When an acquaintance of only two days invites you to their wedding, you always say yes.
The question came up as Anita (a classmate) and I were busy spreading natural yellow paint over the wall of our host dad’s new adobe brick house.
A week later we found ourselves transported from the tiny potato farming community of Paru Paru, Peru to the larger and more touristic town of Pisac. A chance glance out the bus window by Anita caught colorful and bedazzled chullos (hats) and ponchos weaving between other pedestrians. Our Dragon’s leaders quickly called for the bus to pull over so that we could scramble out and catch up to the wedding party moving towards the church in the main Plaza.
The church ceremony, primarily spoken in Quechua, was complete with flowers, traditional music and two chairs in front of the alter for the bride and groom. A timid peck shared by the couple sealed the deal and concluded the ceremony.
All the guests waited in two lines outside the church for the wedding party. Tourists from the nearby market began to also assimilate into the crowd and take unethical photos. Their treatment of the event as a tourist attraction was extremely frustrating to us. They jostled actual invitees for better view points and complained about how long the bride and groom were taking to come out. The family didn’t allow it to damper the day’s excitement but instead threw confetti evermore excitedly on the newly weds.
At the reception space our group tried to take inconspicuous seats in the back. After the experience with the other tourists we hadn’t wanted to draw anymore attention away from the couple. Instead, we had an escort. To a table. In the front. By the wedding party: a table of honor.
We were floored… how could we sit there, hardly knowing the family, when everyone other guest simply had one chair and no table?
Overcoming our initial surprise and partial guilt for our preferential seating, we enjoyed soup, freeze dried potatoes, the largest pieces of meat I have ever seen, tamales, corn and steamed vegetables. Eating was about a four hour experience followed by rounds of alcohol. (Note to my parents: the legal drinking age here is 18!) Most notably, every guest who presented their gift to the couple had confetti showered over their head and were gifted with a very large bottle of beer. Cake, dancing and the departure of Dragons followed.
The bus ride home was not nearly as energetic but much more pensive for me. I reflected on this experience as a lifelong memory wherein a family had so openly and willing enveloped us into their special day. It opened my eyes to the realties of tourism and how I fit into my home of the next three months.