The wedding of a lifetime hit our family this weekend, and the occasion I've been looking forward to ever since knowing I was moving to Lebanon has come and gone in the blink of ten-million fireworks.
Bride-to-be cousin has become bride and we have another handsome man in the family. The story of a big wedding such as this deserves to be told through photos. The fairytale picture story follows.
When we arrived at the bride's house before the church ceremony (as is customary at Lebanese weddings), she and her family were having their photos taken. This is how it's done: each family who arrives at the house, goes straight into the formal lounge of the house, where they're greeted by the bride and are made to stand around her for a photo together. This formal lounge will always be filled with massive flower arrangements sent by close family members like aunts and uncles, and there will always be an arrangement with red flowers from the groom (it's peeking out on the left). Bride cousin's sister (left) was her bridesmaid (shbeeneh).
This is the same lounge in which my mother did the same photo-taking thing, as it's the house in which she grew up
. However, it looked a little different then, as it's just undergone a refurbishment in time for this big wedding.
I just had to include this pic to show the back of mother-of-the-bride's gorgeous dress. This was a Champagne-popping moment for the immediate family.
Then we had our family photo taken with bride cousin (pity we were missing a few South African dwellers).
In between all the photo taking, bride sat down to rest her high-heeled feet. The arrangement from the groom is the red one on her right. While we kept her company, the rest of the family who had come to wish her well sat outside, being served Champagne and orange juice by two waiters circling the balcony.
Those with a sweet tooth could help themselves to sweets, biscuits and chocolates made especially for such weddings.
The chocolates with the white wrapping on the left were decorated with a golden flower that can be worn as a necklace pendant. The brown chocolates with tiny golden hearts on them were filled with cheesecake.
Ten of the 12 cousins. We missed you Sista Sista and Roeks!
While having our cousin pics taken, we heard the sound of a lot of hooting - the sign that the in-law family was on its way. The mother-in-law, sister-in-law and aunt arrived in the rented white Jags, while the rest of the groom's family (about 30 of them) drove up behind them.
The in-law family all entered the gates of the home, welcomed by bride cousin's immediate family. As they reached the steps of the balcony, they were greeted by the rest of our family and offered Champagne and orange juice before making a line to greet bride cousin and have their photo taken with her.
As is tradition, the mother of the groom bought the bride a necklace for her wedding day. She presented it to her and put it around her neck while everyone watched the 'show'.
Then the Arabic music was turned up and bride exited the lounge to come join the dancing taking place on the balcony with both families. This, it turned out, was the only time we heard any potential belly-dancing music, but I didn't yet have enough courage to show off my newly learned moves!
After a few more photos with some late comers, bride and father-of-the-bride exited the home's floral-decorated doors together and departed from the balcony, followed by the mother, sister and aunt of the groom (as if they had come to fetch her with their entourage and were now taking her to her future husband)...
...and followed by the rest of the entourage, from both families, who all got into their cars and followed the bridal car hooting their way to the church. (This is why, whenever you hear a lot of continuous hooting in Lebanon, you can be sure there's a wedding nearby.)
Driving out of the village (they married in another area of Lebanon), we passed many villagers standing on the sidewalk, throwing rice at the passing cars - a symbol of good luck for weddings (traditionally, this is the confetti used but it's rather a sore alternative to rose petals (ask Sista Sista and Decalicious!). This lady happens to be Dad's cousin, whose grocery store is behind her on the village corner.
The groom (right) and his brother (the best man) were waiting outside the church for the bride. The father-of-the-bride does not walk his daughter into the church. That's why, I guess, they make such a big thing of the walk out of the home. Once we were all seated, the wedding march started and the father-of-the-bride and the mother-of-the-groom walked in together, followed by the mother-of-the-bride and the father-of-the-groom and then the bridesmaid and best man. The bride and groom followed them, not far behind.
Mar Charbel, Adonis, the church in which they were married. I didn't understand a word of the service and now finally know what Dad always speaks about when he says he doesn't really know whether he's married because he never understood a word of his own marriage ceremony! Oh, and there's no such thing as 'you may now kiss the bride', so we had to wait for the first dance to see that ooh-la-la moment.
The flowers by Nado were put up right before the service, as there was the usual weekly church service right before the wedding. When the 8pm wedding service ended at 9pm, the arrangements were quickly whisked away to the hotel where the reception was to take place.
At the five-star Le Royal Hotel in Dbayeh, we were entertained to a Spanish zaffe before the bridal couple entered the poolside venue. The zaffe is a modern wedding Lebanese tradition, where a troupe of dancers performs in anticipation of the couple's entry and assists them in making their entrance over-the-top. This can either be a traditional Lebanese zaffe of dabke or belly-dancing, or it can be something with a twist, such as this Spanish one that bride cousin selected to suit her Spanish-inspired dress (and the team she supported in the recent World Cup!).
The Spanish troupe took bride and groom winding through the tables so that everyone could wish them a rowdy ole!
Although we had all already danced with the Spanish troupe, and the dancefloor was well-opened (!), bride and groom officially opened the dancefloor to 'I can't help falling in love with you' in between part three and four of the five-course meal. It was a scene straight out of a fairytale movie, with stage smoke spilling over onto the swimming pool and fireworks lighting up the romantic moment.
For the foodies out there, there was mezza on the table (breadrolls, raw veg, dip and nuts), then came the smoked salmon, prawns and a fish with stuffing; pesto gnocchi with chicken; beef fillet with veggies and mashed potatoes; chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate cup; little petit-fours with wedding cake.
The poolside dancefloor wasn't empty for a moment, and bride and groom were the biggest party animals of the night. There were moments of Champagne-downing from the bottle, locomotion chains of dancers weaving through the tables, the garter-catcher placing the garter on the leg of the bouquet-catcher with his mouth, and a lot of carrying of the bride and groom on men's shoulders. But, funny enough, no one dared jump into the mosaic-tiled pool - not even the groom's cousin who had a bottle of bubbly poured all over her in a moment of untamed celebration on the dancefloor!
The cutting of the cake was a spectacle in itself, with the five-tiered gateau being cut by a sword while waiters circled the couple with individual cakes for each table, topped with mini fireworks. You can only see the colour of the cake in the next pic. It's green! So not the colour bride cousin ordered. I was with her when she chose it, so I'm a witness! After the waiters dropped off the cakes on the tables, they performed the same show with bottles of Champagne...
...and we all toasted together to a life lived together happily ever after.
PS. The Lebanese love their fireworks!