Monday, March 31, 2008

Wedding receptions...expectations and surprises

[Announcement: coming soon, pictures and progress notes on the chicken mansion--as soon as I find the cable for the camera and as soon as I can yank the computer away from Miss Kat.]

Kev and I went to a wedding reception last night. It was a unique experience for both of us. Oh, we've been to lots of weddings and lots or receptions over the years. Not so many as a couple, because most of our friends and such married before we were a couple.

But as I was growing up, we went to lots of weddings and receptions. It was one of the obligations of being a part of a large extended family (Dad is the youngest of 7) and an obligation of living in a small community where "everyone knows your name." Most that I went to were Protestant, either Church of God, Christian Church, Presbyterian, and Methodist. The only Catholic wedding receptions we went to were of family, and they didn't have wedding dances, just the traditional cake, mints, punch, etc. There's a receiving line, you watched them cut the cake, maybe they would open the presents, maybe not, then ate, visited for a while, the wedding couple left first, we all threw wheat at them as they left, and then we went home.

Once I started College, most of my friends were Catholic, and since I went to college in a German community, they had wedding dances and lots and lots of alcohol--something new for me! But I learned to enjoy wedding suppers and dances and watching people drink tremendous amounts of beer... I was introduced to new customs and, while there were new customs, the basic premise was the same. I knew what to expect at a wedding reception.

Until yesterday.

We've never been to a reception on a Sunday. But, this couple were Mennonite, a conservative sect of Mennonites. They actually were married in Ohio, where the Bride is from. They were married on a Sunday, and I expect during the Church service on that Sunday morning. But, this reception was for friends, family, and co-workers here, where they will make their home. The Groom is from Greensburg, yes, the same Greensburg that was hit by the Tornado last spring.

Getting ready, I knew that I would probably be one of the few women wearing pants. Conservative Mennonite women always wear dresses with a little cap on their heads. So, I chose nice slacks and long sleeved shirt.

We were late arriving, (because Kev HAD to finish watching the KU ball game), and the parking lot was full. So, we headed to the doors of the church's fellowship hall...but only ladies setting tables were there, no wedding cake, no balloons, no streamers. We glanced into the main doors, leading to the sanctuary, and we saw what looked like a church service. A standing room only church service.

Ok. Were we at the right place? But, since the church was out in the middle of no where, and the directions from the Groom were followed...we had to be in the right place. So, we entered and joined the huge group standing at the back of the church.

Evidently, Conservative Mennonite women don't wear their little every day caps to church. Nope, instead they wear black headscarves. And, men sit on one side, women on the other. So on one half of the building, there was a sea of black headscarves. The other was a sea of men. Various men and women, teen girls and boys, moved to the front of the church and sang songs, one group after another. All A capella. Good singers, but the songs weren't introduced and all were gospel songs. We still weren't sure we were in the right place.

Finally, someone came up to us to point out a couple of chairs. Kev asked if this was for the wedding reception, and we were reassured it was. We chose to continue standing and waited to be told what to do!

Finally, the bride and groom walked back by the fellowship hall and they formed a short receiving line. The groom (who works with Kev) saw us and had his brother come get us. They had us join the only other co-worker attending. So, we got to bump up in line. We went through the receiving line, and the groom's brother escorted us to the food line, where we were handed a full plate of food and showed us where to sit. The co-worker (and her husband) who joined us was wearing jeans. I asked her where she sat, and she said "on the Men's side." She was probably the only women on that side! They had arrived on time, and noticed that the women entered in one door and the men entered the church from another door. Not knowing what to do, they entered together and sat together--on the Men's side. We ate our food and were joined by other members of the Church who were all very nice and welcoming. I'm sure they all knew we were a little uncomfortable, not having a clue how to act or what was going on.

The tables all filled up, and I know there were more people still waiting to be seated. Most were the youth. One of the Mennonite gentlemen sitting with us said that the youth usually would go into Greensburg and eat together rather than to wait for all the tables to clear and then be reset. His wife mentioned that there would probably be two more sittings of people in order to get everyone fed.

TWO MORE SITTINGS! That's a lot of people! We really did get special treatment, being brought to the front of the line! I felt rather guilty, even when we left, as most of those still waiting were those we stood with in the back of the church.

I asked Kev to please tell his co-worker, AKA, the groom, that next time, to please give us an idea of what to expect. I was uncomfortable not knowing what to do. I wasn't uncomfortable with the Mennonites, just with the different customs. There wasn't a wedding cake, no punch or mints or nuts. Just a church service followed by a church fellowship.

I don't mind new experiences, I just like to KNOW that something will be different. I think if we'd known, we would have felt more confident. So, here's my warning to all my readers...all 10 of you...if you are invited to a wedding, or a reception of a friend who is of a different faith...ask what is expected of you. It might make the whole experience more predictible, and more relaxing.

Don't get me wrong, we had a great time, we just felt so...foreign! And I'm sure the Groom never gave it a second thought, after all, he's used to THIS kind of reception. He may never have been to any other kind of reception himself and might have felt as odd as we did at what I consider a typical wedding reception. But, we had a nice time and it was nice seeing the groom so happy. That was the important thing, the celebration of a new marriage and the start of a new family.

1 comment:

agent713 said...

What an interesting experience! I agree, a heads up would have been nice.