My Wedding.

1 Conversation

8.30am saw me sitting in the hairdresser's, accompanied by Mum, Best Freind and a camera. Mum, Dad, Brother and Grandad had arrived a few days before causing me give up the thorough spring clean of the flat in favour of a mad bout of sightseeing. Best Freind had flown in the night before, which was quite splendid, as it meant I could have an hour or two to myself on the way to pick her up, followed by gossiping on the Metro (at least, until we were ticked off my an over-made-up woman for talking to loudly). We arrived home to a huge dinner cooked by Prospective Mother in Law, and a house full of mine and His relatives, and presents. I don't think I've laughed so much in ages as when B opened Brothers present to find fifteen stuffed camals... the bride price B had 'demanded' months before. Apparently camals are not as easy to come by as you might think and Brother had had to blag his way into at least 2 zoos to get them. We also got two steamers. The lack of a wedding list...

Anyway, the hairdresser's. To understand the import of this, you have to realise that I don't do hair, as a rule. In my life I've had three styles: short, long and now short again. These days the do is somewhat better conditioned and has less split ends than at times in the past, but short of keeping it clean... well, I think I went through a breif phase of putting it in bunches occassionally when I was 17 or so... In short, if anyone had asked me what I would do about my hair for the wedding three months ago, I'd have probably looked a bit vauge and said "Wash it." That was before I bought the Dress. Or, more importantly, the veil. Because it was soon borne in on me that no way was the veil going into my hair without some kind of proffessional help, especially when PMiL started waving rubber bands at me...

That hadn't actually prompted me to do much about it, though, until the week before, when I had to go to B's cousin's wedding. For this I got my hair cut. Now, getting my hair cut here is a process fraught with danger, as a bob seems to mean something different in Russian, not to mention, something different to each hairdresser. This time, to be on the safe side, I drew a picture. Which, I must say, worked very well, and tentative arrangements were made... But it hadn't been until the day before that I actually took along the veil and gave my commands. Although, with short hair and a wish for not to elaborate a style, it seems I wasn't presenting a problem, but it had taken a weight off my mind. I also got my nails done. I've never had a manicure before. Shame I'd broken all my nails scrubbing the bathroom out, but still. Hurt like hell, too, and I had to go back cos I mussed the dratted things about five seconds after leaving, but still.

So, there I was, feeling quite contented, with the only worry coming when the hairdresser backcombed my hair into a pineapple, and started fussing with the veil. I had two minutes of idly wondering if she intended to leave it like that, before all was smoothed down. So much for the hair. Made it home in time to chuck B out of the flat for the third time. Actually, for this week we had borrowed a neighbour's flat, and so had a boys' flat and a girls' flat. At least that was the idea. In fact, I had hardly stumbled into the Dress (an activity which needed three persons assisting and a lot of inelegant bending and twisting, not to mention unnatural positioning of the underskirt, which was not particularly suited to the style of dress I had on, or, in fact, to breathing, sitting down, or anything else) when the guests started to arrive. Why, you may ask? Well, traditionally, in Russia the festivities begin at the Bride's house. The Groom turns up and attempts an enterance. The Brides family are supposed to stop him and demand money, and there are tasks to be performed. Quizzes are given and the Groom attempts to identify articles of the Bride's clothing and such like. Once these are completed, everybody gets together, has a little champagne, or something, and proceeds to the wedding place. We had managed to seperate, B and I, the night before, but the rest of these traditional ingredients were conspicuously lacking at our house in the morning. Or, in fact at any other time during the day. There's supposed to be bride stealing and forfits for allowing it and tests to see how well we will get along like sawing bits of wood in half together. All absent. This was B's fault, I still maintain. Well, my family are British, aren't they. B's family, however, also presented a united front of 'we don't knows', so B had a lucky escape from being forced to sniff 6 pairs of shoes or kiss, blindfolded tree girls, or whatever happens on these occassions. ABut it did mean that my final primping was accompanied by the roar of people trampling around the flat, the buzz of the telephone and the doorbell, occassional kisses of greeting and more present opening. At this point (look, I know I'm going on about the hair) I realised that I probably should have got the hairdresser to stick the flower thingies into the do, as stay put they would not... but finally we were ready to proceed slowly and gingerly down the five flights of pretty grubby stairs (no lift) to the minibus outside.

I should describe the Dress. It did, after all, cause a satisfying amount of total astonishment throughout the ranked masses of freinds and relatives. See, there are ways and ways to shock people. And if you are me, the way to do it is by getting kitted out in a white, floorlength dress held out by the aforementoned peticoat, with lace arms and bodice, with the skirt gathered just under the bust. And strappy white shes with heels. Especially if the Dress is off the shoulder, although I think it was the veil that finished most people off. Snigger.

We arrived at ZAGS Palace of Marriages Number Four, the only place in the whole of Russia (or at least Moscow) where a foreigner can marry a Russian, bang on time picked up a few more guests who had decided to skip the house gathering and proceeded inside to the waiting area.

The waiting area. Yes. The thing about Russian registry offices is that, well, there aren't much in for individual quality of service. By which I mean that what happens is you are given a slot of time to turn up in, having booked your wedding two months (and no more) in advance, and there you turn up, sign in, sort out photos and music (no, you can't do that before either), and sit around _with a whole bunch of other wedding parties_ waiting your turn. Every now and again the doors to the Marriage Chamber itself will open, and a burst of Da Da Da Dum will asail you, and another group of people will shufle inside. In the mean time, you socialise, take a few pictures and check out what the other Brides are wearing. And, if you are me, become flabberghasted when you are told, that, no, you have to chose to keep your own name, or take his name. Yopu can't double barrel it. No I don't are what they told you before, you can't. And you have to decide now. There's a wonderful moment on the Video where the operator has decided to freeze frame in the fluttering pre-marrige Bride's face at precisely this moment of truth. What the poor chap got was a scowl. He he.

Finally, it's our turn and we line up, B and I, flanked by Best man and Best Freind, both of whose undying gratitude I earned by not making them wear the traditional Wedding Party Sashes, and in we go. The ceremony is a bit of a blur (that's what the video is for, isn't it?), which could be because it was, well, quite short. But we got our 'da' in the right place, remembered how to write when signing the documents, and didn't fumble the rings, or bump noses when kissing, so then suddenly everyone is congratulating us and handing me huge bouquets of flowers (a Russian tradition which I throughly approve of), and when we've messed about getting some photos taken we go downstairs again... To watch the video.

Well, like I say, it's short. But actually it's a sales technique. They want us to buy it. Which we do, and now we're mairried and everybody is popping the first bolttles of champagne, and before you know it we're outside, having our first glimpse of the limo.

The limo was one of our better ideas. Not the concept of a limo perse, but the particular one we chose, I mean. See, most people hire one of those big foreign streach jobbbies. I don't habe anything against those, you understand, but we chose a Russian one instead. Specifically a Chaika of the sort that Russian ministers used to go burning around Moscow in. And why was this such a good idea? Cos it were dead cool. Fifties style, white, with those flying winged sides. At one point during what followed we came back to the car to find an officer chatting to the driver. My first thought was that we were getting done for illegal parking. It turns out he was just admiring the car. It was, you understand, that kind of car.

Why do we need the limo? Didn't we arrive in a minibus? Well, the day ain't over yet, and we are moving on to the next part of a Russian wedding, namely, the parade around town. Technically, there is probably a good sound traditional reason for this. Certainly one of the Things To Do seems to be to lay a wreath on a war memorial, or visit a shrine of some kind, or even to go pay homage to a statue of a famous poet, depending on what is available. Probably shows a fine sense of patriotic fevour coupled with respect for your historical heritage or something. Also, it is a great photo op, especially if your day, like ours was, is bloody georgeous, and even more so if the suroundings of your marriage hall are, like ours was, pretty grim. Personally, though, I feel that the effort of getting yourself dolled up in a white dress, strappy shoes and with a bonefide Do shouldn't go to waste on mere freinds and relatives, and this is a great moment to go and show the outfit off to as many people as possible. In this spirit, then, we took ourselves off to Red Square.

We forgot, the champagne, though. Or rather, we left it in the car of a guest who had to nip home for a bit, so the first thing was to send people off for some more. Meantime, we stood around in front of St Basil's, parading occassionally this was and that, in case some tourist had managed to miss us, taking photos and eating ice creams. And trying to keep the veil on, a battle which was eventually surrendered entirely in a stronger than normal gust. I also lost a shoe on the cobblestines, which had the amusing consequence of me balancing serenly on Grandad's arm while Dad bashed the heel back on. Still, after a few more glasses of champagbe, we were ready for the next stop, Victory Park.

Victory park is quite a new park on the edges of Moscow. It's a great place for wedding parties to parade in, the sort of layout which runs to fountains and sort of panoramic veiws uncluttered by trees and what have you. It also has my favourite church in, one which is positively elegent, rather than startling like many other orthodox churches with their luridities of colour and cupolas, and I was determined to have my photo taken on its steps. This being duly accomplised we all piled back into the transports and headed for our restaurant, by this time throughly in need of food to soak up all the champagne.

The restaurant's name was Zamok (castle). It's a fairly small Georgian place near our flat, and took some choosing. I think we made a good choice: I happen to like the decor and the food, well, the food was a banquet.

I can't think why this took me by surprise. I did order it, after all. But for some reason I was mildly fixated on the English Wedding Script of three fulfilling but not ridiculously huge courses.

That's not what we got. Russian celebration meals, in any case tend to start off with almost everything on the table. Salads, cold meats, sslads, fish, salads, cheeses, salads, salamis, and fruit. We gorged on the salads for some considerable time. But this (and this always catches me by surprise) is just the first course. We'd also ordered a dressed fish, not a salmon, but the Russian equivalent of. This was served as the second course. By this time everyone was failing a bit, but we hadn't even got to the main course yet. Which was a selection of barbqued meats. Then there was still the fruit, and finally the cake course. All in all, we took 6 hours to plod steadily through acres and acres of delishous food, inter[ersed with vodka toasts (my favourite was A's all about the three angels of faith, hope and love) usually prompted by my kicking someone under the table. I'd originally planned, you see, to have speaches. One by Dad (in English), one by Best Man (in Russian), one by Groom (in Russian), and my translation of his (our) speech. Best Man had broken first, or rather broken down, pleading that we don't put him through this horror (honestly, and after I relented on the sash), and Groom couldn't be persuaded either. Not to mention the fact that Dad, who I thought would leap at the chance, looked a bit surprised, not to mention quesy, when I showed ny assumption that he had written one.

And then there was the problem that the meal never did really end, we just stopped eating, so there wasn't a really sensible time for it. When I marry my next Russian man, I plan to prime the guests for short toasts, therefore, not take the poor things by surprise (tho the Russian guests were doing their bit). But all in all, Dad's speach was, for me at least, a highlight, amd the absence of a Groom's speech (we got three short toasts out of him instead), meant that I could say hang with tradition and got up and thanked, I think, every guest methodically and in turn, which was fun, and more suited to my temprement than sitting demurely as everyone says how beautiful I am.

Other entertainment was provided by the belly dancers (no, really), and the determined woman from a whole different party who got my Grandad to dance over energetic objections from B ("He's British, you can't do that!").

So, to the end. We cut the cake (a case where Russian and English tradition mercifully collide), and I threw the bouqet... to hard. It hit the wall and half the flowers fell out. Tried it again, and managed to get B's cousin to catch it, as planned, which was satisfying after so much vodka. We got home about 1am, sat aroound drinking tea for a bit, admired my flowers, watched the Wedding Viseo again, watched Brothers Video of our promenade, and packed everybody off to bed... Though not for long as apparently the tolet in the other flat had been leaking and at 4am on irate downstairs neighbour came banging on the door to complain that water was pouring through her roof...

Altogether, though, a splendid, splendid day, which it took me a good week to recover from, but that's another story...

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