The Getting-Married Part

Being the petted and cared-for American, I was in the black, Soviet Chaika with the foldout seats, with Rodica, Ioan, the nanashi and their daughter, Alina, who is perhaps eleven years old and was very satisfied with her dress. Later, we were in the same car with the two groomsmen added, which was more entertaining, if not so spacious. But anyway, everybody leaned on their horns and we drove out to the registration place.

The secular marriage temple, one marriage every thirty minutes, canned music and shades of Las Vegas, gilded mirrors to pose the bride before and separate rooms to take pictures of the bride's and groom's party, fifteen minutes in the reception room with champagne and the next bride sweeps in. That's the registration place and that's where they were officially married.

Only, since we were, as one of Rodica's friends informed me, probably the first bridal party in history to be on time, we had to wait outside in front of the steps until they cycled through a wedding and had space for us. The videographer did not film that part. We watched the video Monday night, and he waited until the happy couple swept up the steps to start filming. It was a chilly, gray October day with yellow leaves on the street and the temperature perhaps in the upper forties, perhaps lower fifties. My estimate went down a degree every two minutes we waited. The happy couple was very happy when they entered the registration place.

After a number of different posed photographs (and after the wedding before ours cleared out), we lined up behind the happy couple and crowded into the registration room. A matronly woman with bright lipstick recited a speech about love and duty and the rest of their life, and she asked Rodica a question, and Rodica said Da. (That's Romanian, not Russian. Please don't get confused!) Then she asked Ioan, and Ioan looked at Rodica, then back at the lipsticked lady and said Da. She talked some more, and they went up and signed with a silvery-toned metal pen shaped to look like a large quill. And the nanashi went up and signed. And the lipstick talked some more, and the happy couple went and bowed in front of each set of parents. And then she told them they could kiss. So they did. And everybody screamed.

It's really a different sound from what we think of as cheering. That's why I use the word screamed. Please don't confuse it with bad horror movies, even if the music in the hall wasn't particularly synchronized to the ceremony and stopped and started at disorienting times, leading me to wonder just what sort of foreshadowing they were trying to create.

The happy couple, oh favored phrase, got a marriage certificate in a little red book like a passport, and we all went into the reception room to do the receiving line thing -- just the hc (happy couple) and the nanashi -- and drink champagne. Oh, so far as numbers go, we probably had 20 people at the apartment and 30 people at the registration and 100 or more people at the party. And maybe twelve glasses of champagne (but several bottles to refill them). People drank a toast, then put the glass down, and somebody else picked it up for their toast. Same with the wine toast for the receiving line at the party, and again later when people gave presents. If anyone there had mono, we'll all know pretty soon.

It should have been really tacky, with the piped music, and the three other brides I saw while we were there. Okay, it was tacky. But it was also real life, not Vegas, and we were there because that's where there was to be. Rodica's hair and lipstick sparkled and she posed in front of the mirrors with gilded frames and yes, I know they weren't gold, although the rings were. I know every bride is beautiful, especially to her friends. The solemn celebration of a church with flowers on the end of every pew is just as artificial anyway. Ceremonies are artificial, structured, ornamented and prescribed and ritualized. A wedding is a ceremony, not a free form expression of love. Free form expression tends to make pretty bad art anyway, and it's embarrassing for the observers, if stumbling upon couples on park benches is anything by which to judge. The bouquets of flowers were carefully arranged in such a way that the cellophane could never be removed without messing them up, and they had curls of ribbon and ruffles to offset the flowers. The flowers were still exquisite. And only in retrospect did I look at the ceremony and say, "Okay, it was tacky." It was also real. And yes, beautiful.

So after our time in the reception room was up, we heading back outside, past another wedding party or two. Once we got outside, we had to slow down and form up on the steps. Then this short, middle-aged man handed Rodica and Ioan each a dove. The video guy and the photographer got ready, and on a count of three, they released the doves.

Then we all piled back into our cars and a smaller group (minus parents and so on) drove to the monument of Stefan cel Mare to set flowers and have a picture taken. The group got a lot smaller after that picture, but the select (and younger) few drove to a few more sites to wander around and have our pictures taken.

And saw several more brides, too, or perhaps the same ones. Oh, in a particularly cliched moment, the sun came out just after we left the registration place. Pathetic fallacy thought it might have been, it was lovely and we all laughed and enjoyed the sunshine immensely.

Continue.