Sunday, May 28, 2006
M29 Bodas Mexicanas (Mexican Weddings)
Someone asked me if all my friends were married. Come to think of it, all but one is. I myself am still working on the girlfriend thing.
This spring weddings have been sprouting up like flowers. I was honored to attend two weddings of my closest Mexican friends; Claudia's wedding to Stefan and Fernando's wedding to Loary.
When it comes to weddings, Mexicans go for broke. They rent out giant haciendas (huge farms with castle-like buildings, moats and walls) have massive white dinner tents the size of football fields, multiple dinners, bands, dj's, mariachi performances, lucha libre masks and even mock bull-fights. And to top that off, so to speak, alcohol that flows like the Amazon er El Rio Grande.
Even the most extravagent American wedding would look austere by comparision.
As formal as Mexican weddings are, they are often characterized by the kind of improvision at which Mexicans thrive and us gringos cringe.
Just prior the ceremony, Claudia asked me if I would pass her "lucky coins" during the ceremony. This is a symbolic ritual presumably meant to signify luck and prosperity.
It would mean that I would have to be onstage, suddenly cast into the limelight as a member of the wedding party. I practically blushed with honor. I didn't quite understand what was going on, but it turned out her childhood best friend was supposed to do this and no one had heard from him. Plan B for Brian.
About 10 minutes before the actual ceremony, he showed up. So much for my fifteen minutes, but I had another fifteen coming.
Claudia and Stefan invited me to make a two-hour Bossa-Nova mix for the dinner. The plan, however simple, like many things in Mexico, worked out to be complicated.
Give the sound man the CD, insert it into CD player, press play. Voila! We would then we'd be entreated to some of the nicest romantic Brazilian Bossa-Nova this side of my favorite country.
Instead, I arrived underneath the wedding tent, to my ear-stabbing horror, to a Muzak version of "Dust In the Wind". For a funeral, maybe, but a wedding?!?! That right that there would have been enough to ruin mine.
I went to the head table. Claudia implored us to "Do Something" in Spanish. I went over to the mixing board and tried to explain to them the should play the Bossa-Nova CD's. They said there was a problem, so I proffered my Ipod. But aparently they were missing the cord to connect it to the mixing board, even though Claudia had asked for that.
The missing cord then suddenly materialized, but that didn't solve the drama. Then they couldn't figure out (after reassuring me they had taken Ipod 101) that you had to tweak the volume to get the right sound. So it sounded like were were listening inside a tin can.
For some reason they thought they should make their talents known by mixing tracks between the Ipod and the CD's. That wouldn't have been such a disaster on its own, if they hadn't kept playing all the songs twice. EQ'ing forget it. For the most part, my fastidious ears were the only ones that really noticed. I was flattered to receive compliments about my playlist.
After a delicious gourmet meal, dessert and more drinks than I care to or probably could remember, the dancing started. They hired a band which played mostly covers of wedding and Mexican pop standards. They got eveyone dancing their asses off. It's probably the only time in my life I will hear the Village People's "YMCA" played right after Daddy Yankee's regaeton anthem "Dame mas gasolina". I was absolutely delighted when they covered Belanova , my favorite Mexican pop group.
But it worked and it was 100% unselfconscience fun. As if the music wasn't enough, we celebrated their wedding while conducting mini-celebrations for carnival, mardi-gras, the running of the bulls and luche-libre. The later is Mexican "free fighting" which is basically this country's masked equivalent to our WWF wrestling. Though luche-libre has more culture poignance due to its link to the use of masks in pre-colombian Mexico - but that's another story.
The handed out feathers, hats, long ballons and even a picture frame. By the time the band ended, it was time for another dinner. Then the garter toss which was hillarious as Stefan pulled from underneath Clau's dress an enormous gag bra and garter belt before tossing the real thing to a gaggle of solteras (single women). Shortly after the mariachis entered and played for seemingly hours.
While they played, there was a mock bull fight with Stefan as the madator. After all that, the mariachis left and we switched venues to what appeared to be a Mexican beer hall to dance the rest of the night to a DJ. By my watch, the wedding began at 1pm and ended around 5am without a minute's pause.
More photos here: Photography by Brian Kemler
Selected tracks from Claudia and Stefan's playlist:
Track - Artist
1 A Ra - Joao Donato
2 Diz a Ela - Lisa Ono
3 ¿gua de Beber/¿guas de Marco - T.Jobim-V.deMorais/T.Jobim
4 Samba de Verao - Marcos Valle
5 Carta Ao Tom 74 (Toquinho E VinÌcius De Moraes) - VinÌcius De Moraes
6 Chega De Saudade - Tom Jobim
7 The Girl From Ipanema - 45 Rpm Issue - Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto
8 Cinnamon & Clove II - Balanco
9 Disse Me Disse - Manoel Da Concricao
10 Ela e Carioca - Marcos Valle
11 Bossa 31 - Rosalia De Souza
12 Falsa Baiana (Jo O Gilberto) - Various Artists
13 Mas, Que Nada! - Jorge Ben
14 Monsieur Binot - Joyce