October 16, 2002 - Advance of Bucks County, PA: Peace Corps Volunteer gets married in Georgia, the Georgia east of the Black Sea

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Peace Corps Volunteer gets married in Georgia, the Georgia east of the Black Sea

Read and comment on this story from the Advance of Bucks County, PA on Peace Corps Volunteer Kate Blank who got married in Georgia, the Georgia east of the Black Sea at:

The Georgian wedding*

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The Georgian wedding


When my husband and I announced plans to visit Kate, our youngest daughter, in Georgia, the Georgia east of the Black Sea, she made some plans of her own. She decided to marry during our stay.

We knew the marriage was in the offing, originally scheduled for her return to the States, but for several reasons her plan made sense: she and her fiance could marry sooner rather than waiting more than a year, and it would simplify his immigration.

Another reason made her decision interesting. We could learn the wedding customs of another country.

I began badly here. When I arrived in Georgia, I turned to Manana, Kate's Peace Corps host mother, for the answers I needed; Kate was living with Manana's family in a small village in the Caucasus Mountains, and she opened her home to my husband and me as well. She speaks English, understood a basic assumption in my questions, and sought to enlighten me: "Oh, YOU don't go," she said. "The bride's parents don't attend."

"They don't go to her wedding?" I asked. "The bride's PARENTS don't go to their own daughter's wedding?"

"Oh, no, certainly not. Not to the wedding or the party afterward. The groom and his friends come and get her, and after the ceremony comes a party, and then the groom has a party at his house all day the next day. But the bride's parents don't go."

"You won't be there," said Kate's oldest host sister helpfully. "You can go to some other party. Later." She smiled winningly.

We went to the wedding anyhow, which Mediko, the groom's mother, arranged to have in Tbilisi and not in the village, flying in the face of custom. In Georgia primary responsibility for the wedding lies with the groom's family, I learned, a piece of good news. The best man and maid of honor dress nicely, but in no special clothing. No one seemed to expect a larger wedding party, and I didn't fret about that. And when my husband and I showed up for wedding and reception, no one seemed surprised to see us there, so perhaps our non-attendance was a village custom. Or maybe the wedding guests in the capital were just being polite.

Guests at Georgian wedding receptions don't routinely give gifts; relatives may give the bride jewelry, usually gold, but couples do not receive the dishes, glasses, lamps, sheets and towels Americans usually give. It's just as well; she can wear the rings on the plane home, but what would she do with crates of gifts?

I had braced myself for a long day wedding day. Georgian receptions last until three or four a.m., I was told. But Mediko had different ideas, and at eleven that night, after eight hours of food and wine and lots of dancing, while waiters were carrying in suckling pigs that had to jostle for position on tables already laden with more food than the 200 guests could have consumed in several more days, the toastmaster, or tamada, made clear that the party was almost over.

The tamada, a fixture at Georgian supras or feasts, took more than his share of time, I thought, but the toasts he led paced the drinking well. Those who drank when he proposed a toast had clear heads when the reception ended at midnight. Only the imprudent drank between toasts, and they fared less well. Only one or two were Georgians. The groom is expected to stand and drain his glass for every toast, but I was pleased to see that while he stood, he drank only a swallow or two, then set his glass aside.

Georgians toast only in wine, and their toasts, a kind of social grooming ritual, encompass all of life. "For us," said the Georgian guest opposite us, "first comes God, and then our families, and then is wine." He didn't exaggerate. Most families make their own wine, and I learned that Manana had used two tons of grapes to fill the wine jars in her basement.

We will plant our own grape arbor and learn from our Georgian son-in-law how to make the pure wine Georgians love.

©Newtown Advance 2002

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