Monday, 25 November 2013

A Wedding In Saudi

This has been a year of travel, and at this very moment I’m in New Zealand again. Last weekend I went to Auckland and visited St George’s Church, Epsom with my daughter.  In a little over a month she’s getting married there.  

St George’s is an old traditional church with a white painted wood exterior. The inside is dark and cool. As we stood together in the silence beside the old wooden pews, it felt just perfect for a wedding.

I few months ago I went to a wedding in Riyadh. It was nothing like the kind of wedding my daughter’s planning, in fact it's hard to imagine anything more different.

Here's how I played it.

1. Arrive about 10 pm, even though the invitation says starting 7 pm.  Nothing much happens earlier.

2. Enter the women’s reception area, remembering that Saudi weddings are segregated affairs and the men’s reception will happen somewhere else.

3. Look around the lavishly decorated hall. There is a stage and dais at the front and a central aisle around which seating is organized.

4. Be overwhelmed by the amazing gowns. It’s all here, from skin-tight to very short, to plunging necklines. Everything sparkles and glitters.

5. There’s no bride, but there is food. This is brought in by female wait staff, who move with practised dance-like synchronicity. They carry lavishly arranged tiers of chocolate, sweets and dates, and serve Arabic coffee.

6. The music starts. A female vocalist performs against a CD of Arabic music and the dancing starts. Small groups of women go onto the stage and move slowly and rhythmically to the music.

7. Lights dim for the presentation of a short video clip showing the bride arriving outside with her father.

8. The pianist plays Fur Elise and a retinue of frilled and ruffled flower girls and bridesmaids process down the aisle.

9. The bride follows. She is an extravagance of white tulle and diamantes and as she walks slowly down the aisle there is plenty of time to admire and appreciate.

10.Once she’s seated, everyone processes up to the stage, kissing her on both cheeks as they pass.

11. The lights come on and the female wait staff  appear again, moving with the same synchronicity, but this time carrying an array of beautifully coloured drinks.

12. At 1.30 am the doors open to the buffet. Women only of course.

I left about this time, thinking I’d not even seen the groom, but feeling too tired to wait any longer, and definitely too tired to eat.

I think that come January 4th and my daughter’s wedding, there’ll be a lot more comfort in familiarity.  It’s going to be great. 

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