Thursday, September 28th was no ordinary day for me. I had my oral final exam for my language course and when I came home, there were three strangers in the apartment. And by strangers, I mean Andrea’s daughter and her two kids who live in Sevilla. This past weekend, one of Andrea’s daughters got married and I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to the wedding. This post is going to give you the inside scoop on what my life was like this weekend, spending it with the whole family.
First, I want to give you a little family background. Andrea has four daughters: Silvia (who is married and they have 3 kids), Vanesa (who is married and has 2 kids), Gema, and Rebeca (the bride of the weekend and she has one daughter). Before this weekend, I had only met Vanesa and Rebeca because they live in Alicante, but by the end of the weekend I had met all of these people and many more family members.
Thursday when I came home, I spent the afternoon getting to know Silvia and two of her kids. A couple hours later, Vanesa and Rebeca come over with their kids. I’m used to it being just me and Andrea in the apartment and sometimes there’s a grandchild with us, so with 10 people in the living room for lunch, overwhelmed does not begin to describe how I felt. The family is very friendly and patient with my Spanish skills, but I did a lot of spectating at the first family meal. As the conversation started to pick up, everyone talked louder and faster to the point where I was surprised anyone was listening to each other. With a 2 year old running around, the younger girls giggling, and a bunch of people crammed into the kitchen trying to help cook, it felt a lot like a family holiday.
Later that evening, we went to the train station to pick up Silvia’s husband who came on a separate train. When I say we, I mean everyone from lunch, plus the groom and his daughter. Talk about a lot of people walking through the streets together! As we were on our way back home, we ran into Gema on the street, and the family was complete.
After spending the whole afternoon with the family, I escaped to the beach for a couple of hours to watch the sunset, study for my final, and breathe a little. When I came back to the apartment, everyone was preparing for dinner, minus the groom. We all crowded around the dinner table (that was made for eight people) and stuffed our faces with pizza, tortilla de patatas, and chips. I was able to follow these conversations a lot better as they talked about wedding plans for the weekend and were catching up with each other.
Silvia and her husband spent the weekend in the apartment with me and Andrea, but there were always at least six family members in the apartment at any given time. Most of the family gathered for lunch and dinner and I really enjoyed the “family feeling” for a weekend.
Sunday was the big day. I woke up to many running around the apartment trying to shower, get ready, eat, and organize kids before we had to leave. Gema, Rebeca, and Andrea had gone to get ready at the site of the wedding, so I left with Silvia and Vanesa for the wedding. We rode the bus across town to a cute little restaurant that relatives of the groom own. There were somewhere from 30-50 people that attended the wedding, and we all stood outside the restaurant with the groom, waiting for the bride. Rebeca arrived in the back of a convertible and we all cheered and clapped when she came, then we went inside for the ceremony. The ceremony was very similar to those in the US, but here the relatives speak during the service instead of during the reception. Rings and vows were exchanged, but it’s also tradition in Spain to exchanges arras, or coins, which are a symbol of good fortune and good luck. At the end of the ceremony, we all held hands and said the Lord’s Prayer (I think, I’ve never heard it in Spanish, so this is just my guess). At the end though, the ceremony was opened up to everyone in the room and any wedding attenders were able to say any words of thanks or desires for the newlyweds. I’ve never seen this done at a wedding before, but it appeared to be of the norm in Spain.
After the ceremony, we moved into the back patio to eat. The waiters brought out tapas after tapas. I ate with Andrea’s grandchildren who are closer in age with me, and they laughed as I questioned some of the food put on the table. The most unique thing that I tried was calamar, or squid! (For the record, it’s actually pretty good when fried). After lots of tapas, we had a main course of chicken, and of course after that we ate cake. Throughout the meal, people would randomly yell “Viva….” (which is similar to “long live…”) followed by a person in the room (usually the bride, the groom, the best man, the maid of honor, the daughters of the couple, or the waiters) in a way of acknowledgement or honor for that person. The Spanish know how to throw a party, and the atmosphere was full of life and energy.
The night ended with lots of dancing and pictures. The family and I made it back to the apartment around 10pm sweaty and tired after a long day of celebrating. We all came back and drank some decaffeinated coffee, then went to bed. Here is a picture of me and Andrea from the wedding. I have a fun and wonderful relationship with my host mom, and I’ve only been here a month.
Silvia and her family are here until Thursday. Now that things have returned to normal after the wedding, things are calmer around the apartment. Vanesa is over a lot too, so it’s like I have three moms giving me advice and taking care of me. I can now participate in family conversations, but they still don’t let me help them do any of the chores in the kitchen. I can only imagine how empty the apartment is going to feel when everyone leaves and it’s just me and Andrea again.