I just can’t seem to get away from wedding season.
When I was still working at the newspaper, one of my editors said there should be a comedy about my life because I used nearly every vacation and personal day on weddings showers, bachelorette parties and the like. (We told him Katherine Heigl beat me too it.)
I actually think being in the Peace Corps might be saving me money on hotels and flights. (I’m missing at least half a dozen weddings.)
And then October happened.
Actually, August happened first. The teachers at my school reported for work in mid-August. I checked in a week before school, after I got back from Barcelona (overdue blog post about how I’m moving there coming soon). I said hello to everyone. I drank coffee. And I got invited to my first Macedonian wedding the first weekend of October.
One of my coworkers who teaches first grade stopped me on my way out to invite me to her daughter’s wedding two months down the road. (This kind of early planning shocked me.) She just wanted to make sure I didn’t have any other plans.
It was really sweet.
And the wedding was a blast!
She invited about half the village, including all of our coworkers from the little kid shift at school. (First through fifth grade come for half the day and sixth through ninth come for the other half.) We all piled on a double-decker bus to head four hours across the country for the big night.
People don’t mess around with weddings here. There were at least 31 tables with a dozen place settings at each. Everyone was decked out. I think I was the only one of my colleagues who hadn’t gone to the hairdresser to get styled for the night. Some of them had extensions put in.
I wore one of the two dresses I brought from America, the only pair of heels I brought, and spent more than five minutes pulling my hair back and putting makeup on. It was my Macedonian finest.
We arrived at the venue around 7:30 p.m. and went through a receiving line. I eavesdropped on the person in front of me to figure out what the proper thing was to say. Cо среќа! (Good luck!) At the end of the line, I joined the group of my colleagues crowding around the bride and groom I’d never met for a photo. Afterward, I told them good luck too and then followed my crew to the table.
The dancing started around 8 p.m. The bride and groom came out, had a first dance and then family members slowly joined them on the floor.
And then we oro’d.
I think I’ve talked about the oro before, but to recap, it’s a traditional dance where everyone joins hands and dances in a circle. The most basic is three steps right, two steps back, and repeat, but there are many variations. It reminded me of being at the roller rink as a kid. Sometimes everyone dances. Sometimes it’s faster or slower. People join and leave. Some people are better at skating than others, but the circle just keeps going.
The oro didn’t stop until about 10 p.m. Keep in mind the only women not wearing high heels are small children and babas who have reached the “I do what I want” stage of life. I stuck it out until the complicated oros came on and in between, I ate salad and drank rakija, as one does.
I think dinner came out (and by that I mean a plate of two different kinds of meat) around 11 p.m. Perhaps the idea is to work up a hunger with all the dancing? As the resident vegetarian at the table, I just stuck to salad and rakija for my entrée as well.
Everyone knew every song and there were different oros for different members of the family. We all crowded the dance floor when the mother of the bride oro (for our coworker) came on.
All of my wonderful coworkers also coerced me into heading out to the dance floor alone for the bouquet toss since I was the only single one at the table. Catching the bouquet here has the same symbolism as in America. I made the Daria effort and some girl in the front dove for it.
The cake finally came out sometime around midnight. Meanwhile, the dancing continued. My dogs were barking by the end of the night, around 2 a.m., when we piled on the bus to head home.
We arrived home just before 7 a.m. School started at 7:30 a.m., so we joked about going straight to school in wedding gear and giving the kids recess all day. (But seriously…)
I started from the third class, and when I rolled in exhausted, I got “we’ve all been up all night dancing together” nods of approval. I’ve always felt a bond with these coworkers, but I think was big for my village street cred. They spent the morning telling the teachers who hadn’t attended about my oro skills and about what I wore.
Two weeks later, I had my second Macedonian wedding. My main counterpart married one of the teachers from the little kid shift.
I’ve been joking with him about planning and details. He’s been a good sport. He told me weddings are usually on Saturdays or Sundays, but since he had booked really early (in August), they got the venue on the day of their choice.
It was an amazing contrast to friends who plan weddings a year or two in advance in America. I have several save the dates hung up in my room for weddings next summer I’ll miss.
My counterpart handed me my wedding invitation two days before the wedding. Macedonia, you are so chill. It is amazing.
Both weddings were a blast and it was great to hang with my coworkers in a different setting. It was definitely a bonding experience. Now they’re all ready to plan my Macedonian wedding. I told them I was perfectly happy being a cлободнa птица (free bird).