The Armenian Wedding

On Sunday I attended an Armenian wedding party. It was a crazy experience in several ways.

The party was at the groom’s parents’ house. He was a 28 year old guy marrying a 26 year old girl. The men here tend to get married in their late 20s, and often they marry women who are several years younger. The groom was the son of my host father’s sister.

We arrived to the house early, which was cool because I got to see all the tables loaded up with food and drinks before any guests arrived. It was quite a spectacle to see 8 picnic tables in the family room covered in dinnerware, food, and beverages. My first thought was how much work and money it must take to do this. I guess the same holds true for America, but here there is no catering; the family does everything.

I was quickly designated as the cameraman for the evening. I had my own camera and was handed a camcorder as well. Part of me was glad to have a purpose there since I can’t really communicate that well. But when I was sitting down to eat and people were telling me to film something, it got a little old. But the camcorder only had 60 minutes and my camera doesn’t’ have a lot of memory so I was off duty after those things were full.

It didn’t take long for the eating and drinking to begin. In fact, some of the first drinking was happening outside as the men were preparing the khorovats (separate post on that soon, I promise). As guests were arriving I was constantly amazed that there was room for more people. Soon I was dragged into a bedroom where the hars (bride) was. I was told to film as her future mother-in-law sang to her and a bunch of other ladies in the room. I felt like an invader, the only male in the room, filming some tradition I didn’t understand.

There is a lot I could say here, but basically there were a ton of Armenians and me in this house, with loud live music, lots of food, lots of alcohol, and lots of dancing. There was also lots of claustrophobia.

Before the Main Event

Later the groom walked to the bride’s room and met her in full wedding attire. They kissed and then walked through the house to the main room with all the seating to take their places. Then there were some toasts. A while later some lady opened a suitcase that had some presents in it. The bride and groom also danced together while people came up and put money in their hands.

There were a couple cakes too. They have the same tradition of cutting the cake and then smudging some on each other’s faces. A waste of good cake if you ask me.

The food included mayonnaise salads, cold cuts, cheese, lavash, khorovats, kyufta (a dense meat product), fruits, fish, candy, and cakes. There was probably more that I’m forgetting right now.

Need to pee? Either hold it or climb over 50 people!

Vodka and cognac were flowing the whole time. After last week’s episode, I wasn’t too keen to drink much at all. I took the polite sips when toasted, but mostly watched as everyone around me was whisked away in a river of vodka.

That leads me to the climax of the story. As the night grew old, many of the guests had left. Still, there were about 30-40 core family members left dancing away. I thought the party was close to being over when a huge fight erupted. I was being summoned for a vodka toast when I heard shouting coming from the main room. The house mother then burst through the door crying and screaming. Then half of the family entered the room we were in and shut the door (I slipped out right before). Everyone was on high alert and there was a lot of commotion. I had no idea what was going on, so I just stood in the hallway by myself as people fluttered around. After 5 minutes or so things had calmed down a tiny bit. My host brother looked at me and just said, “Vardenis!” He made the drinking gesture and I told him I understood that sometimes drinking leads to interfamily battles on a wedding night. Okay, I just told him I understood, but that’s what I was thinking.

Then the next thing I knew there was a round 2, with even more shouting and screaming. This time it was mainly the men. My host father was going crazy and yelling at the father of the groom. The groom’s father wasn’t holding anything back either, shouting from the front door back at my father. Then my host brother started going nuts. He looked like he wanted to put the groom’s father in the sharpshooter for a quick tap-out. But his special meter wasn’t full, so he had to resort to taunting. Whatever my brother did, it must have been offensive, because my host mom and a bunch of other people pushed him out into the street. At this point it was clear that we weren’t welcome anymore. So I joined the family out in the street where the chaos continued. My father’s brother pushed his wife, who fell into a parked truck and remained down on the ground. I was completely shocked and went over to help her up. Keep in mind she is shaped like Bob Murray (for those not from Decatur, she was shaped like a pear. An obese pear.). She wanted none of my help. In fact, it was almost like I wasn’t even there. So I backed up and just kept watching the craziness unfold. There was more shouting. My host mom told me to sit in the car with my host sister. Okay. I sit in the car and am frantically looking out the window. At many times in Armenia I feel like a pet dog that is along for the ride but completely oblivious to what is going on or what anything means. This was one of those times. The only thing missing was me getting my wet nose all over the car window. Then they open the door and throw the pear lady in, who is apparently injured. She keeps saying “Vay mama jan”, which is something like “Oh dear mother”.

Then we went to the military hospital. But on every bump of the incredibly craggy roads here, there was a “VAY MAMA JAN!!!” coming out of the pear lady. I have to admit I wasn’t fond of her in the first place because she has an annoying voice and is really loud. But now she was really squeezing every drop of drama out of this injury. I wanted someone to shoot her just to put her out of her misery and give us some quiet(I know that’s bad but it’s the truth). We spent a bit at the military hospital and then moved her next door to the normal hospital for some sort of crude x ray. I could not believe the state of the hospital there. It shouldn’t surprise me, since everything here is in a certain state of disrepair, but it did nonetheless. It did not look like a place where you should be working on people. I wish my hospital-working friends could see it because it truly was out of this world.

So yeah, that’s about it. It was a surreal experience. I felt bad for the married couple because a.) they didn’t look like they even wanted the party in the first place and b.) it was ruined by a huge interfamily royal rumble. And despite the humor of much of the situation, there is a very ugly undertone. For instance, the husband who pushed his wife and broke/dislocated her shoulder showed absolutely no remorse. That bothered me. And then the aspect that the same guys who were toasting each other for peace a couple hours before were enraged at each other a bit later. It doesn’t make sense to me.

With all that said, I have to give a huge congratulations to my friends Ross and Sarah on their engagement. I meant to do it earlier but wanted to make sure it was public news first. I am so proud of you guys and happy for you. Please don’t have a crazy family fight at your wedding (I know you won’t)!

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5 Responses to “The Armenian Wedding”

  1. Peter Says:

    Sorry to hear that, bro! It is already confusing enough being in a foreign country, but when people are yelling at one another it’s even worse!

    PS – Been clicking ‘submit a comment’ and it’s not working sometimes.

    PSS – I had my 5 coworkers play the ‘guess which one of these guys in the photo is my bud at this wedding’ and they were a cool 5/5.

  2. icenugget Says:

    Ack sorry you are having trouble with the comments. Anyone else? (I guess if you’re having comment problems you can’t let me know via a comment, haha) I haven’t had problems yet.

    I’m glad your coworkers don’t think I am an Armenian yet. In a couple more years it might be a harder game.

  3. Sarah Says:

    Hey Kev,

    Thanks for the shout out. That was really sweet. I was really hoping for some nice family drama at my wedding. I don’t know if we will be able to compete with these Armenians. But, here’s to trying.

    Also, you made me laugh when you feel like the dog being told to wait in the car. I could just picture that awkward situation.

  4. Wayne Burt Says:

    Graet story about the pear lady. That’s the next door neighbor right? I taught in that hospital and I share your surprise at the conditions.

  5. icenugget Says:

    Yeah, next door neighbor. She had to go to Martuni for an operation; I’m not surprised that they couldn’t do it in the Vardenis hospital…

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