This past Friday I attended my first ever Finnish wedding. It took place on the gorgeous island of Suomenlinna (refer to earlier posts about something something military island where that one guy went down in history for waving the white flag for no apparent reason) after a beautiful day of sunshine and lunch at Finnish French F's restaurant. What a great start to the weekend.
Dressed in my Sunday best, I met my group of friends at Kapelli, a sweet terrace bar located off of the very trendy and touristy Esplanade (read: expensive, manicured garden area with lots of designer shops and nice restaurants/cafes). As we gathered together to make our journey over to the ferry, we sipped on strawberry skumpa and beer, laughing away the afternoon sun and wondering what the wedding ceremony had been like (technically speaking we were only invited to the after party, but whatever, a wedding is still a wedding).
We then made our way over to where the ferries departed. This was the first sign of potential disaster. Much to the ladies' chagrins (mine included), cobbles were the pavement of choice for the builders back in the day, and I can tell you right here and now, cobblestones are no friends of high heels. All ladies involved were walking like OCD dinosaurs in order to safely make it to the dock. There were a few close calls, but we did indeed make it there in one piece. This was only the beginning though.
Safely on the dock, waiting for the ferry, the unimaginable happened: I got pooped on. That's right, I got pooped on in my Sunday finery by a freakin' seagull. Now, this isn't the first time I've been pooped on by a seagull. In fact it's not even the second, or even the third. For whatever reason those suckers love to divebomb me at the most inappropriate of times. I've been told almost every single time that it's lucky to get pooped on. Well I must be filled with luck because this is getting ridiculous.
Luckily, one of the girls carries an entire package of napkins with her (no joke, it was even in the cellophane still). And whatever my dress was made out of had some sort of stain resistant coating on it, so the poop actually wiped basically clean off. I was super impressed. As the girl with the napkins (aforementioned Finnish J from the previous McDonalds post) attacked my hair, I swiped my dress and transit pass clean. Within 5-10 minutes I was actually presentable again, and not too worse for wear. Incredible.
So, we continued on our journey. As fortune would have it, no one had any disasters on the rest of the way to the island. We unanimously decided to sit inside the ferry though, rather than risk the bombs of any more dreaded sea birds. F'ing seabirds.
We got to the island in one piece. This is where more fun began. Because Suomenlinna, if you remember from my pictures, is the very picture of cobblestones. Large cobblestones. Round cobblestones. These weren't the flattish square cobbles of the dock, these were cobbles from back in the day. The kind that break horse's hooves if not properly shoed. The kind that can also twist womens' ankles who are wearing heels. And so it was, unsteady on our feet, that we made slow progress towards our beloved friends' wedding hall.
Most of us had actually preempted and packed safeties for situations like these - i.e. the womens' Mary Poppins bag of health and safety. About a third of the way there just about all of us with these bags (me included) ripped off our heels and took out our stash of flats, glad to be temporarily relieved of our awkward footwear. Several in our party, though, were not so lucky, and had to continue waddling their way there. One of these especially, in 6 inch platform heels, recounted her tales of previous broken ankles. Fortunately we didn't have to see that this time around.
But it did make for slow progress. But progress we did make, and eventually we did find the right hall.
...And awkwardly arrived in the middle of the best man's speech. We had arrived half an hour later than we were told to, so we had expected that we would be late enough to miss everything, but apparently not. So, trying to be quiet, we waited outside until hailed by one of the bridesmaids to come in and put our gifts in the appropriate place. The children's table was then dashedly cleared for us so we could have a place to sit in the corner until it was our time to dance and sing (not literally).
It was a beautiful reception - good speeches, lots of "here here" and the like. And thus the union of our friends - Finnish K and American J, was finalized. And the booze poured and the cake was cut and the band started to play. This is what our group was invited for - to get the party started and to keep it rolling.
Because apparently this is what we're good at. We're those loud foreigners who don't mind:
- Having a good time around people we don't know.
- Talking to people we don't know.
- Dancing to songs we don't know.
- Singing along to songs we don't know.
- Learning dances we don't know (there was a section where you could learn Scottish dancing...let's just say several of us "attempted").
- Trying foods and boozes we don't know.
- Trading shoes with each other (oh yes, this did happen).
- Getting the wind knocked out of us and getting back up (one of our group fell pretty hard on the dance floor but instead of letting it ruin everyone's night just shook it off and continued).
- Getting horribly drunk (to be fair this is also a Finnish tradition as well).
- Staying after everyone has left to clean up with the bride and groom (yes, they had to clean up their own wedding...terrible, I know).
And after the wedding party, there was an after party. Since most weddings in Finland force you to close down your wedding celebrations by 1am or so, most couples invite their friends out for a night on the town afterwards, and so this has become a custom. And so this is what we did. We went to one club, decided it was too slow, and went to another, closing it down. This answered the very confusing question many in our group had always wondered, which was why they always saw so many bride and groom sets in clubs when they went out on various Fridays and Saturdays. Once considered cheesy, now completely understood.
And so concluded my first Finnish wedding. Man, I hope they're all this good! I think we could all stand for a little more wedding in our lives. :)