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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mongol/Amerk Wedding

Yesterday I went to Alec and Tosca’s wedding. For me it started at the Wedding Palace in UB. For them, it started over a week ago. Alec's family and friends came from the States and there was tons of preparation. Tosca’s mom made their wedding apparel. It was a perfect mix between American and Mongolian fashion. Since Tosca is from the countryside, Alec and his family made a trip out there to formally ask for Tosca’s hand and to assure her family that Tosca would be accepted into their family and vice versa.
I had never been to a Mongolian wedding. Folk tradition in Mongolia says that single women should not attend weddings because they are “energy sucking” events and may curse un-married women. Consequently, funerals are seen as “energy giving” events. Usually when Mongolians see a wedding car passing by, they turn their heads and don’t acknowledge it.
Anyway, the wedding palace in UB is quite the place! It has a long, beautiful stairway that leads to the room where they signed the marriage documents. The bride and groom led the way up the stairs and everyone followed them into the room. The judge then announced the wedding, documents were signed, children give the bride and groom flowers, and we proceeded to a different room. This room had a long table. With bowls of vodka and candy. An old women led us in the traditional ceremony in which the bride lights a pyramid of sticks on fire to purify the marriage. Everyone in the room took a shot of vodka and some candy (to make it official). This was all follwed by an hours of picture taking with the bride and groom because everyone wanted their picture with them!
Then, we all piled into a bus to go to the swanky Hotel Mongolia for the reception. Of course we were stuck in UB traffic for a while before we could finally get out of the city and into the countryside. Out in the “countryside” (20 km outside the city) we saw a bunch of gorgeous, huge, new houses. My friends and I guessed that these were vacation homes for the rich. I heard that UB is one of the fasting growing real estate markets in the world (source unknown), so buy your property now!
When we got to the Hotel Mongolia I was immediately surprised by the structure itself.
It is designed to look like the ancient Mongolian capital, Khar Khoriin. It was amazing. All the guests assembled and Alec and Tosca then rode in on horseback (lots of pomp and circumstance!). Then we all filed into the reception hall. Several vodka toasts were made, bowls of airag (see also "Kymyz")were also passed around. Someone in Tosca’s family had gotten the airag from Dundgovi the day before. Dundgovi is known for having some of the finest airag in the land! Alec hired some performers which included singers, dancers, and contortionists. The rest of the evening was a series of toasts and songs. It is customary for each table at the wedding to congratulate the bride and groom, sing a song, and present them with gifts. Once the people at the table realized that I could speak Mongolian AND that I knew an acceptable song, they told me I would lead our tables song. The 2 other RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) I was sitting with didn’t seem to mind me stealing the spotlight. In addition to the song I led, I helped a table of Americans overcome their inhibitions and sing the first verse of “Amazing Grace.” Needless to say, both songs were a great success. After all the singing, we did a few waltzes and “circle dances” (those of you familiar with Central Asian discos know the circle dance well). I got down to my favorite group “Boney M”. All in all, the wedding was absolutely gorgeous and a great time!

1 comment:

Tom said...

These guys totally stole all their wedding ideas from me and Becky.

Keep the Mongolia Mania comin', Annie!