Let's elope!

A Latvian wedding tradition is for the bride and groom to choose a vedējpāris to acccompany them in their wedding ritual instead of a bridesmaid/groomsman: the vedēji are a couple who are already married, who the bride and groom are close to, and whose partnership they admire or respect to some degree. The vedējpāris traditionally do a lot of the organising of the wedding - MC functions, getting together parts of the ritual, pitch in with work and finances and whatever else is needed in the whole shebang that is a wedding.

This year, Jem and I have been fortunate to be asked to be vedējpāris in two weddings - although the responsibility of doing lots of organizing was taken out of our hands on both accounts, which was a bit of a relief, to be honest - we go the glory without having to do the work!

The first wedding was the reason for our Mexico extravaganza earlier this year, and was a wonderful blend of beach, Latvian pagan tradition and classic wedding celebration, all made very special by the fact that it was our beloved brother/brother-in-law/uncle/godfather Joel who was groom.

The second wedding was only a few weeks ago, and was very different to the above, but equally moving. The happy couple have lived together for years and already have a son - and had finally decided to make it all official and exchange their vows - in a church, no less. When asking us to be their vedēji, the invitation also came with the condition that the wedding was to be secret - and that no one (except for their son, the priest, the photographer, and us!) could find out about the wedding beforehand. Of course we were thrilled to be asked, and enthusiastically agreed - though I did feel a bit funny about the fact that none of our mutual friends, or their parents knew about the upcoming nuptials. For me, weddings are very much about family and community, so not being able to tell anyone about what we were about to share in was difficult. But they wanted to get married without the brouhaha - fair enough - so we prepared secretly, with me arriving back to Latvia that morning from a conference in Germany, while Jem dropped the kids at our parent's place in Saldus.

The day was drizzly, the leaves were beginning to turn golden, and inside the church was bone-chillingly cold. At first it seemed quite lonely - walking up the aisle of the empty church to stand right in front of the minister, hearing his words about love and autumn and harvests spoken for just us four. But after the first few moments of awkwardness, the wonder of the situation began to take over, and I began to enjoy the intimacy of the ceremony. There was no "audience" to watch the show - the whole ritual was just about these two people, who were officially pronouncing their love and commitment for each other - for no-one else's benefit. As I always do at weddings, I found myself weeping during the romantic bits, especially when they exchanged their vows, which were so heartfelt and dramatic in Latvian translation (the traditional "to death do us part" translates as "līdz kapa malai" - literally "until the edge of the grave"), and so sincerely delivered.

Afterwards there was the obligatory wedding march and flowers and photos, and later we went down to the beach, right near the church, where the newlyweds danced their first waltz, while Jem and I sang "Waltzing Matilda", Jem on "high ukele" and me on the shaker. What fun! (for the record - I had never really appreciated "Waltzing Matilda" in any context outside primary school music lessons - and let me tell you, this song in the context of an old time waltz ROCKS)

We abandoned the idea of taking a yacht ride into the Baltic Sea, because of the heavy rain and storm that had set in, and went out for a celebratory dinner and champagne. It was a truly amazing day, and a real privilege to share it with our friends. So here's to weddings! And love! And doing things your own way!

3 Responses so far.

  1. Madeleine says:

    These are lovely pictures! And I like the simplicity of the church, too. :-)

  2. ieva says:

    Nu, tā augšējā riktīgi smuka bilde ar jums - kā no 60to gadu kino!

  3. Ditto, that first photograph is beautiful.....

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