Inspired by a wedding I attended last night, I thought it might be fun to do a little write-up regarding that most important of social occasions, the wedding. For those of you new to the Yucatan, you might find this useful. To make the article more readable, I will post it in several parts. This is the first part, dealing with most things pre-wedding.
Before the grand social event, which the father of the bride is responsible for paying in its entirety (none of that shared expenses crap that is becoming more and more common up north), there is that overwhelming decision involving the potential guest list. It is not uncommon here for weddings to have a guest list in the hundreds. From 150 to, as at last nights event, 650 guests to feed, get drunk, entertain. The guest list is hashed out between bride and groom, and their parents. The number is usually huge, and then whittled down to minimize no-shows and also the overall expense. As the list of invites moves from tentative to firm, it then again grows as all parties realize that they simply can't leave out this or that person, especially when this other third person is being invited.
Besides family members who obviously must be invited whether we are getting along with them or not at the moment, and beyond the friends category, there is another group that requires careful consideration: the must-invite guests, those with whom (usually the parents) have acquired some sort of obligation, usually related to their careers. A bad career move would be to forget to invite your supervisor and/or boss to your offspring's wedding! A good move would be to include not only your boss/supervisor but also the actual owner of the company you work for; this would add not only possible career advancement to your future, but also a certain status for you within the company and society as a whole. Everyone will be duly impressed with your clout when the owner of the company walks in, accompanied by his wife batting false eyelashes and draped in an imposing authentic fur throw.
A notice in the local paper, usually the Diario de Yucatan, is also a nice touch, under the headline 'Novias del Mes' (brides of the month) where a studio quality head shot is accompanied by a brief bio outlining some of the family and groom's details. This photos appears in the Local section, which is a popular second to the fluffy Sociales section which many Yucatecos turn to first to catch up on the latest social events and to criticize this or that person's hair, dress, makeup or pose. It is a fun and popular activity for all ages and everyone participates.
The guest list now confirmed and agreed on by all concerned, the invitations are printed and sent out. These are almost always square, about 10 inches by 10 inches, folded and have the embossed initials of the bride and groom on the front in a suitably flowery font of the bride's choosing. Much is made of the paper to be used as well, and whether a see-through cellophane envelope or a regular paper one is to be used. Everyone wants to be original, but not original enough to break out of the 10x10 square mold.
Inside the invitation, all the usual details are posted in a matching font to that of the embossed cover previously alluded to, along with the RSVP card and possible a note indicating at which stores guests can find bridal registry info in order to get that set of silver plated cutlery. If one of the parents has passed away, there will be a little black cross next to their name.
Invitations are to be hand delivered. This enormous task can be divided up among members of the immediate families and the whole custom is becoming a little less rigorous. Some people now leave several invitations for members of another family, for example, at the home of one of those family members.
If you are the lucky recipient of an invitation bearing the inscription "Don William Lawson y Famila" (fill in your name here), you can head off to one of the local stores that have bridal registries and be confident that the bride and groom are listed there - there aren't that many local stores to choose from; Sears, Liverpool, and Chapur pretty well sums it up. You ask to check out the list, you can have it printed and choose something, pay for it, and the store (at least Liverpool does this but I imagine they all do) takes care of the nuisance of having to wrap and deliver the present. You pay, leave your information so proper credit can be attributed to you and you're done.
Of course there are many many things to plan for the wedding. There is the dress, which is usually made specially for the occasion and requiring several fittings. There is a cake, the catering (!), the music, the venue, and and and and and....
There are quite a few caterers in Merida; but the most popular one at the moment and very socially acceptable if you know what I mean, is Rigel. That's pronounced REE-hell. He has come up through the years from modest little events to doing the biggest and most elaborate social gatherings around. If you want your food to be tasty, attractive and actually warm and cold when it supposed to be, you hire Rigel. If you aren't worried about those minor details, you could hire someone else.
Music is also plentiful in Merida. There are several groups to choose from and various degrees of interaction. Lately, the more the merrier is the norm. More on all that in a later posting.
There is the venue; which one you choose depends largely on your guest list and budget, in that order. Most of the venues in Merida are not particularly attractive; they are mostly huge empty spaces with shabby carpeting and very rough around the edges that most party planners try to play down with clever lighting and strategic placement of flowers and other decorations.
The church and priest also have to be arranged. Money is the key here, the more you can pay, the higher ranking priest will be available for your event. Of course, it also helps to be a member of 'society' as very few high-ranking officials of the catholic church will attend a nobody's wedding. Bad career move.
Speaking of churches, the bride and groom have to be up to date in their church papers. They may find themselves at a little refresher course where they will be brought up to speed on all the charming details they may have forgotten about the bible story. Of course, payment is required for these lessons in faith and the blessings it will bestow upon you and yours.