I’ve been married to the Serb for eleven years and in that time we’ve been lucky enough to attend a few cultural shindigs. The recent wedding of his cousin, with over 600 people at the reception, was the pinnacle of my training.
It could be my giving nature or that I watched Karate Kid II yesterday, but I’ve decided to impart you with some wisdom from the Rakija-soaked trenches. Here is a handy cheat sheet to help you survive—nay thrive—should you ever find yourself in a similar situation.
Get Yer Hooch On
I purchased my hoochie mama dress months ago, but chickened out when I realized the celebration would begin hours before the ceremony. Also, despite my lack of religious upbringing, it seemed wrong to have so much cleavage flopping around a house of worship. Fortunately, most of the other women had two outfits planned all along, so my girls had a chance to come out and play after all.
Barfing and Car Crashes Aren’t Cool
Prepare hangover cures and designated driver arrangements in advance. The Serb swears by Ibuprofen and vitamin B before bed while I rely on a quarter pounder with cheese for breakfast the next day. As for the driving situation, I think it’s an unspoken Serbian marriage vow that the wife will be DD until death do they part.
Like most people learning a language, the first Serbian phrases my husband taught me were the bad ones. As a result, I can make a sailor cry in ten words or less. Make sure you have some phrases in your back pocket that can be used in polite company (“moje ime je Lori” = “my name is Lori” “hvala” = “thank you” “Ja sam oženjen” = “I am married”).
Prepare for the Meat Sweats
A Serbian wedding reception without meat is like a politician without a sex scandal: it’s just not done. This reception was held at an Italian banquet hall and offered guests the standard soup, salad, pasta, chicken parmesan with veggies and tiramisu (*shudder*). What made our dining experience uniquely Serbian were the massive trays of lamb, pork and beef that supplemented the meal (the lamb and pig having been recently roasted on a spit). Any leftover meat was brought out at midnight along with the mountains of cookies and cakes.
Embrace the Sweaty Palms of Others
A kolo is a folk dance that is part bunny hop, part line dance and all sorts of awesome. People hold hands and perform a grapevine-type move from side to side. The music usually gets faster and one song can last over five minutes with hundreds of people snaking across the dance floor, around the tables and maybe even through the kitchen. Dancing kolo is a wonderful metaphor for life: some take it very seriously while others smile the entire time; most parts are beautiful but it can also get a bit messy; and, just when you think you’ve got the hang of it, a new move is thrown your way. All you can do is hold on tight and try not to step on too many feet.
I can’t get this thing to embed, but here is a quick link of a kolo that began before the meal was even served, or the bride and groom even sat down: IMG_2341
It’s three o’clock on Sunday afternoon and we are on a short hiatus from our cousin’s wedding. We left the house at nine o’clock to get to a pre-wedding celebration at the bride’s parents’ house, had the church ceremony at one o’clock and now we have an hour before the reception begins. I’m sure a full recap will follow, but for now here is a brief rundown of the day:
Hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep last night: 5
Hours spent dodging daughter’s foot after she climbed into my bed: 2
Number of outfits scheduled to be worn: 2 (hoochie mama dress deemed too provocative for church at noon)
Minutes taken by me to get ready: 58
Minutes taken by my kids and the Serb together to get ready: 9
Number of parental threats uttered on the car ride: 27 (i.e. “Touch her again and I will throw out all of your toys!”)
Times I stabbed my kids with the pin from my boutonniere: 6
Number of Serbian grannies that pulled my kids in for a cuddle/kiss/squeeze/etc: 17
Plates of food at the pre-wedding party: 26
Plates I Sampled: 24
Pairs of foundation garments holding me together: 2
Cans of Pepsi consumed by my son, the barfer, who never drinks soda: 4
Number of times he’s barfed: pending
Instruments played by band on the driveway: 4 (trumpet, accordion, violin and guitar)
Number of firecrackers set off on the driveway: 18
Number of times I almost hit the floor for cover: 0 (ten years ago I would’ve belly-crawled out of there)
Pre-emptive blister Band-aids on each foot: 7 (each toe, ankle and arch)
Number of blisters: pending
Flasks/bottles of Rakija (aka Serbian Hooch) floating around at any given time: 8
Percent of the ceremony I understood: 3
Photos my son took of the videographer: 146
Photos my soon took of the bride and groom: 1
Minutes until the babysitter comes so the Serb and I can escape to the reception (aka date night): 77
Number of people at pre-wedding party/church: 60 (give or take a few)
Number of people at reception: 600 (give or take a hundred)
Odds that I’ll lose my husband in a sea of Serbs: 50/50