Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's a Wedding!

Barb Wieser, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Crimea continues to share her experiences living--and eating--  in a Crimean Tatar settlement outside Simferopol.  You can read about a pre-wedding feast here, but below, the wedding! 

In the Crimean Tatar tradition, there are two weddings—one given by the bride’s family for her family and friends and one by the groom’s family for his family and friends, and even the bride and groom’s parents don’t go to both. These aren’t wedding ceremonies, but rather lavish parties which take place one night apart. And these two parties happen even if they all live in the same neighborhood. And somewhere in there is the actual ceremony and registration, the registration taking place at a “registration house” which we might call a wedding chapel, and the religious ceremony in this case at the mosque in the Khan’s Palace in Bakchseray. And even both families don’t attend these events—at least I know Maia and Server (my neighbors, the groom’s parents) didn’t.

... I spent almost the whole day at the neighbors, helping them prepare food for the wedding celebration that night where 250 people were expected. It was to be held at a restaurant, but the restaurant was only providing the meat dishes, and we all prepared the salads, cold cuts, etc. There were at least fifteen women or more working away at Maia’s—relatives, friends, and neighbors. I was on the backyard crew as we first sliced mounds of eggplant which were then fried in a large wok type pan over an open fire.

Later they were smeared with fresh garlic and mayonnaise and rolled up with chopped tomatoes inside and a sprig of parsley sticking out (top picture).  Quite lovely and very tasty. Went on to chopping artificial crab, cucumbers, peppers, olives, cheese for salads, and slicing huge chunks of cheese and sausages, taking a few breaks for beer and coffee (not combined!), and of course, talking and laughing the whole time. I really couldn’t follow the conversations, and as least some of them were in Crimean Tatar, but I loved being with everyone anyhow, participating in the work of the wedding.

We finally finished after about five hours, and all the food was hauled over to the wedding place. So much of the wedding was like wedding receptions we know in the States—food, drinking, music, dancing—all the basics. And here is what was different, what it made it a uniquely Crimean Tatar wedding:

For one thing, the food. There was soooo much of it, not enough room on the tables, and it kept coming all night. Many different salads, plates of cheeses and sausages and some kind of traditional meal jelly, chunks of bread, platters of camca (pastries stuffed with meat), chunks of mutton with potatoes, and a sort of breaded and fried ground meat that I forgot the name of. Also, each table had bottles of vodka, wine, juice, and water.

And then there was the music. I had heard about Crimean Tatar wedding music, indeed preserving its traditions is one of the missions of the NGO I have worked with, but apart from the music drifting out of the wedding tents in Ak Mechet, I had never really listened to it or seen it performed. I think it is what we would recognize as Turkish music but with a kind of joyousness to it. And the musicians were just fabulous—a violinist, saxophonist, accordion player, drummer, trumpet player, and maybe one more. I kept thinking that to hire a band like that for a wedding in the States would be a fortune. And that is the really interesting part of it all—the musicians are paid by people dancing with members of the wedding party. First, the sister and brother of the groom—people lined up to dance with them for a few minutes and give them some cash. Later, a pair of elderly twin aunts in identical dresses, two young men, and then finally the bride and groom. In between this dancing, there was general dancing that everyone joined in. Crimean Tatars do love to dance!


  1. Wow, I am impressed! I am a Crimean Tatar and I would like to thank you for researching and helping our culture thrive. Our heartfelt condolences go out to you and may God bless you! (;

  2. Hi Akhtem--It's been our pleasure to learn about and share Crimean Tatar culture. More blog posts about it to come when we have time! Linda