After a group picture outside, it was time to celebrate the wedding. The couple’s family had organized a little after-party in the ballroom of a small village close-by. For this type of region, these rooms are common to celebrate a wedding, birthday, or other bigger parties in. Since neither the bride nor the groom could have provided enough space at their homes, they decided to go with this option. Other times you see the event take place in a ballroom of a hotel.
A catering group provided the necessary food which was served pretty soon after the guests showed up. First a few appetizers. Then a speech by the bride and groom thanking everyone for showing up and wishing an eventful rest of the day. Meanwhile, we are talking about 12:00 PM noontime, there is still plenty of time for games, dances, and fun. A toast to everyone. A few glasses of champagne are flowing. Then the big meal starts: Tasteful salmon and beef dishes combined with thick veggie layers. All flavored in just the right way and served in juicy sauces.
After a small interlude of eating, it’s time for the first game. Well, first the bride’s mother has to come up with a toast. She hands another Russian girl a script. Together they perform on stage. The girl first reads it down in Russian. Half of the guests laughs and oohs and aaahs. Then the mother recites it in German so that the other half of the guests can understand it. It is a traditional Russian poem with funny anecdotes about a husband who has to accept certain things about his wife (such as he shall not become angry with her in case she spends half of his income on nice tights).
Then my friends start searching for a bunch of party guests who want to pose a question on stage. The bride and groom are asked to be seated in a chair opposing each other. They are both equipped with a sign in her name and a sign in his name. Whenever a question applies to one of them, they are supposed to hold up the right sign. The guests ask questions such as “who made the first move when they first met in their favorite dance club” or “who utilizes their gym membership more often.” 12 different guests ask each of those 12 different questions. Surprisingly to us, the bride and groom get almost all of the questions right, meaning they apply the answer to only one person. Most of the time it is his name held up in the air. Whenever this tide is reached, the guest who asked the question has to throw some coins into the piggy bank.
People are starting to open up the vodka bottles which were nicely placed on the tables. All of a sudden the Russian table screams “Vojlra, vojlra!” which means “Kiss!” in English (native Russian speakers – please correct me!). The bride and groom fall into a ten second long kiss, as the Russians are counting down from ten on. Then they can finally let each other go. Ten minutes later the same bizarre scenario is repeated. And throughout the entire day and evening.
Time for our next game: A Russian tradition during which the bride’s shoe is being stolen by gypsies and therefore has to be won back. The gypsies are dressed up wedding guests who enter the room, swaying from side to side and holding a few bottles of vodka in their hands. Every guest is being forced to take a shot of the clear stuff and to pay a few coins for this shot. Only if the piggy bank carries enough money in it, can the shoe be released to the bride. The gypsies manage to get a total of €150 for the shoe, which equals about $200. Not bad for those 50 something remaining guests, eh?
These are just a few of a total of 10 games played throughout the day. In the afternoon the groom and bride become serious again and stand motionless next to each other. A waltz is sounded and they start their first dance as a couple. Soon thereafter the bride’s mother and father join in.
Then everyone is being invited for a photo session outside. We are still in April, which means Germany is cold. It can still have winter temperatures, but luckily the 7th was not too bad. Only a jacket was required, no mittens and scarfs. Everyone is thrilled to be a part of different groups that are shot with the couple. Some try to hide in the crowd. The children are excited as a playground is close by. This is also where we shot a few good portraits after the guests were back inside.
It’s time for a sweet break, so a few cakes and chocolates are served with coffee. Not yet a big wedding cake, and some are wondering what is up with that. All of a sudden a lot of wild dancing is happening on stage. The bride and groom are supposed to pick up coins that the relatives have dropped in fake hay. Everyone is trying to make their collection of the coins as hard as possible and steals some cents here and there only to throw them back on the ground. I guess another Russian tradition?
After this the flower bouquet is thrown. It lands right in my friend’s hands, who “just happened to be there,” as she likes to put it. Since she has neither a boyfriend nor any intentions on marrying soon, she thinks it a funny piece of coincidence that she caught it. The evening goes on. A game worth mentioning is something my friends and I have come up with. I believe it could have been very very good if only the guests had not been so drunk at 9 o’clock at night. Sigh. It is about painting pictures with people. Such as a girl who stands on a chair and has to extend her arms in front of her. This picture is called the long drought. In German, the word drought can mean either someone who is tall and thin or a fruitless period of time. Unfortunately, no one was willing to participate and the guests who eventually did were either too drunk to sit for long or they ruined the entire game. Fail, I guess! Next time it will be played earlier.
And now to the cake: At 10 PM, when some guests have already left, a gorgeous cake is being wheeled in by the bride’s family. It has three different flavors and is decorated by a bird. Supposedly another Russian tradition is to serve the cake at the end of the day and not, as in other cultures, after the main course.
And the wedding ends with one final ceremony: A circle of candles is being arranged in the middle of the room. The bride is seated in between it. Her mother takes of her veil while sad music is being played. The female guests are slowly walking around the outside of the circle (and trying to not get burned). This is the mother who is letting her daughter go and giving her up for the wife she now is.
So as you can tell, the wedding was a success for everyone. It was fun, it was serious, it was sad, it was goofy and it was definitely anything but boring. And I don’t know which impressions I like to keep most: My friend helplessly being swirled around by an old Russian guy. My other friend struggling to catch the audience’s attention during the game. Whichever one, they both make for two great memories of a truly amazing day!