(Reminder to click on the pictures to see an enlarged version…)
I have to show you the FOOD that was prepared for this wedding banquet! There were 3 tables in one room, and one more table in the adjoining room primarily for the children. The tables lined the walls, and we were given the seats of honor — next to Jeanne and Kolya (with daughter-in-law Dasha in between — what a blessing to have someone translating all the little comments being made.) This food is simply Round One of three.
The guests began to arrive and we all found our seats — because of the table arrangements, once you found your place the only way out was over or under the tables. That is, unless you waited for the breaks in the action when we would all go outside.
Jim gave the first toast of the evening — specifically for Jeanne and Kolya. After a short pause in the eating, I found myself standing up and offering a toast not just to the bride and groom, but also with a special thank you to Olya for raising a great son and for throwing a great party! (Note the hand-embroidery behind Jim’s head — Olya stitched that, as well as many others throughout the house!)
After a time of sitting, eating and toasting, the men invited Jim to go outside for a smoke. He politely turned them down, but it turns out that EVERYONE goes outside for a break. While we’re outside dancing, worker bees are cleaning all the plates, placing them back at each place and adding the first group of hot dishes to the tables which were already overflowing with food! Music was setting the tone, so I went inside and invited Olya to dance with me. I like this picture not just because we are both smiling, but because Dasha looks like she is having as much fun as we were! (Note my beautiful shawl — a bithday gift from Dasha and Jamie last month.)
Though I prodded Kolya and Jeanne to dance, they weren’t particularly interested. Just as they were FINALLY thinking that MAYBE they would dance, along came Jim and swooped Jeanne to the dance floor. Which, of course, was the bare ground. Her heels kept sinking into the dirt, but she managed to swing a bit with her father.
Galya was a one-woman show on the dance floor, but she and Jim had a fun duet as the pace picked up. Childen danced in circles, we all held hands and made a huge circle allowing people to move in for “solo” steps. (Adam, a friend from Canada did a little break dance number that brought the babushki to their feet, clapping as he danced!)
The neighbors who were NOT invited to the actual banquet were welcome to come over and watch the outdoor festivities. Apparently they wanted to SEE the foreigners, but stayed around because they had no idea that we would be so boisterous on the dance floor.
Kolya and Jeanne (in that order for YOU, Kolya) were getting a little tired…it had been a long few days…but there was more in store inside.
Another round of hot dishes, and then Kolya’s godfather passed a plate encouraging guests to leave a little financial gift for the young couple. After he collected the money, he offered a song and a dance.
The ladies sang several times throughout the evening. (Again, I need to figure out how to use YouTube — this is priceless!) Dasha would let me know the folk songs they were singing and it reminded me of our country music lyrics. Sad. Heartbreaking. Love lost. It seemed a bit strange for a wedding celebration, but everyone knew the words and so they sang.
After a while they asked US to sing something American. No way was I even going to attempt the Star-Spangled Banner — not an easy song to sing without a whole stadium joining in! Dasha and I gave our best rendition of God Bless America!
Always more dancing, but there came a time that we had to call it a night. Our ride the next day was picking us up at 4:30a.m. Even though the time had changed, we went to bed so late that it didn’t feel like an extra hour. Just not so bad as if the time HADN’T changed!
One interesting aside: Dasha noticed that whenever people wanted to ask us foreigners a question, it almost always came around to faith and what we believed. She thought it was interesting that they didn’t ask about our food, nor our traditions, nor much about our families. But they DID want to know about our beliefs. We were happy to oblige!
What a day!