Finally all that boring stuff at the church is thankfully done with and everyone is in agreement that it was really a beautiful ceremony. It matters little how dull and uninspired it might have been, or how the priest doing the honors was really talking down to his congregation as if they were a bunch of Matamoros chicken farmers, his self-important speech, political references and grandiose hand movements that inspired me to think that his real arms were under his robes and that there was another priest behind him, out of sight, moving his arms along with priest 1’s words. His robes moved back and forth under his sweeping arm movements, like a fat lady’s arm flaps applauding at a football game, only in slow motion.
Yes, no matter what it really was like, it’s always a beautiful ceremony, mostly thanks to the radiant bride, with whom all the ladies present feel some affinity and/or pity, depending on how their marriage(s) have worked out.
Enough of the mass already! On to the party!
Once you arrive, you make your way to a table. This is done as quickly as possible since you don’t want to arrive late and have to sit with some people you don’t like and make small talk as if you enjoyed their company. I mean, all that ‘talk to strangers’ stuff has already been taken care of in the church, when the lady next to you in the poofed hair and heavily freckled exposed shoulders turns to you and says something about ‘paz’.
On your way to a table, you try to not to look desperately around for familiar faces of people you would like to spend the next few hours yelling across a table with while scooping mystery dip off a plate with your supply of Ritz crackers. Thankfully not all weddings serve Ritz n Dip, but it IS a popular menu item with many caterers.
Once you are seated, and if it is a good party, you can count on a waiter asking you what you would like to drink. If it is a really good party, the hosts will have printed for you a menu of the evenings dining opportunities as well as a list of the wine selection, cocktails and hard liquor available so you can avoid having said waiter tell you that most famous of local phrases: ‘no hay‘ (that isn’t available) Along with your drink, you can begin the scooping of the afore-mentioned dip with your Ritz crackers or, in the case of a classy wedding, help yourself to some fine cheeses and crackers that are not of the Ritz variety. There will be background music which will be of a volume conducive to conversation as people arrive and are seated.
Once the tables have filled, the music will start, a live band of some sort, doing cover versions of popular songs in different genres. The volume will be cranked up to the point where you are yelling at the person next to you and causing what I term ‘auditory fatigue’, where you become glassy-eyed and sit, looking at the people around you but unable to carry on any sort of conversation with anyone at your table, with whom your interaction is limited to occasional smiles, hand signals and shoulder shrugging whenever your eyes should cross paths.
At some point the bride and groom make their triumphant entrance, at which point everyone applauds. Sometimes there’s a toast, sometimes there is only the applause and then the hopefully happy couple, stressed and probably relieved that the hard part is over with, officially commence the dance portion of the evening. There is much animated yelling on the part of someone in the band designated with the challenging task of firing up the crowd. To this end, he or she will continue with frequent, repeated full-volume exhortations to get everyone ‘excited’. If you are not on the dance floor, nor have any plans to do so, your evening will be quite grim as you stare, numbed by the noise, noise, noise, noise (quote from my good friend the Grinch) at people around you in similar funk or at the fun people are having on the dance floor.
Speaking of music, the typical scenario is a live group, with what seems like an excess of vocalists. There will be some sort of percussionist, perhaps a bass and electric guitar, and the omnipresent keyboard/laptop filled with enough sonic effects to provide a soundtrack to a mission to Mars.
As far as the actual music goes, they will play cover versions of hits. The genres inevitably covered, in no particular order and played at every single party in Merida that I have ever been to are:
- tropical salsa and merengue, featuring predominantly Celia Cruz’s Carnaval;
- cumbia and reggaeton (the latter a new addition to the musical lineup);
- swing and 40’s tunes for the old folks, often in the form of a neverending medley;
- 70’s music, where YMCA will ALWAYS be included, along with Gaynor’s I Will Survive;
- the Timbiriche set (All Mexicans love the old pop group Timbiriche it seems – they go wild when this pap starts
If you have been to parties in Merida, from 15 años or weddings to birthdays, you will recognize each of these genres. Again, the quality of the interpretation of each of these yawn-inducing musical moments varies greatly according to the budget provided for it.
The music take a break, announced by a little theme song and choreographed stage movements aka vamps. It is before / during this break that the Ritz n Dip plates are removed and dinner is served. Again, depending on the budget, this can be a one plate affair or consist of first course like a salad or soup (or both) followed by the actual dinner itself. It is mealtime when the quality of Rigels’ catering really becomes apparent, because his food is cold when it should be and hot when it needs to be hot. It is also tasty and well presented. There are one or two other good caterers in town, but there are also a lot of improvising cheap ones as well.
As you are eating, if the event is planned well, there will be soft background music that will help in your actually enjoying your meal; poorly planned events overlook this small detail and will move into the next round of an eardrum-crushing onslaught guaranteed to make that limp, lightly salted, boiled cauliflower floret want to jump right out of your esophagus.
Once dinner is over, there will be desserts which range from the cloying, tasteless yet sweet corn-starch variety to some really delectable items. On a memorable occasion (last night for example), fine Belgian chocolates from L’Amandine along with home-made Arab pastries.
After that, the evening consists of two options:
a)either drinking in excess and joining the crowd on the dance floor, where all manner of fun is being had with the help of ‘props’, ranging from styrofoam headwear to maracas to slippers to balloons to you-name-it; all matched to the particular set of music being played at the moment. During Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, for example, it is not unusual for the singer to put on a black afro wig and pretend to be black. Celia Cruz, well you get the picture and
b) drinkling in excess and staying at your table amidst an ever-dwindling crowd as people go home, having been fed and entertained. Bleary eyed, you patiently and determinedly attempt to finish all the whisky available and perhaps, if you wait long enough, will get to enjoy the late feeding at 5AM involving tacos and tortas de cochinita, another wedding and party tradition for those who party all night.
…. more later….