A Wedding–Lebanese Style
My Lebanese husband and I recently visited Lebanon to attend a family wedding. My husband emigrated to the U.S. through an international exchange program with Coopers and Lybrand in 1974 and became a U.S. citizen in 1985. One brother followed; three sisters remained in Lebanon, and the fourth sister moved to Paris with her husband and his family. In honor of the wedding, everyone (except my husband’s brother in SoCal) returned to Lebanon.
This trip was my third visit to Lebanon, and I’ve always found the Lebanese people to be gracious, warm, and welcoming. This past July I experienced their love at a deeper level.
Lebanon has a series of gentle rolling mountain ranges, with valleys in between, and a mild climate, similar to Southern California. The picture below is the view from our hotel balcony.
View from our hotel balcony
The small cities in the mountains are called villages and receive snow in the winter. While the majority of people live in the Beirut suburbs, many spend the summers in their village homes, which remain in the family from generation to generation.
My husband’s parents owned thirty acres in a village called Jawr El Hawz (pronounced Jawar House), where they cultivated fruit orchards.
His parents passed away many years ago, and much to my disappointment, I never met them. (The last name Khoury, which means priest in Arabic, is a popular name like “Smith” is in the U.S.)
During our visit, we stayed in a relatively new hotel in a village called Broumanna and commuted an hour to Jawr El Hawz.
Our hotel in Broumanna, Lebanon
My first trip to Lebanon was in 2001, for another nephew’s wedding. That wedding took place in Jawr El Hawz’s Catholic Church, and everyone from the village attended. The wedding last July was held in the same sanctuary.
A Special Custom
There is a Christian custom that also occurs in other Middle Eastern countries. Before the church ceremony, aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins’ children all gather at the groom’s parents’ home (in Jawr El Hawz), where the partying begins. Champagne is served, and the dancing starts. (The Lebanese know how to PARTY.)
After an hour or so, several members of the groom’s family get into their cars and caravan to the bride’s home. Their purpose is to welcome her into their family and escort her to the church.
My husband’s sisters, their husbands and children included me. Even though I hadn’t met the bride in person (we’ve been Facebook friends), I participated in this fun tradition.
The bride’s family lived an hour away, in a Beirut suburb. About half a dozen cars, horns honking, arrived at the bride’s parents’ home.
As musicians serenaded us, we danced into their home. The bride, along with her attendants, waited in the living room, where everyone squeezed in and danced and partied some more. While waiters served champagne and hors-d’oeuvres, families exchanged gleeful hugs and three kisses on the cheeks (the French way).
After twenty minutes, the beautiful bride danced her way out to the car.
We got into our cars, and the caravan grew with the bride’s family and relatives following. With horns honking, we returned to the sanctuary, where the groom waited on the church steps.
When the caravan arrived in Jawr El Hawz, the bride emerged from the car. The groom greeted her, and they entered the church together, following the two little ring bearers who carried signs that read: I’m not trusted to carry the rings, a flower girl, three bridesmaids, and the groom’s attendants.
The wedding was scheduled to begin at 6:30 but didn’t start until 7:15. The bride and groom were relaxed and playful, which engaged the audience. The ceremony, conducted by the priest in Arabic, lasted about thirty minutes.
After the wedding, everyone drove another hour to the reception, which was close to our hotel. My husband and I arrived at the outdoor venue around 9:30 p.m. I suspect the wedding party stayed at the church for photographs, and while the guests milled around the spacious area, cocktails and tacos were served. (Yes–little tasty tacos!) Many of the younger children had fallen asleep on the commute to the reception, and having been awakened, were groggy.
Forty-five minutes later we descended two staircases into a vast open-air venue, with a large dance floor in the middle, surrounded by tables. As three-hundred guests found their assigned seating, a small orchestra serenaded us.
A violinist and cellist walked onto the dance floor and played soft, melodious music. As the guests got situated, the music increased in tempo, getting louder and faster, and eventually ending in a crescendo.
Other than a few munchies early in the afternoon, we hadn’t eaten. Dinner would be served buffet style, and the delicious-smelling food was stationed along the perimeter. Thinking a meal would be offered soon, my mouth watered.
Close to 10:30, the bride and groom made their entrance. As they descended the stairs, sparklers sizzled along the sides. They walked to the dance floor and began the celebration by dancing their first dance, as husband and wife, to the song Stand By Me.
Following the first dance, a DJ played electronic music, one of the groom’s relatives joined with his guitar (playing like a professional), and the audience listened and watched.
At 11:30, dinner was served. Expecting fabulous Lebanese food–which we’d enjoyed all week–I was surprised to encounter a sushi bar, multiple types of salads, chicken, and beef. Even though I didn’t find any hummus, tabouleh, or baba ganaush, the food was delicious. Most returned for seconds. Later, fruit and many desserts–like you’d find in a four or five-star restaurant–were available.
After the cake cutting ceremony, we celebrated until 3:30 a.m. Since there is a ten-hour time difference between Lebanon and Southern California, the night was daytime for our body-clock time. I loved the dancing–especially with the ten-and-twelve-year old girls.
While drones took aerial photographs, the little kids played hide and seek, and ran around enjoying themselves. The entire day and evening was such a fun experience, and the most spectacular wedding reception I’ve ever attended!
The gorgeous bride and groom
The adorable couple both work at a bank, where they met in the cafeteria. Our nephew is the IT Director; both have college degrees, and they’ve been dating for three years.
As we returned to our hotel, I thought about the custom of welcoming the bride into the groom’s family, and what a warm, loving tradition that is. Just like my husband’s relatives and the Lebanese people.
Thanks for reading.
What do you think? Are you familiar with the custom of welcoming the bride into the family before the wedding?
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