May 13, 2012

Wedding Photos...

Embroidered detail on an abaya
Last Saturday was a day I will never forget - ever - for the rest of my life. We attended the wedding of our friends, Bara and Iman. I told you that the women would be in one room to celebrate, and the men would be in another.

We arrived at the venue around 6 pm, whereupon I was escorted to the women's room. I waved to Handsome, who was standing with Bara's father and brother, as I was led away.

Bara's mother and sister, Fatima greeted me with open arms and Fatima would serve as interpreter and "educator" for the rest of the evening. Within minutes of my being seated, other women started to arrive covered with their veils (hijab) and long coats (abaya).  I felt that I fit right in with my attire.
Beaded and crystal detail on an abaya
However, as soon as the door they entered closed on the outside world, they removed their covers to reveal rainbows of color, beautiful hairdos and makeup. Fatima explained that they were covered so that other men would not see them dressed so, but with other women they dress this way and celebrate...and they dance.
Stunning party dresses
I asked permission to photograph their dresses, promising not to show any of their beautiful faces so that, even on the internet, their privacy and modesty would remain intact.

Within about twenty minutes of women starting to arrive, I told Fatima that I wished I'd worn the one party dress I'd packed. She said, "Hurry! Go and change!!!" Away I went to change from the black outfit I shared with you last week into a new dress and airy jacket I had purchased for another party.

When I returned to the party, Fatima embraced me and said it was perfect. It certainly was not a sparkly number like so many of the guests' party dresses, but more in keeping with their joyful celebration.
Embroideries, shiny threads and gorgeous lace
The embroideries, beading and opulence of these dresses was simply stunning, and the women wearing them were open, welcoming and friendly to me and the other non-Muslim women in attendance.
My favorite dress of the whole evening
More than once, I told the woman wearing this dress that it was my favorite one of the evening. She was gracious and humble in her response to me. When I asked to take a photograph of the detail, she was more than accommodating.
And they danced...
Did I mention that they (we) danced? Even the children danced and they all had a grand time! There was even line-dancing to Arabic-sounding music.
and danced some more
Dinner was delicious - classic American wedding fair - chicken over parmesan risotto with asparagus, and of course, there was wedding cake.

But the wedding was different from what I expected. There was no single ceremony. The bride and groom made their legal promises to each other about two weeks prior, but their wedding was not finalized until Saturday, when their families met each other.

Prayers were lifted, stories were shared, the happy couple was introduced to everyone and they danced together for all of us to witness.

While the women celebrated, Handsome told me that the men also said prayers for the newlyweds, and they also danced. In fact, Handsome was handed a traditional Syrian drum and he was moved into the center of a circle to play while all the men reveled around him. He said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience...and he had a ball. 
Iman's stunning wedding gown and detail of her veil
After dinner and dancing, the groom came back into the room where all the women were celebrating (after they again donned their hijabs and abays) and Bara and Iman danced together. The marriage was finalized. Official wedding photographs were taken and the bride and groom left to spend their first night together - not only as husband and wife - but their first unchaperoned evening together ever.

Before we left, I sat next to a woman my age, who had eaten dinner at the same table where I was seated. I told her that I thought her abaya, adorned with crystals and beads, was stunning. I also told her that I sat most of the evening with moist eyes as I took in all the beautiful women in their gowns, how much fun I had dancing with them - and how moved I was to be a part of their celebration. I shared with her that I would never forget this experience, and I thanked her for being so kind to me.

She placed her hands on my cheeks and said, "You could see all this beauty and happiness because you have beautiful eyes and a beautiful heart. If it had not been so, you would have missed it all." Then, she leaned forward and embraced me as tears tumbled down my cheeks in gratitude for her kindness.

When I went into the hall, Handsome was there waiting for me. We shared our experiences all the way back home, and spoke of it again all day Sunday. 

We answered the telephone on Sunday to find Bara and Iman on the other end of the line. They thanked us for attending their party and promised to visit us over the winter in Florida. We can hardly wait to see them again!

I hope you enjoyed my story today. I wish I could have shared photographs of Iman's entire wedding outfit, but her customs forbid it. I respect that, and I have a much better understanding of at least this part of their customs, how their weddings differ from ours, and yet, how very much we have in common.

I wish you could have shared this day with us. For me, I'll never forget the rainbow of color, faces and love that filled that whole ballroom on Saturday night.
PS. We didn't see them open their wedding quilt. They'll be doing that next week, when they meet again with family after their honeymoon. I'm sure we'll hear from them then, and I'll be sure to tell you about their reaction!

14 friends clicked here to leave a note for me:

laurajane said...

Glad you hada good time,the girls dresses all look beautiful.
Lots of wonderful memories for your old age

Twyla and Lindsey said...

Donna, thanks to your wonderful account, I Do feel like I shared the day with you. What a fun time! You Do have beautiful eyes and a beautiful heart! Twyla

Mosaic Magpie said...

Beautiful Heart and Beautiful Eyes...yes that pretty well sums it up! Glad you had such a wonderful experience. The dresses are beautiful.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

I DID enjoy your recount of the celebration. I had no idea that muslim women dressed so beautifully under their black garments.

My brother married a Syrian girl, but her family was Catholic. As I grew up, my family and her family were good friends, butI don't recall them speaking about Syria, but I did enjoy Syrian food.

What a lovely experience you had and I am so glad that you met these women. There is such a prejudice against Muslims in America.
xx, Carol

Chris said...

How wonderful Donna! What a memory.
Thanks for sharing this.

Queenie Believe said...

What a wonderful opportunity! It's not everyday one can do somthing they have never experienced before, let alone have to courage to do so. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time.
In the U.S. it seems like we never truly dress up anymore, even weddings have become more and more informal especially out here in the west. It was neat seeing all the beautiful fabrics and dresses. Perhaps there is still hope for beautiful dress making :o)
Thanks for sharing photos and experiences of this awesome occasion and wedding tradition.
Have a great day.
Always, Queeenie

Minimiss said...

What stunning fabrics and embellishments. It does us good to be immersed in another culture for a day so that we get at least a glimpse into how others live. Of course we already know that you have beautiful eyes and a beautiful heart. So glad you both enjoyed the day.

Tina@WhatWeKeep said...

Sounds wonderful, Donna.
I got teary eyed myself with your story. They will adore their quilt- as they will know all the love that went into it.
Thanks for sharing with us!

Terri Sue said...

a beautiful heart and beautiful eyes. yes dear donna this is definately you. you are that and so, so much more. it sounds like an amazing time. i'm so glad you and handsome got to share it.

Patty said...

Lovely account, it's nice to know that although our cultures are different, we are very much the same.

Cherry's Prairie Primitives said...

The colors and the details of the dresses were gorgeous!! Sounds like you had a wonderful time!!

Mandy said...

What a wonderful experience to have had.

Createology said...

Donna this was a lovely recap of such a unique wedding you were able to experience. How sweet and welcoming they were to you and Handsome being able to play the special drum. I think you two had quite the comparisons conversation after the festivities. Only once in a lifetime and you were part of it. Amazing...

Michelle May said...

I feel like I was right there with you. How fun and truly, what a wonderful experience.


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