Saturday, November 1, 2014

The wedding reception. What a party!

Alena and Riza with emcee talking about sweetness of wedding cake representing sweetness of life and marriage

As always, click on any image for larger view.

Riza's and Alena's wedding reception was a blast!  They had hired a wedding planner so I do not know who gets full credit for everything, but it was all very well done and lots of fun.

Champagne; us
More champagne

After the 2 hour bus tour of oldest areas of St. Petersburg we guests were delivered to another hotel for the wedding reception.  Oh, and while on the tour we learned from the guide that St. Petersburg is built on 42 islands!  Did not know that.  And it did appear to be a true statement as we crossed bridge after bridge as we wound around town in the bus.

The master of ceremony & translator

All the guests dropped off their winter coats at the cloak room and gathered near the bar in a far corner of the hotel lobby floor.  By the way, I like how coat checks or cloak rooms are handled in St. Petersburg.  Unlike in the USA, these are free!  During the 6 days we were in St. Petersburg we only paid to check a coat at one location.  And that fee was very reasonably priced.

Youngest reception guest dancing by piano
At the bar we were first served ice cold double shots of Beluga vodka.  Great stuff! I found out later that the vodka shots were courtesy of Frank and Barbara Gladney.  Wasn't that nice of them!  Then someone walked around passing out glasses of champagne.  Also very great stuff!  There was a selection of juices for those who did not drink alcohol.  Food would come later, and lots of it.  A man played piano in the corner.  One of the Russian wedding guests had brought their little daughter and she was entertaining as she danced for the piano player.  After about an hour of socialization we moved into the large ballroom for the dinner and entertainment.

Bill, Peter & Vicky Forbes, Barbara Gladney
Our table.
The room had a curtained stage and a dance floor, with guests' tables along each side and the table for Riza and Alena at the opposite end of the room from the stage.  Each guest table accommodated 10 or 12 guests.  All the English speaking foreigners were assigned to one table on the groom's side.  Then there were 2 more tables of Turkish speaking guests and family.  On the bride's side of the room were 3 tables of Russian guests and family.  This seating arrangement was thoughtful and assisted in ease of conversation for everyone.  There was a Russian speaking master of ceremonies who also spoke some English, and a female translator for English to make sure we all understood what was going on.  Again, very thoughtful planning.

The tables were pre-set with cold appetizers, so many that it reminded me of the Turkish custom of mezes.  More champagne and wines were served and soon the emcee began the celebration.  

Parents with bread & salt

First there was the Russian tradition of bread and salt.  Both sets of parents were brought forward to bless the newlyweds.  

The in-laws held a plate containing a large round loaf of bread and a tiny glass of salt.  

Receiving instructions for the bread and salt tradition

Riza and Alena were called forward and were instructed to use ONE HAND ONLY to break off the largest piece of bread possible.  

Each doing best to get the most
Who got most?  Almost even, I think.
Tradition tells that whichever one breaks off the largest piece will be the real boss of the marriage.  Lots of laughter as they each attempted to gather as much bread as possible into one hand.  It appeared that Riza won (his hand was larger) but Alena got almost as much as he did.  I think they will be evenly matched as to who will be the 'boss' in their marriage.  Neither is a weak-willed person, in my opinion.  And, after all, marriage must be a partnership if it is to work; not one being the boss over the other.

Then the bread was sprinkled liberally with the salt and each fed the other one bite.  This is symbolic that in their marriage they will never be without the necessities of life and that they will always take care of each other.  The Bread and Salt Custom

I don't remember everything exactly as it happened that night.  Guess I should have written this blog posting earlier.  But as I remember, there was lots of music and the emcee talked a lot with a microphone and the young lady translated for us.  The emcee kept everything lively and moving along nicely.  He was funny and entertaining.  

The first organized act was a magician.  He was quite good.  I did not get any photos of him because how do you photograph a magic trick.  Then there was more music and dancing.

A break for everyone to be served the cold foods on each table and more drinks.  We sampled a bite or 2 of each dish and all were delicious --even the jellied tongue, a dish neither of us had tried before.  Then it was time for more organized entertainment.

The gymnast

This act was a gymnast and she was excellent.  She could contort her body is unimaginable positions while balanced on a single arm up on a stand.  She was really amazing.

Band singers and Russian guests dancing
Lead singer of band
Then the live band was introduced and there was much more dancing.  The music was varied and once I was surprised to hear a Chuck Berry song from 60 years past.  There was Russian type music and dancing.  There was old rock and roll.  

Riza's mom dancing Turkish style

And the best to me were the Turkish music and dancing.  This is divided into 2 types.  One type of Turkish music is danced by both men and women.  It is fun.  And that type was played over and over again throughout the evening.

Turkish couples dancing western style.
All the folks back home who have such preconceived
ideas about Muslims should notice that Turkish women
mostly all dress like anyone else back home.

The second type of Turkish music is danced by the men only.  That is the one that I enjoy most.  The men can really get into this dancing; swooping low to their right side down to the floor; twisting and lifting the right foot; then giving the foot a twist with a flair.  I enjoy watching them get into this dancing.  That type also was played over and over again throughout the evening.

Our friend Frank got too tired after enjoying brandy with
Riza's dad.

Eventually the band took a break and the main courses were served.  Spreading the meal out over several hours was enjoyable but we were full before the main courses came to the table.  We all ate anyway; every one of us.  I opted for the fish and it was wonderful.  But, boy! Were we stuffed! Happy to dance off that huge meal.  

Twirl On!

After the main course was removed from the tables, another entertainment act appeared.  The translator told us that this was the only woman in Russia who does this type of entertainment.  It used to be more common, but today supposedly this woman is the only one left who does this.  

Skirts twirling up and off
She came out dressed in a festive costume with layers of long skirts and holding 2 large circles that resembled tambourines.  And she immediately began to twirl rapidly.  Reminded me of the Sufi twirling dervishes in Turkey.  She went round and round and round, never missing a beat, for a very long time.  As she twirled she separated the circles until soon she was holding 6 of the large circles as she continued to twirl.  Continuing the twirling, she slowly reassembled the 6 back into only 2; then discarded those and began to remove the layers of her skirts as she twirled.  There were several layers of skirts that one-by-one were twirled up to her neck and then removed over her head and discarded.  

Last skirt over head

After what seemed like forever she was down to a plain chemise and her dance stopped.  And she could walk without wobbling.  Do not know how she could have twirled in circles for so long and so fast and not have gotten dizzy.  I was impressed.

Me dancing with Turkish guy in Turkish fashion

The emcee called 5 or 6 men up to the dance floor and held a dance contest.  All were good sports and the crowd applauded to indicate who was the winner.  All in good fun.  Then the emcee did something with 5 or 6 women on the dance floor but I forgot what the ladies' contest was.  I was talking with other guests and missed that part.

The band played more.  We danced more.  Many people drank more.  Long before this time I had switched to plain bottled water.  Others had moved on to brandy.  Bet I felt better the following morning than some of them.

Alena tossing bridal bouquet to single gals
All during the festivities people had been going up to the table where Riza and Alena sat and wishing them well.  It is traditional Russian custom to give the wedding couple a small envelope containing money.  Alena has a nice bag hanging on her chair into which these envelopes were deposited throughout the evening.  Just before the wedding cake was served the Turkish in-laws and the Turkish guests presented Alena with gold coins, most of which were on chains as jewelry.  It is traditional Turkish custom to give the wedding couple gold coins, oftentimes tied with a red sash.  It is felt that should the couple ever fall upon bad times that they can always convert the gold into needed cash.  Bill and I had researched online and knew about these customs; but, being American, we just could not bring ourselves to give cash or gold as a wedding gift.  How does one place a monetary value on friendship or on your wishes for a happy life for the newlyweds?  Instead, we had opted to give them a smallish Baccarat crystal vase which we had purchased in Italy.  Our thoughts were that this is something they can enjoy for their lifetimes and maybe remember us when they look at it sometimes.  We had given the gift to Riza when he picked us up at the airport.  We noted that on a long table that there were a few other wrapped gifts, so others must also have opted not to give the traditional cash or gold.  We often preach how we should not impose our American values on other cultures, but here we were doing exactly that.

Riza tossing grooms's boutonniere to
single men guests.  They do not do
the garter like Americans do. 

The wedding cake was brought out and the traditional slices fed to bride and groom.  Then the cake was served as dessert to all guests.  And then we all danced some more.

The wedding had started for guests when the bus collected us at the hotel at 11:00.  At 23:30 the English speaking contingent of guests declared an end to the partying.  We shared taxis back to the hotel and called it a night.  How many 12 1/2 hour weddings have you attended?  This was fun and we felt honored to have been included as guests. 


  1. Thanks for sharing so much, Judy.

  2. What a gorgeous wedding reception! Kudos to the planner for having arranged such a fantastic event! I love the unconventional entertainment and the seemingly delicious food served. Thank you for sharing the lovely pictures! Wishing the newlyweds all the best!

    Jessica Hayes @ Liquid Diamondz


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