Monday, September 12, 2005

First of all lessons learned from my sister's wedding this weekend? Accordion players should never, ever be allowed amplification. The one hired by her new in-laws had one of those amps that go to eleven.

Boston is a hell of a town. You can really see what they mean when they say that the road system in that end of the country is directly derived from the traces left by colonial cattle herds. The inner suburbs seem to be one continuous rolling rush-hour, from early in the morning to late at night. I could not believe the land prices - I met someone who had bought a small suburban house for $700,000, and then proceeded to knock it down in preparation for building a real house. They just wanted the plot.

My sister was marrying into a Serb immigrant family. Very friendly folks, and most of them either doctors or engineers. I'm told that the Serb Orthodox community in the greater Boston area is capitalizing on the Catholic diocese's lawsuit-driven bankruptcy to pick up a building which they are getting ready to renovate into an Orthodox church. The place they're currently using, however, wasn't big enough for the relatively modest crowd we were expecting, so they borrowed a Greek Orthodox church in Cambridge for the ceremony. Nice place, just re-painted. I think the Greek custodian thought we were a little rowdy, though. He didn't look like he approved of the jug of box-wine which came in with the groomsmen.

The groom's family cheerfully showed said groomsmen, who were by and large his college buddies, how to perform the very folkloric offering ceremony before the wedding. They came to the hotel where we were camped out in Waltham - nominally our father's "house", but it isn't as if they could truck down to my Dad's new place in Florida - with "wandering musicians", a "Voivode" (I believe it means "prince" or "duke", but I know next to no Serbo-Croatian, so YMMV) shotgun in hand, a wine-bearer, a handful of silver coins, and a loaf of bread. The "wandering musicians" was the aforementioned accordion player (sans amplifier, thankfully), the Voivode was the groom's best man, and the shotgun had been replaced with a much-less-unlawful trumpet, played by the *other* best man's young son - more on that anon - who actually knew how to blow a trumpet, it being his and all.

The Voivode was supposed to discharge the "shotgun" to bring the bride's father out of his abode, so as to initiate the negotiation. This might have actually have been necessary if we had gone back up to the seventh floor to our rooms as the groomsmen asked - we managed to convince them that this would take far too much time, and compromised on going around the corner of the lobby, just out of sight of the party in the foyer. After a long delay - the accordion-player was unaccountably missing, and it took some time to locate him - the groomsmen came around the corner, and began the ceremony.

The wine-bearer passed around the jug of box-wine, to everybody *but* my father - we had established the night before that he couldn't drink due to a medical condition, and that the offering would be a large faux pas - and the silver coins and bread were presented. The groom's uncle - the patriarch of the family - offered my mother a handful of wild flowers, although I wasn't clear on what exactly this meant. There was a bit of a bobble while it was explained to my father that they were supposed to tear the loaf in half, and I think I missed the obligatory speech by the Voivode about the virtues of the groom and prospective son-in-law. I was busy talking to the other usher about whether we should get going to the church, as various frictions and delays had made us somewhat late.

All this time, curious revelers from the bar mitzvah, which had actually hired the hall we were half-occupying, looked on in amusement. I still don't know how my parents talked the hotel management into allowing all this to occur in what was a very busy lobby on a fairly active weekend.

The wedding itself was a classic Orthodox affair, with two priests singing the liturgy in what I thought was Serbo-Croatian, although my Lebanese uncle confused me afterwards by talking about "Slavonic" and liturgical languages, and I'm now not quite sure which it was. Once we got into the church, the best-friend "best man" was replaced by the groom's brother. It seems that the head priest was something of a stickler on the details, and he insisted that either the maid of honor or the best man be baptized into their church. Anyways...

The two priests crowned the couple with large red-and-gold crowns - my sister's went slightly askew partway through the ceremony, and I was somewhat afraid that it would fall off as they circled the altar three times. Happily, it stayed in place, perhaps held on by her veil-and-tiara assemblage. The groom's father sang in Slavic, and my Orthodox aunt read in English, a passage - Ephesians 5:21-33 - as an instruction to the new couple. That came across as very, hrm, unreconstructed, and it's exactly the sort of thing that modern couples are usually careful to dance around. The Apostle Paul really was a stodgy old so-and-so. But it was that kind of wedding - very old-fashioned.

The reception was at a suburban country club, and very lavish, at least by my standards. The tyranny of the photographer reigned unchecked, and there was much milling about the greens under a large oak tree, as every possible arrangement of the bride, the groom, the parents, and the wedding party was photographed on what was a beautiful early fall day - clear blue skies, cool breeze, etc. Inside the clubhouse, the accordion player found his amplifier, and much dancing commenced. It was pretty loud, but a half-hour or so after the entree was served, the accordion player and his group were replaced by an old-fashioned rock band, and things got quieter. There was remarkably little of the usual speech-making that I expect of wedding receptions, which I suppose was what they wanted.

My sister shone with joy throughout the day. It was a happy day, and one she deserved. When the videocamera came my way, I wished them many quiet, happy years.

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