Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Emirati Wedding ..

So last Friday at church .. I was saying my "hello's" to the friends I hadn't seen all summer, and as I said hello to my friend Gloria, our pastor's wife, she was showing me an invitation to her Emirati friend's wedding.  She was excited that the bride-to-be had made one in English especially for her.   I told her how cool it looked and how exciting it was that she was invited, and she goes, "wanna go?" .. I was shocked .. I said, "well YES .. but can I?" .. she assured me that I was "allowed" to go and wanted me to go with her.  WOO HOO!!  I immediately sent Mark a text (he was in Australia at the time) to fill him in on my fun news ... he was super excited for me .. and jealous! (fyi, the wedding is separate for men and women, so Mark was not invited to go with me).

So .. step one .. find a dress.  The only "formal" dresses I've worn in the past 10-15 years have been to weddings.. I mean like MY wedding .. and a few other bridesmaids dresses .. plus I'm like 3 sizes bigger than I want to be right now .. meh .. the dress.  Never-the-less, I found one.  It was black, floor length and had pretty jewels on the neckline ... AND .. it was flattering .. booya. I already had some snazzy black heels (I better!) and a fun clutch .. had to get some fancy earrings .. found some super shiny clear-stoned (trying not to say "fake diamond") ones and the glamorous ensemble was DONE.  :) I did good.

Fast forward to the event .. I got all jazzed up and headed out the door at about 8:45 p.m.  The party started at 9:30 p.m..  I drove myself ... in the minivan .. zip it .. to the event which was held at the Dubai World Trade Center.  I valeted the car and went inside to meet Gloria.

-Unfortunately, I was asked NOT to take pictures.  Because the event is separated male/female, most of the women were uncovered.  It would have been disrespectful to photograph anything.

The "wedding" in sum, was basically an extremely decadent banquet and showcase of the bride and then the groom .. there was no ceremony or exchanging of vows.  Here is the play-by-play ..

As I walked in, there was a line of about 10 beautiful Emirati women greeting the guests.  These women looked like Princess Jasmine from Aladdin, and they were DECKED OUT.  No abayas or burqas;  they were dressed like they were about to walk the red carpet.  Their dresses were UNbelievable the JEWELRY was awesome (I'm talkin' EXPENSIVE FRIGGEN JEWELRY) with hair and make-up to match... this was QUITE the event.  They were greeting family members with kisses on each cheek and greeting (the VERY FEW) white folks like me with a handshake. :)

After we were greeted, we were sent to a table filled with very expensive perfumes to use.  On the way there, there were some women holding smoking incense (urns?) where some of the older women, who were wearing abayas would put the fabric in the smoke to contain the scent of the incense.  We were offered the incense smoke, which I declined, but Gloria just kind-of fanned it on herself.  I think Gloria did the right thing.  I just didn't know what I was doing.  We stopped off at the perfume table and smelled the perfumes.  Gloria put some on.. I didn't .. I already had some on .. it was not required to use it, but a nice option.

-I think the custom here is to allow guests to freshen up before they enter an event.  I learned something about this at the cultural breakfast that Kelly and I went to when she was here.  Before air-conditioning, guests were offered the chance to apply nice scents to cover up body odor .. this is tradition that continues at customary events like weddings.  (<--I think?)

We then entered the room .. oh .. my .. WORD.

It was beautiful, and WHITE .. There were white tassle-like sheers hanging from the ceilings, and the tables (all 50 of them) were set beautifully with tall white and peach floral arrangements.  The tables were set for 10 with Arabic salads (stuffed grape leaves, stuffed cucumbers, a cucumber yogurt of some sort, etc. etc. etc.) loaded on every plate.  We sat down at a table of our choice and were quickly greeted with servers offering us juice and other drinks (no alcohol at a Muslim wedding).  We were offered tea, and drinks that I'm honestly not sure what they were .. but they had what looked like tapioca pearls in them.  Gloria made an early decision to "always say yes" so we could try everything. I enthusiastically followed her lead.  Along with drinks of every fashion, servers brought by tray after tray of warm appetizers .. mostly breaded foods filled with cheese, meat and vegetables .. (aka fried cheese and egg roll type things) and I can't forget the trays of "sweets."  (The sweets were cookies and chocolates, etc.).  It was quite the "pre-dinner" course and a fabulous way to start the evening.

When the first course(s?) were over, plates were cleared and out came the main dishes.  We were served several different kinds of meat dishes .. lamb, chicken, possibly camel and fish (salmon and a white fish).  We were also served a vegetable platter, rice, and something that another friend said was curds and weigh .. basically it looked like mashed potatoes, but you had to cut them and chew them to eat them .. and since we were saying "yes" to everything .. I tried it and it tasted like chicken fat.  The one bite I had of that was enough for me!  :)

As we were eating, there was loud music playing until some women started to announce the arrival of the bride.  The "announcing" was done with a tribal chirping and then the bridal song ... similar to this:  click here  

Her dress was GORGEOUS and she walked the "bridal march" very slowly, by herself.  Step, pause, Step, pause .. allll the way to a long catwalk/stage that was in between the tables.  She was so stunning.  It was a bit nostalgic to see her just alone, walking with a beautiful smile, addressing over 500 female friends and family (mostly family) that were surrounding her.  There was a video camera on a boom capturing every minute. <--I know!  She walked the catwalk, which was "T" shaped and then landed on a white couch that was sitting where the "T" crossed.  She sat on that couch for the remainder of the evening.  Family and friends were invited to come greet her and offer their congratulations and blessings.  While greeting her had their picture taken with her .. YES our group went up .. she was sooo kind and grateful to have us there .. a very gracious hostess.  She was truly beautiful. 

About an hour after the bride entered, there was an announcement that the groom was about to enter.  At this announcement, the women (who were not in the bride's immediate family) quickly put their abayas and burqas back on .. and actually, a lot of the women left.  The groom was announced in the same way as the bride  (the tribal/cultural wedding march song) .. he came in the room, walked the catwalk (in a very non-bridal walk fashion) and then sat on the couch at the front of the stage.  People then went and greeted the two of them .. after we watched this go on for a few minutes, we left.  It was basically over ... they were married! 

It felt a little anti-climatic at the end there,  but was definitely worth the experience!!  I wish I could have taken pictures!! 

K .. so that was the wedding ... now I need to get busy updating you guys on our LIFE!  :) 

....till next time