Jun 2, 2014

A Belgian Wedding

This weekend we saw the joining of two hearts and lives into a new family. Josh's brother, Sam is now married to the sweet Hilleen! I thought I knew what to expect, I mean... it's a wedding, right? However, this was a Belgian wedding, and boy do they know how to throw a party! Here's what a Belgian wedding looks like through the eyes of an American.

Thursday we drove to Gent for the bachelor/bachelorette parties. It's traditional in Belgium to dress the bride/groom up in a costume so that everyone else knows they are the special one. Hilleen loves Lord of the Rings, so she was dressed as a hobbit; Sam was dressed as a nerd.
Each party was separate, but eventually we caught up with the guys.
They each have different tasks they have to perform throughout the day. The girls had Hilleen sing/dance Bohemian Rhapsody in the town center, sell 1 jar of applesauce and trade the other for something to give Sam; the boys gave Sam an earpiece and told him via radio things to do (like turn all of the chairs at a cafe upside down, then right side up again), they even chained Sam to a pole and put different keys underneath wax strips that people had to pull off (surprise, none of the keys worked). The girls played a game that is actually put on by the city called "Who is the mole?" which is a kind of photo scavenger hunt with funny tasks (like upside down photos) and one person on your team is actually "working" for the other team (they're the mole), then there was pasta for supper, and then what would a bachelorette party be without an embarrassing panty-guessing-game for Hilleen. The guys went paintballing where Sam was dressed in all pink amidst the black/camo jumpsuits of everyone else. Both the bride and the groom were super good sports about everything!
The next day the guys counted their bruises and then set up for the wedding began. That was pretty much just like an American wedding: chairs, tulle, ribbons, flowers, and food. They don't do rehearsals or fancy dinners the night before like in America.

Saturday morning the wedding festivities began. In Belgium it's an all-day event.
1. First, the groom comes to the bride's father's house to pick her up, and then everyone goes to the courthouse together. 
2. At the courthouse, the mayor (it was a small town) marries them and everyone cheers. 
3. From the courthouse everyone goes back to the bride's parent's home for a meal/coffee/visiting. They have a beautiful home in the countryside, so a picnic in the garden was just sublime! 
4. A short walk later and it was picture time. 
5. Finally it's time to head to the church where the ceremony began. Josh and I got to sit in the front row next to his parents; there may or may not have been a wedding processional selfie on the way in. It was pretty much like an American wedding, except that Sam & Hilleen got to sit on a bench during the message whereas Americans stand. They wrote their own vows, and even though they were in another language it was beautiful and this sentimental American was quite teary-eyed. I didn't need to know what they were saying to understand what they were conveying.
6. After the church ceremony there is a reception with a receiving line and finger foods.
7. From the reception is a smaller evening party. Sam & Hilleen had theirs at a beautiful old building in the countryside. Everyone mills about the courtyard with hor d'oeuvres until dinner is ready. When the bride & groom make their entrance everyone waves their napkins over their heads; I'm told that's very, very Belgian.
8. Dinner is served. Reminder for the future: there is more than one course, plan accordingly.
9. After dinner came the cake-cutting, dessert, coffee, a couple of funny videos about the bride/groom, and then the most beautiful sparkler-lit first dance.
10. A huge dance party began that lasted until about 4am, although I did not make it that long and we left shortly after the bride & groom at 2am.
It was a long day, but so beautiful and God-honoring. There were some new things for me to learn, but I wouldn't have traded this experience for anything. I'm so glad we could be here for their beautiful day!