Hey, Jude, Have Mercy! (We’re going to a wedding.)

Originally published on May 7, 2012

Vilma and her parents walk to the church

Weddings can be quite a mixed bag here in Peru.  You may see a bride approaching a small country church in a vision of white taffeta and lace, gingerly stepping over cow patties in the middle of the dirt path. 

Or you might find yourself seated in a chilly iglesia feeling sorry for the groom as he nervously waits… wondering if his bride will actually show up for their wedding.  At the first wedding I ever attended in Peru, the bride made her grand appearance two hours after the time listed in her invitation!

Waiting for the bride

And at a recent wedding in a local evangelical church, the “MC” of the event cracked jokes and told stories while the crowd waited for the bride.  (There will be a few more juicy tidbits about that wedding in a minute.)

I’ve seen and experienced a lot of very interesting things during my 14 years in Peru, including many wedding-related situations that still cause me to shake my head in wonder as I recall them.  Like the time I found myself sitting front and center on the church stage along with a Japanese colleague, observing the marriage ceremony of two Quechua people that I had never even met!  I remember praying fervently that Kazuko and I would not be called upon to share any “words of greeting;” what I don’t remember is if we actually had to speak in front of the crowd or not.  Either we were given a reprieve from the typical Quechua custom of asking guests to speak, or the experience was so embarrassing that my mind has blocked it out completely!  

We have attended Quechua weddings where the bride has worn a typically American fancy white dress and veil, and other weddings where the bride wore a brand-new version of her traditional Quechua outfit. 

Many of these weddings took place at the end of a regular Sunday church service (i.e. – all morning preaching), and all of them were followed by plates and bowls heaping with potatoes, hot pepper sauce, and huge chunks of meat – either guinea pig, lamb, bull, or whatever else the family had been raising for the special event.  In most cases, the bride herself was a key player in the cooking and serving of the meal.

Then there was the Catholic wedding where the priest publicly scolded the parents of the bride and groom for not participating in communion.  The same priest, (but different wedding party), scolded the groom and the bride’s family for not making sure that she would arrive on time. I would think that the fear of all this public “admonition” would probably be enough to make most people forgo their marriage vows before they even reached the altar, or would at least make them choose a different parish for their wedding!  

And now back to the juicy tidbits that I promised you earlier…  The MC continued nervously telling jokes while the crowd waited for the bride to arrive on her godfather’s arm. (Ade had that honor!)

Suddenly, a commotion at the entrance of the church caught our attention; just as the radiant bride began her walk down the aisle, she toppled over backwards and out of sight to all except those at the back of the church who immediately began filming the event on a myriad of cell phones.  It was the first time in my life (and hopefully the last!) that I actually witnessed a girl fight, as a disgruntled former girlfriend attacked the bride, screaming and scratching, and tearing off her veil in the process!   I suppose that the cell phones caught all the gory details; my imagination received a bit of help in filling in the parts that I couldn’t see thanks to my niece who was sitting in the back row with Danny.  “Tia,” she exclaimed later, “I’ve only ever seen something like that on soap operas!”   

Good thing a long train can double as a missing veil!

One final note on the girl fight debacle: It was a good thing that the bride’s godmother (yours truly) had splurged on the extra long train attached to the wedding dress, because by the time the bride regained her composure and walked down the aisle, the train had been flipped up over her head, providing a fairly decent makeshift veil, and aside from all of the cell phone videos, no one was the wiser!  

As I reach the end of this post, those of you who are drawn into a piece by the catchy title are probably wondering how “Hey, Jude” figures into Peruvian weddings.  So if you’ve spent most of the past few minutes perusing my words while at the same time trying to figure out the Beatles connection, you’ll understand how I felt as I sat in the chilly sanctuary of the Catholic church presided over by the scolding priest.  Sometime in between the late arrival of the bride and the hundreds of pictures taken at the end of the ceremony, a small choral group sequestered in the corner of the sanctuary broke into song, and you guessed right… it was “Hey, Jude.”  The words were changed, of course, from “Hey, Jude” to “Oh, Lord, Have Mercy.”  But my mind just couldn’t process one more wedding enigma at that point, and I couldn’t separate the Spanish words from the “Englishness” of that song.   I still don’t know what the song actually said.  

The next time I go to a wedding, I’ll ask Jesus to bless the new couple, to give them grace and help them get their marriage started off on the right foot.  But I might just have to break my ban on praying to the saints and send out a quick petition to St. Jude.  “Hey, Jude, have mercy.  We’re going to another wedding!”

NOTE: for those of you who know our friends… I have posted NO actual pictures of the “girl fight” wedding.

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