Sunday, September 28, 2008

Community wedding in Itaboaí

We went to a “community wedding” on Saturday featuring 17 couples from the surrounding area in Itaboaí. Two years ago Luiz’s goddaughter, Claudia, married her husband in a civil ceremony but then this opportunity for a full on wedding in their church came along. So now they planned to walk down the aisle in real style.

In fact, the opportunity to be the focus in all that pageantry was too good to pass up for Claudia’s sister as well. Maria Inês convinced her husband (civil ceremony 30 years ago!) to don some duds and re-commit.

By sharing the costs involved Claudia’s catholic church, Nossa Senhora de Fatima, offered an opportunity for the poor residents of their congregation to access a beautiful church wedding complete with lots of flower arrangements, a seven piece band with beautiful vocals, and accent lighting to enhance pictures and videos.

Normally the church charges R$300 for a wedding. In this case the couples were charged just R$60. The “parish family” then made arrangements for the ceremony, flowers, etc. It was a very popular idea and couples young and old took advantage of the opportunity.

Hours before going to the church we stopped by Luiz’s aunt Darcilia’s house (Claudia’s mother; their houses share a front gate and back yard) to enjoy her specialty: ox tail stew. Being on the inside at that point we were privy to all the mishaps that kept trying to derail the big day: the day before Oscar’s car had broken down and the mechanic was not yet able to get it up and running – so suddenly no car; when the rented dress and tux arrived Oscar discovered his shoes were of two different sizes and Claudia’s “permanent florals” bouquet (use included in the dress rental) was pretty mangled by the previous bride – phone calls and running around ensued; and then the guy from the reception hall called to say he had not paid the light bill so the power had been shut off!

Lots of drama. And lots of food. The stove and oven in both houses were running full tilt preparing final dishes and desserts for the guests. A friend arrived with a big van to help shuttle decorations, food and set ups to the (still dark) reception location. Repeated yet somehow calm calls to the reception hall guy ended when he assured everyone that if he could not get the power company to turn on the electricity in time he would just clip into the power lines above the street and reroute a little extra juice for our needs. (VERY Brazilian. This somewhat common practice in many poorer sections is referred to a having a “gato” [cat] where you pinch off the power grid and simply bypass the power company altogether.)

Finally the time arrived to walk to the church. Once the women’s hairdos were ready and the men and boy’s ties tied we put the brides in Tonico’s car (it had been raining all day and the muddy dirt roads would have been a disaster on shoes and dresses) and set off for the church, just a couple blocks away.

[Sorry, this is turning into a pretty long post – but it’s a great story.]

Once at the church the family members went inside and the couples and attendants went to the social hall to be coached and organized by the church staff. It was showtime.

As it turned out Luiz and I had the only camera in the bunch, so Luiz was declared official wedding photographer. He performed admirably as you can see from these shots.

It was all very moving. The music began and a procession of attendants entered and walked up the long red carpet to fill the first 7 rows of wooden pews. Then beaming brides and their grooms followed, pushing through a wall of camera flashes and past beautiful flower arrangements lining the aisle.

The priest got things underway by leading those assembled in a few prayers and then settled into a rather long homily presumably about the ups and downs of married life, etc.

Then one couple at a time walked to the front, exchanged vows and rings, received the priest's blessing and were pronounced husband and wife (to enthusiastic applause.) While the individual time was brief, yet not rushed, time did add up (remember there were 17 couples.) Just over three hours after we arrived we were cheering the newlyweds as they exited the church.

Now it was time to see if we had lights at the hall. Sure enough, when we pulled up we could hear the DJ and all was brightly lit. Somehow along the way someone forgot to pack the forks. No matter – the focus of the meal being served was Brazilian BBQ which most folks are used to eating with a tooth pick, or just your fingers. The gigantic savory torte was easily served in napkins. There were plenty of bowls and spoons for the soup. Nobody forgot to pack the beer and cups – so we were fine!

For the next several hours people danced, ate, drank and took photos.

It was a really sweet day. Claudia and Maria Inês thoroughly enjoyed walking down the aisle. The wonderful diversity of couples at the ceremony (young, old, first timers, repeat customers etc.) was heart warming. Being witness to such a touching community event was the real treat for me.

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