Charming is rarely an adjective you’d use about an event with an open bar. Nor could you say informal about most weddings. But you could here. The event itself was not the formalities of most weddings but the vows of Jan and Jelena and the bringing together of not just two souls but the whole family of friends around them.
The church service was quaint and endearing. After the brief vows, during which Jan generally affirmed at the right times, the Orthodox priest excused his humble English and proceeded to give some brief life advice in near-perfect English. The gypsy band outside the church blared their trumpets, we took photos and chatted and then off to the venue, an open restaurant across town.
There were no speeches. There was no seating plan. There was no waiting for the menu to be laid out for us. We sat where we liked, talked to who we wished and ate regularly from the updating buffet. The outside seating gave us an option to still be in the party but not overwhelmed by it.
For it was a party. We danced silly and happy, abused the bar for shots at closing time and caught a local bus in our best gladrags from the venue to old town for more shots. It was getting less charming by the minute and descending into a shambles later but we held our own for most of the important times.
A week followed took in more of Belgrade, Kotor Bay in Montenegro and Dubrovnik where Olivia and I were lucky in our accommodation choices, rode electric bikes around the water, climbed up to forts, inspected churches, took so many photos, skipped into restaurants when it rained and drank wine on the cliffs. It was a lovely time.
Jan and Jelena are now married. I’d only known Jan in one way before. Wayward and drunken (with me). I thought he’d never change his black threads but he has. He looks good and will stop smoking someday soon (this is true Jan:)). I knew from our travels around the Balkans and Ukraine that beneath the pagan exterior Jan is a hopeful, optimistic person, looking for something but not sure what. It turned out to not be a what but a who.
A wedding is often a predictable and functional stage in people’s lives. More of a confirmation of entanglement than a joyous celebration. Here I think we were privileged witnesses to a heart-warming, positive human endeavour, an engagement of love and synergetic moment we all take pride in. Thanks for the invitation guys.