The wedding took place last night. Before anything else, I need to set the background.
Outpost weddings are of a tripartite order, of a protocol different to that in other places, including Compatridia. Here, part one is the ceremony, which takes place in the presence of few guests, usually close friends and family, then there is part two: a congratulations session where guests parade in front of the couple and the parents to wish and congratulate them and to hand over a small envelope with some cash, there are usually no presents. The number of well-wishers in a ‘normal’ wedding is between 1000 and 4000, or more. The third part is the dinner, which begins before the couple’s arrival, as well-wishers will have already made their way to the restaurant, with some of the guests actually leaving the party before the couple’s arrival. In my first Outpost wedding, three years ago, the three parts took place in three different places, each several kilometres apart from the others.
Not Tot’s wedding: the church ceremony was followed by a unitary congratulations-cum-dinner session, in a restaurant situated in the otherwise eerily empty grounds of the International Expo. It was odd to raise your eye-gaze past ribbons, lanterns, flower arrangements and the band stage to read ‘Importers’, ‘The Fair’, ‘Emergencies’, ‘Pizza Hut’, ‘Syria’, ‘United States of America’, ‘Chamber of Commerce’ and so on. Anyway.
The ceremony was ultra-fast, around 20 minutes (ultra fast as ceremonies of the Outpost Apostolic Church go, that is) and the singing was a torture, sounding like coming out of the mouths of woman-sized mosquitoes. Then we went to the Expo grounds and waited for part two, the congratulations session, to end. No small thing, as for two and a half hours there was a steady stream of well-wishers, meaning we had to kill time eating, drinking, chatting and listening to elevator music while waiting for the couple to collect all envlopes. During that time we found out a number of people we had met in completely irrelevant contexts to have one degree of separation from the couple: “Of course I know her, her uncle has baptised my son”, “We come from the same village”, “His mother comes from the village down the hill to ours.” I could see the usual characters parading assets and accessories: gym boys with their pecs exposed, gym girls with their breasts exposed, Gucci bags, Fendi bags, Versace bags, Louis Vuitton bags, exclusive rags. A chubby guy with a noble expression on his face was nevertheless understatingly showing off his silent Russian wife. A cousin of the bride brought his kid and was parading the Sri Lankan nanny looking after it: “See the black one I have here!” he said, while his wife, wearing a month’s worth of (the Sri Lankan’s) wages in makeup on her, smiled on. A lot were discussing business. Some were just bored. Some ate up and went away.
Then the couple arrived. That was the best part of the whole do: kissing, the wedding gown in all its glory, confetti, taunting, cake, the couple having the champagne and throwing the empty glasses behind them (well, the groom’s accidentally left his hand much earlier but was dodged by the photographer in time).
Right afterwards the thing degenerated quickly into a nightmare version of a Kusturica-esque wedding party. Very few people, of those remaining, danced while the band played exactly what a completely different band played in the bachelor party, mainly hard-to-dance songs on parting, death and loneliness. Unexpectedly, the breeze brought an intense stench of manure, who knows where from. There was a sense of general dislodgement. The low point was reached when a voiceless uncle from the groom’s side decided to sing more songs on parting, death and loneliness.
At quarter to two in the morning we left. We were so overwhelmed by the sensory mayhem and boredom that we immediately sought refuge at the bar that messed up my drink some time ago. We bumped into Maria (and the Guitarist) and danced for two hours at 80s cheesy tunes and reggae. The customers were very impressed at seeing a made up woman in a frock getting into the place at 2 am accompanied by a guy in a suit and a tie, our dancing perplexed them even more — we were taken lots of pictures. Then a touring freelance Serbian photographer on Guinness, Vladi, joined us, took more pictures of us and we all danced together. It was just what the doctor ordered.