Thursday, September 10, 2015

Moldovan Wedding Tutorial

A friend commented the other day that we go to a lot of weddings, Moldovan weddings in particular. So I counted them up, and for the eight or so years we have been associated with our Modovan friends, it really hasn't been that many. In no special order, here they are:

Ion and Natasha
Vitalie and Elena
Igor and Rafaela
Sergie and Dorina
Nick and Natasha
Alex and Irina
Igor and Oxana
Viktor and Daniella

You know you've been around Russian and Moldovan people for many years when you know two men named Igor and this no longer fazes you. But the weddings, they still faze me. They are stunning but not stuffy, fun but never out of control, gorgeous but never pretentious. Here are the rules as far as I can tell.

First you need a bride, because what is a wedding without a bride? Just a very expensive party, and who needs that? We met Daniella when she was young and had moved here from Moldova with her parents. She didn't speak any English, but that changed in a flash. This is a smart girl, incredibly smart. I got to know her gradually, because at first the Moldovans were part of the Romanian group associated with the Sacramento Russian congregation. Since we weren't in the mood to learn two languages at once, we waited until the Romanian congregation was fully formed before we joined. But we got to know the families before this, attended many functions and we became friends with the kids.

I knew Daniella was special from the beginning. I had a little slumber party for the girls, and they were adorable and charming and helpful and beyond-their-years mature for such little ones. I found out later their mothers drilled into them to HELP JESSICA, and they did. I was sweeping and Laura grabbed the broom from me and said it would make her very sad if I didn't let her sweep the floor. OKaaaay, sweep to your heart's content and by the way do you like to dust? 

They played Dance Dance Revolution for hours, baked, frosted and decorated mini Bundt cakes for their mothers and stayed up giggling and whispering in Romanian until very late. They woke up early, made their beds, got dressed and were playing Dance Dance Revolution with the sound off when I woke up. When I finally convinced them it was time to head home, they grabbed their stuff, their moms' cakes and I drove them home. When I returned I saw that Daniella had left her cake for me. Wow. My heart melted. These girls. 

As Daniella and the girls grew into teens, we spent a lot of time together. They asked me many questions about English, about school, about my opinions on all kinds of subjects. They had so much pressure on them as they became their parents' translators for medical and legal matters. Daniella sold her first car for her parents on Craiglist when she was in her very early teens. I heard her on the phone answering questions about mileage and the salvage title, and I was amazed at her level of maturity. They also gave me detailed cooking instructions, such as how to make the perfect rice dishes. As twelve year old's. 

Unplanned Polka Dot Duo at the Stanley Theater in 2012.
Last year Daniella let me know a certain Viktor from San Diego was interested in her - they had met at Igor and Oxana's wedding. He was older than her. She wanted advice and she wasn't just pretending she wanted advice. Do I ever love to give advice, especially when someone isn't just pretending to want advice. She listened like a sponge as I gave her my spiel, Take your time. Get to know him. Be yourself. Don't rush. Don't be afraid to call it off. Get to know him. Take your time. Watch how he treats other women. She kept listening, asking more questions and treating me like I was someone who had her best interests at heart. Then Ernst chimed in and she listened more. He told her what he always tells people, contact the brothers in his congregation and ask about his reputation. And she did. Because this girl is smart! And they took their time and got to know each other and then he popped the question and they set the date.

Viktor and Daniella

Her last meeting in Sacramento. Boo.
Now, about Moldovan weddings. You have to erase everything you know about weddings when you attend a Moldovan wedding. Of course there is a white dress and a cake and food and drink and dancing. But the order is more like dancing, food, drink, white dress and cake. There are no fancy wedding favors or fussy details. There are huge flower arrangements, but they are not fresh, which I didn't even realize until this last wedding. They are held in elaborate banquet halls that are gorgeous on the inside and so ugly on the outside you cringe when you drive up. This particular hall is an old skating rink that is probably one of the ugliest buildings in Sacramento with one of the most amazing interiors that replicates a village square, complete with a sky mural, street lamps and a giant fountain. 

The photography is a day long event, these girls got up at five in the morning to prepare for a four o'clock wedding followed by a reception that went on into the wee hours of the morning. And they still looked fresh. 
The beautiful bride.
Exhausted, but still with her cute sense of humor.

No barn-themed weddings for the Moldovans, it's all glitz and glamour. 

Find your table, because you're in for a feast.

This was the first wedding when our names were spelled correctly.

Just a bit of the food served.
Now about the food. When you arrive at a Moldovan wedding, there is already food sitting out on the table. Salads, cheese and vegetable platters, fish dishes. No one eats it, not a bite. There is no such thing as an appetizer. Once the bride and groom arrive and the prayer is said, then it's time to dig in. The wait staff then brings out the real food, the hot dishes. They keep coming and coming and everyone eats family style. No buffet lines, no plated dishes. The dishes go around and around as everyone helps themselves. And then the food sits on the tables for hours. Hours. No one is concerned. These functions go on and on, and after some serious dancing, more food is consumed. More food that has been sitting around for hours and hours. And no one gets sick. Ever. 

Another difference with Moldovan weddings are the amounts of children. They are always invited and they come in droves. They sit at the adult tables and eat the food that has been sitting around for hours and hours. They don't get sick. They don't ask for mac and cheese. They eat chicken with bones and they don't choke. They stay up past midnight and they don't throw tantrums. It is a spectacle to behold. Except we leave way before midnight so I'm just going by what I hear. I would throw a tantrum if I stayed that late and would start choking on chicken bones and demand mac and cheese.

Happy kids don't get kid's meals.

But they don't get cognac, that's for the adults. Each table gets their own bottle. Nice.

The cake cutting isn't a big thing, people are too busy dancing.

But the magical moment when the fruit table opens for business is a big deal.

We love Moldovan weddings!