friend of a friend, I knew neither and was stuck in the group with a gaggle of nuns that had simply silently slithered inside in hopes of receiving communion.
Then the priest stressed how the three magic words in a marriage are not “I love you.” Rather “Gracias, Sorry, Forgive” are what keep a couple together. I found that an interesting and insightful take coming from a perennial bachelor. Given the couple had been together 16 years and have a six year old daughter, I’m guessing they’ve mastered the going along to get along concept.
The biggest surprise to me was that once the service was over, the priest leaves the altar and the lights go out. No walking down the aisle at the end to smiles and tossed rice or bird seed. Instead, left in the dark, the guests walk away from the church and the wedding party sticks around for photos.
I learned later that despite the abundance of flowers this wasn’t a high end wedding. The ceremonial gifts of fans and nail polish given women in attendance are considered downscale and the lack of chorus indicated funds were redirected towards the reception’s music.
In the couple’s defense the reception was mobbed and featured a live band playing an endless array of banda songs. You only need to go to a few Mexican fiestas to realize any that feature endless free beer, multi-color tortillas and a plethora of hat wearing cowboys with visible knives is an indication for a future fight. I long ago learned a good reception counts on having at least one memorable rumble to prove there was a party in progress. That’s my cue to leave early.
But not before the couple gift me a bottle of tequila. As the only foreigner at these type of events the gift is an act of respect for attending their event. I learned years ago not to share the alcohol with others at the table as that is disrespectful on my part. Why anyone would think I could down a fifth mystifies me and I try to nonchalantly place the bottle in my companion’s purse unopened as being a drunk foreigner at such times strikes me as an incredible lack of judgment on my part.
Meanwhile I thoroughly enjoy the abundance of children at such events. In the North children are not really wedding reception material unless having carried flowers or a ring. Plus I enjoy buying out balloons or balls from the ever present vendor and tossing them onto the dance floor from the sidelines. Such an act is sure to radically increase the fun factor in the under a meter set and provide many parents a respite from unhappy charges.
As darkness fell, the couple were busy doing countless waltzes with guests. When growing up in Hershey one paid a few dollars for that privilege. In theory the cash paid for the couple’s honeymoon often pinning the bills to the bride’s dress as though she just got off her shift from pole dancing. How Mexicans missed a revenue generating aspect to a reception shows their inherent good taste and manners. This was my chance to escort my pal and her heavy tequila laden purse back into town.
Mexicans weddings are fascinating and great fun but as always when a guest, keep your wits about you and leave folks laughing. As my very funny father always reminded me, that way you’ll be invited back.