Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Spanish Wedding

I am not sure what I expected a Spanish wedding to be like. I suppose I had conjured up an image of traditional Spanish dancers with black vails and patent leather shoes. I also anticipated much pomp and circumstance. Whatever image I may have had, it was shattered by reality.

Monty and I flew into Madrid where we met Teodoro Nieto, an artist Monty represents and a long time friend, along with Franz and Laura Reinart. Franz is German born but had migrated to Mexico where he met and married Laura, who is a native born Mexican. They live in San Diego, but most of their business interests are located in Mexico. Laura serves as a North American representative for Teodoro.

We rented a car and drove with the Nieto entourage to Ayllon, a small town of about twenty five hundred residents located about eighty miles from Madrid. Although Teodoro has worked and lived for most of his adult life in Madrid, he has maintained strong ties with Ayllon, where he was born and now owns significant properties. The great majority of his landscapes portray Ayllon.


Allyon, Spain
View Ayllon, Spain in a larger map

The wedding took place in a small community was about five miles from Ayllon. Oscar Ramirez, the groom, lived in that small town of about 500 people and was its mayor. He owned and operated a vineyard nearby. The bride named Lorena was Teodoro’s daughter. She ran a restaurant in Ayllon, which her father owned.

Our group arrived at the little country church about five minutes before noon, when the wedding ceremony was supposed to begin. I was fearful that we would be late. After all, we usually show up a half an hour in advance for Birmingham weddings. To my surprise, although there was an enormous crowd in front of the church, no one had gone inside. The church could seat no more than about one hundred people but two hundred had been invited.. It appeared that all the invitees had come. Therefore not all the guests could be seated in the church.

We entered the church in order to get a good seat, which was no particular problem because no one else seemed to be in a hurry to go inside. The bride and groom arrived separately and fashionably late. I expected to see a procession with bridesmaids, ushers and the grand entrance of the family, but it did not happen that way. The bride and groom ambled in with the rest of the crowd. Lorena was wearing a long green dress, but it hardly appeared to be what we would consider a wedding dress. A band consisting of a flute, drum, tambourine and a couple of horns began playing music which was joyful and loud, but not very religious to my ear. The entrance of the bride and groom appeared to be quite similar to that of a politician entering a rally.

Lorena and Oscar took their seats at the altar accompanied by Teodoro, the father of the bride, and the mother of the groom. Henar, the mother of the bride, sat somewhere near the front.

Hollywood could not have found a more appropriate priest for the occasion. He was probably no more than about 30 years old. He stood about five foot five inches tall. Despite his youth and short stature, he had already acquired the demeanor of a parish priest, with an angelic look and a broad comforting smile.

The guests began to file in occupying all the seats, packing the aisles and slipping into every available nook and cranny. So much for our great seats. Our main view was of the back of the necks of persons who were standing in the aisles. Still others who could not find space stayed outside looking in through open doorway.

The service went on for at least and hour and a half. Since it was mostly spoken in Spanish, we could not follow what was being said most of the time. Monty detected at one point that the priest was repeating the Apostles Creed.

At another point, the priest seemed to using the word “bambino” frequently. I have known that Catholic priests encourage the couple to have children early and often, but his instruction in that regard seemed a bit superfluous in this instance. Lorena was already carrying a baby. She was about four months along and clearly showing. There was no shame or embarrassment, though. She was happy, her parents were happy, and I believe the priest was happy to see the early arrival.

At another point, the priest turned his attention away from the bride and groom and received the two children of Lorena’s sister, Ruth. The priest then baptized them. That was a first for me. Obviously the priest was open for business and prepared to take on any religious duties required of him at that time.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the music during the service. There was a trio of sopranos who performed from time to time during the service along with the band. They sang a couple of songs I did not know, although they produced a pleasant pastoral sound which seemed to be inspired by the madrigal music of the Renaissance.

Then came the only point in the service performed in English when the trio sang “Moon River.” Where did that come from? Ir reminded me of the time that Tutter Tyndal of our church allowed a performance of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” at the wedding of Tim Hudson, who is now a star pitcher with the Atlanta Braves. This wedding was really getting to be interesting!

Later on the band performed an African piece which I believe was the theme song of the TV show “The Ladies Number One Detective Agency.” By that time I thought nothing would surprise me.

When the service came to an end, the guests began to leave the sanctuary while the wedding party was remained at the altar. This made some sense and because the aisles were so clogged that the bride and groom could not get through. However, even guests continued to leave until no one was left in the sanctuary .except the wedding party and a few stragglers such as Monty and me.

Then Lorena, Oscar and their families strolled out with little fan fare. When Lorena and Oscar reached the doorway a celebration erupted into a frenzy the band playing in the parking lot. There was hugging, kissing, laughing and joy like I have seldom seen. The men grabbed the groom and threw him into the air. It was noisy, raucous and just plain fun.

But Spanish weddings are not limited to the church ceremony. The entire crowd migrated to Ayllon to the restaurant owned by Teodoro. there was a new band with many hor d’oeuvres served and drinks flowing. The Spanish seem to drink a lot but do not take strong drinks. In that way they can continue to party for hours without peeling over. And they love to dance. The Spanish are graceful dancers, and they are tireless.

Lunch was served in a seated dinner at four o’clock. During the meal, many of Oscar’s contemporaries would shout at Oscar. I could not translate what was being said but it was apparent that his friends were doing their best to embarrass Oscar, probably by referring to past misadventures. Oscar was up to the task and would responded with his own retorts.

I was able to understand one of the guests who shouted out,”Kiss the Bride!” There was no response. Then he repeated, “Kiss the bride!” Still no response. The rest of the crowd started to join in by chanting in unison, “Kiss the bride! Kiss the Bride!” Finally the couple relented, stood up and joined in a warm embrace - and everyone cheered. The Spanish know how to have a good time.

After the lunch the dancing resumed. Monty and I were exhausted and decided to retire to our room for a rest. The party was still in high gear when we returned in two hours, and it did not appear that anyone, old or young, had left.

Dinner was served at eight thirty. Mercifully it was a light meal featuring the Spanish version of sandwiches, but the party was showing no evidence of slowing up. About ten thirty Monty and I gave up and went in for the night. We understand that Teodoro closed the party at midnight.

We had planned to leave the next morning to drive over to the Pyrenees for a few days. We were ready to leave by nine thirty. We wanted to say goodbye to Teodoro and thank him for his hospitality, but were concerned that we would not be able to see him. Surely he would sleep in to midday after that ordeal. Nevertheless we stopped by the restaurant, and, somewhat to our surprise, Teodoro was busy at work cleaning up the mess created the night before. It turned out that he had gone to sleep at two in the morning and awakened at five to start work. We also saw Ruth who was supervising half dozen workmen in the ballroom cleaning up and setting up for another event that would start the next day Next came Henar The whole family was there except Lorena.. No, I was mistaken. Around the corner came Lorena in her work clothes.

I was stunned at the sight. Obviously the Nietos work as hard as they play. They are quite a family.

I would never have felt that any wedding was worth traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to see, but I was wrong.