“Come at 6:00 pm sharp,” our Mexican maid, the bride-to-be, instructed me, “but the Mexicans are invited for 5:00 pm,” she explained with a giggle, “because they’re always late.” So I strode up the hill from Seis Esquinas to the venue to be there at 5:45.
The big open-air eventos was already packed, the guests seated at white-clothed tables with center-pieces of real roses. As I took in the crowd—there must have been well over 200 people and more still rolling in—I realized that I was the only non-Mexican. One of the bride’s many sisters led me to a table marked reserved, close to the head table, which was decorated with bunches of balloons, flowers, and artificial strings of vines, defining the area where the civil wedding would take place. At one end of the huge space was the bar and open kitchen where four or five women were balling and patting mountains of tortillas. No one would go hungry. Men and women waiters, smartly dressed in black, dashed back and forth across the concrete yard taking orders for drinks and returning with bottles of beer and cold jamaica tea or orange juice in plastic cups.
The male guests were dressed casual, but the women made up for it in tight, form-fitting evening dresses with lots of makeup and long hair stylishly coiffed. The little boys were in suits and the girls wore fluffy dresses and bows in their hair. I had chosen to wear a skirt and very light summer blouse, but the evening was hot and soon the sweat was running down my back.
The disc jockey, contentedly beating time with his fingers, kept the music cranked to conversation-diminishing levels and then, at 6:00 pm sharp, the wedding march was piped in and the bride and her father, slowly hobbling with a cane, made their way to the head table. The bride’s floor-length dress was of a soft, metallic material in deep mauve. Her long, black hair was loose, adorned with a white-and-silver headpiece pinned to one side. The groom wore a white, short-sleeved, black-embroidered shirt and grey pants, the ensemble topped off with a white sombrero and dark glasses.
The marriage ceremony was short, followed by family and friends taking turns at the microphone to spontaneously congratulate the couple. I was surprised when the mic was offered to me and, knowing my bit of Spanish would not do justice to what I would like to say, I spoke a few words in English, which no one seemed to mind. Then the guests lined up to hug and kiss the bride and groom and to give them their presents. Some loud fireworks announced the formal part was over and the fun was about to begin.
A twelve-piece brass and percussion band, dressed in gold lame jackets and white pants, took their places on the raised stage, each with microphone. Their announcer, speaking faster than a machine gun, fired up the band to ear-splitting volume as the wedding couple took the first dance. The groom had changed into a pink shirt and jeans, but for some reason kept on his dark glasses and sombrero. Waiters scurried from the kitchen carrying trays stacked with Styrofoam plates of meat, rice and beans, and piles of tortillas. Children twirled and pranced on the concrete dance floor, and one tiny little boy marched in perfect timing worthy of a military parade, while almost no other couples chose to dance.
When my eardrums were fit to burst, I decided not to wait for the wedding cake and took my leave. Way down the hill, when I reached home, I could still hear the music and I wondered whether others, stoked with a few more beers, might have ventured onto the dance floor. Surprisingly, other than the really loud music, the whole event was quite subdued. I think I was hoping for more of the extrovert joie de vivre that I have come to expect of a Mexican fiesta.
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