Wedding Hunters!: From Wedding Hunt to Wedding Crash

Or, The Practice Wedding. Continued from the previous post!

by Stax. Photos by Stax.

Saturday arrived, so we gathered our gear – stripped down a little, as this would just be a practice run – and drove to Oncesti to have coffee with Bud at his guesthouse (Pensiunea Bud Mariana) before we crashed the wedding. As we drove into town, lines of cars on either side of the road and boisterous accordion music gave away the location, a small house near the top of the hill.

At Bud’s, we ask one more time: “Is it really okay if we crash the wedding?”

As every red-blooded American knows, weddings are for GUESTS via INVITATION ONLY.  You do not walk through someone’s backyard right behind their houses as a shortcut through the village (as people constantly do here) unless you want a visit from the cops, and you DO NOT crash weddings. Our American brains have difficulty comprehending that yes, it’s often perfectly all right for a foreigner to show up at the wedding of strangers in Maramures.

“Yes. Yes. Of course. It’s okay,” Bud reassures us. “People are very friendly here.”

Unfortunately Bud could not attend after all, so we’d be on our own for translators – hopefully there would be a teenager who wanted to practice their English there. We approached the wedding, striding purposefully toward the house to hide our anxiety. The sound of music and dancing grew louder. We were going to crash this wedding of complete strangers and worse, we were going to invade the proceedings with cameras and try to get some footage.

We stopped in front of the large wooden gate, next to a gaggle of young women who were dressed in a variety of very old and very new styles. Modern black dresses mixed with traditional sheepskin and woven wool vests over white puffy shirts, black and red skirts, tights and black furry boots. Some heads were bare, others covered in a colorful array of scarves.

The Women

Two older men in traditional garb stood, wobbling a bit with slight smiles on their faces, in front of the gate. One of the men brandished a giant bottle of tequila to pour shots for those just arriving.

“Is there a wedding happening? ” Ben asked one of the men n his inquisitive manner.

Before anyone could answer, a woman spied us from inside the gate. Her face lit up. She walked straight up to us and began to speak in rapid Spanish. From her gestures alone, we surmised her meaning: “Come inside, I’ll show you around!”

Her words hovered around my the language areas of my brain like hummingbirds, searching for flowers of meaning to pollenate. I struggled to snatch the different words. I hadn’t spoken Spanish since our trip to Spain and Morocco last year. My skills had been sitting in the dark and dusty parts of my brain and it was plainly obvious.

I tilted my head toward her and squinted my eyes a bit in concentration. With our powers combined, Beej and I deciphered that she was the sister of the groom and her name was Ileana. She grew up in Maramures, but she’d been living in Valencia, Spain, with two South American women – which is where she acquired the rapid-fire Spanish. While Ileana talked her father handed Beej the bottle of Tequila and urged both of us to take a deep swig. (Seriously, guys. Welcome to Romania.)

The groom’s father clutching his Tequila.

After the introductions, Ileana lead us past the revelers and into the house to show us the “traditional room” of the house. Many houses in the Maramures region have a room where they display large hand-crafted items – wool rugs, tapestries, and clothing – that the craftier women in the family hand-make. Ileana took down a particularly bright and colorful red vest and helped me put it on, gesturing for Beej to take a picture.

Dress
Not me, but another woman wearing the special wedding vest.

I took note of a row of heavy blankets and hanging from the wall, arranged similar the way that fancy wrapping papers or bolts of fabric are arranged horizontally in a store. Ileana grasped a part of one and rubbed the wool between her fingers. “Mi madre,” Ileana looked at us. “Mi madre hizo la manta.”

Her mother made this.

She pointed to my camera and mimed taking pictures. “Fotos.”

I held up my camera. “I can take photos?” I asked.

“Yes. Yes.” She nodded her head vigorously and waved her hand around the room. “Cualquier cosa.”

Anything. People started to fill the small room. One of them, a younger cousin in his 20’s from the area of Alba Iulia pretty far south of here, had very good English. So Ileana appointed him our minder during the rest of the groom’s party.

Blankets
I know. It’s a dark picture. Sorry, guys.

At one point we were seated at a table outside behind the courtyard beside the musicians, who were playing up a storm. An older woman, explained to be the groom’s mother, came by with plates and pointed at the meat and bread on the table. The older women in the family tend to do a lot of the planning and cooking around the weddings, we are to find out.

Horincă was poured, of course, along with big bowls of ciorbă, a creamy and sour soup well stocked with chunks of of sheep and cow stomach lining (tripe) that Americans don’t normally eat.

The Woman Who Gave us Food
The mother of the groom. She gave us stomach lining.

Through talking to the cousin, we find that he was as lost as we were about some of the customs here.

“I am from another village in a different region,” he told us. “If anyone dressed like these people in my town, we would think he was crazy!”

The groom’s pre-party was winding down. Let me explain: before the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom have separate pre-parties where they eat, drink, dance and take pictures with their respective families. It’s kind of like a pre-game of opposing football teams, except the different teams will get married instead of pounding each other into the ground.

The Groom
The groom in the traditional room. It’s his party and he’ll smile if he wants to.

After this event, we were told, the groom’s party would drive a huge procession of cars about 20km to meet up in the bride’s town, Sighetu Marmatiel, to join with the bride’s side.

Now, it didn’t seem to us the safest proposition to be involved in this train of cars after the amounts of horinca we’d seen some of the guests drink. But with luck, the entire groom’s family would make it in one piece.

But even after this, the night wouldn’t be over. After carousing some more in Sighetu, the complete wedding party would drive east to somewhere in the mountains near Viseu de Sus – over 50km the opposite direction – to marry.

Anyway, we were pretty sure this was the plan, but we didn’t have much time to confirm because soon everyone was on the move up the street in a large procession. They were only headed to their cars; but what a grand parade they were.

Musicians played near the front and set the beat, while at the head of the pack, a guy we later identified as the the groom’s best man twirled and tossed a big colorful flag into the air like a majorette of a marching band. Cars arriving in town had to weave around the huge procession to pass through. At one point, the crowd moved to the side as a mammoth tour bus edged past them. As he passed, the bus driver honked enthusiastically at the groom’s party below while all the passengers stood, waved and cheered.

Though we didn’t get a chance to follow the rest of the wedding that night – this was practice for the main event later in the month – we managed to get some photos of the party.

Parade Time

Walking Guests

Saxophone

Music time accordion to this guy. (Haha! Get it!)
Music time accordion to this guy. (Haha! Get it?)

Groomsmen

Stay tuned for Part Three!

This Week’s Bluff the Reader/Pop Quiz Answer Revealed

It’s the moment of truth for another Bluff the Reader Pop Quiz.

And so, Without further ado (or interruption, or digression, as it were, et cetera), the correct answer was #3!

strange-wedding-customs

Seems too ridiculous to believe, huh? But you must all have fish on your minds, because a lot of you beat us at our game and got this one right.

So many, in fact, we actually had to get out the Sorting Hat (a.k.a, Beej’s greasy old ball cap he’s worn all around the world and never washed ONCE), which we only break out of its glass case on special occasions like this (because the smell). From this hat, we drew three winners:

1. Lady Miriam Barber of Santa Cruz
2. The Right Honorable Matthew Ten Eyck of San Diego
3. Duchess Debbie Libokmeto of Kansas City

Sadly, after an exhaustive YouTube search we couldn’t find a video of the practice (idea for a future episode?), but as a consolation, here’s an awesome remake of “Gangnam Style” done at a Korean-American wedding in Oakland, CA:

Bluff the Reader/POP QUIZ

Okay loyal readers. It’s time for this week’s Bluff the Reader Pop Quiz! Again, guess which wedding tradition is the real one of the three, and you could win a cool postcard with a personal message from yours truly. No Googling, Scouts Honor (and Beej was a Wolf Scout. If you cheat he’ll know.)

.cub-scout-patches-20297

We’ll announce the answer and the three winners of the drawing on Saturday Jul 25.
READY?

1. In some parts of central Russia, before she can be considered married, a bride must burn her childhood rag doll (commonly given to daughters) on the groom’s doorstep, then grind the ashes into a loaf of bread.

2. Wedding dinners for important families in some Amazonian villages include an amazing display of eating prowess. The groom’s brothers compete in a raw crocodile-egg-eating contest for the right to court the village head’s daughter.

3. If you’re a groom in parts of Korea, directly after you tie the knot you can expect your groomsmen to tie your ankles together with rope, remove your shoes and socks, and take turns  slapping your feet with little dead fish. It’s supposed to make you more….ahem….e-fish-ent in bed on your wedding night.

Guesses can be posted in comments, or if you’re an email subscriber only, message us by email at misadventuristfilms@gmail.com. Good luck!

POP QUIZ!

POP QUIZ:
Here’s a new quiz for you all!
One of these weird wedding traditions is a real practice. The other two are fake. Respond in the comments or with a FB message with what you think is the REAL wedding tradition (no Googling, people! Just your best guess) by the end of tomorrow, and the correct answers will be entered into a drawing for a special prize: a cool postcard from somewhere in the world.
READY?

1. A Ghanaian tribe’s tradition states that before a man can marry, the potential groom and his future father-in-law must race through sometimes thick forest – on only one leg – from the groom’s village to the bride’s village. If the groom loses the race, the wedding is off!

2. In some Hindu belief, a bride (or groom) that is born under certain a certain unfavorable astrological sign will be doomed to an unhappy marriage. The situation can be remedied, according to some traditions, by the afflicted partner first marrying a tree. If the tree is then burned, the effects of the bad luck will be nullified.

3. In far northern Norway, some villages still practice an old tradition: The entire village gathers to throw fish innards at a newly married couple as soon as they emerge from the wedding tent. It’s believed to bestow good fortune on the couple.

Okay, pick which one you think it is and either respond in comments or by email!

A Wedding of Cultures

3457932240_d4d0256e5f_oExciting news, fellow misadventurists! We are announcing our newly formed project, “A Wedding of Cultures” (working title). and happy to say we are tentatively scheduled to begin primary shooting in Cambodia by March of next year.

A Wedding of Cultures is a cultural and social documentary that asks the question: are weddings, with their age-old traditions rooted in feudal and tribal societies, still relevant in this highly mobile era where more and more of the Western world (according to media reports) is abandoning the concept of marriage as a necessity to a stable relationship?

To answer this question, we’ll be following a few brave couples belonging to wildly different cultures around the world, as they prepare for and follow through (or don’t follow through) with their weddings. We’ll talk to parents and older relatives as well as the younger generations of family and friends, exploring the ways in which specific customs are tied to narrative traditions rooted deep in the culture.

On a wider level, we will explore the ways in which a worldwide event and fashion industry has promoted a one-size-fits-all ideal of how one is “supposed” to get married, contrasting what many see as the typical wedding with the stubbornly individual reality. Through it all we will be obsessed with one question: why do people still spend their life savings and put themselves through hell and back just to conform to a tradition that from all Western statistical accounts, seems to be dying?

*****

Of course, we are still in the beginning stages of funding and cultivating sources for this multinational documentary, but watch this space – we’ll be providing major updates regularly on this blog and on the official website here:

aweddingofcultures.wordpress.com

As we get this project off the ground, we will be adding features to the website, and of course there will be plenty of ways to help out once we get some footage in the can.

Thanks for your interest! And follow the Misadventurists  on Twitter and Facebook for up-to-the-minute news.