Not having been to a wedding in almost 20 years, I was unsure what to expect. But this one had a twist to it as well. Only women would be at this wedding. 500 of them. Or so I thought.
We were dressed and ready to go. Finally.
Dear daughter had trouble with her hair. The hairdresser did NOT follow instructions, but rather free-wheeled it, so after our trip to the salon, she proceeded to take it all apart and re-do it herself. Trouble with her dress. Note – always try everything on before-hand, complete with undergarments to be sure it all works together…. Then proceeded to BANG her head on the wall. Big red bump on her forehead just in time to get her picture taken before we left the house.
We arrived at the Ritz about 8:20pm. Just stylishly late (we later realised – much too early). Entering the foyer or gathering room just outside the banquet hall we immediately spotted dear daughter’s friend, the sister of the groom. She greeted us enthusiastically and we checked out each other’s outfits, offering generous complements all around.
DD’s friend is not what might be considered by some, the stereotypical girl here. Not overly caught-up in fashion and glitz, though she’s always tastefully dressed. She looked elegant. Different to most arabic hairstyles which tend to be blow dried into long, loose curls or lavish up-do’s, her hair was pulled tight, sleek, into a high pony tail. Make-up was not overly done either. Rather, just polished and accentuating her fine, delicate features.
Her dress – stunning! My favorite of the evening. Spaghetti straps of silk, down to a cups covered in a fine lace. The golden silk fabric flowed in small pleats, elegantly to the ground. A beautiful gold-link necklace to finish her look.
While there were a few women mingling DD’s friend led us to the entrance of the room. Much like a receiving line we would have, there were about eight women standing in line. Family from both sides ready to greet all the guests. I was unsure whether to introduce myself or say congratulations to these women, so did a little of both. Of course DD’s friend’s mother was there, so greeted her most enthusiastically and appreciatively with our family’s best wishes.
We then proceeded into the main banquet room. I had been in this same room about 3 months earlier but it looked nothing at all like it did on this night.
Soft sheets of white silk fabric surrounded the room from the 20 ft ceilings to the floor. It was stunning! Primarily white and silver with touches of purples and rose as accent colors. At the front of the room was a custom-made sofa probably 20ft long, all in white except the silver pillows all lined up on an angle. Behind this was a square back-drop that was white, filled in with a line of mirrors, and also filled in with what looked like a 3ft border of white flowers all tucked in.
The wedding cake, 7 tiers and about 10ft high.
Not your ordinary banquet tables here either. With a white square-patterned quilted base, each had a glass table top. Each chair covered in the quilted white pattern and fabric. The centerpiece, a 2ft high white glass vase filled with cala lilies. Laying on its side was another similar vase. This one with rose-colored tulips spilling out. Alongside these were beautiful low white vases each containing a rose-colored peony with a tulip protruding from it. Four multi-flowered rose shaped candles which set off the silver chargers and silver place settings. At each place setting, a round glass with a tulip curled up inside.
I knew picture-taking wasn’t really allowed at these things but I pulled out my phone as I wanted only to capture the table-setting. As soon as I had done so, a female police-officer approached DD and I, asking us for our camera’s. Our phones. She took them away and handed us a ticket to collect them later, much like you would have at a coat check. Later, we realized they were taking them all away from the women as they entered the room. We had just been a little early in our arrival. You’ll read a little further down why we have even these pictures, as keepsakes.
As items to take home for each guest: a jeweled container with candies, that looked like one of those faberge eggs. A Godiva chocolate, in the shape of a wedding cake. A purple beaded napkin holder.
DD and I sat and waited for her other friends to arrive. Two friends arrived shortly thereafter. Then another two friends with their mother, so I had someone my age to talk with. The Mom and daughter’s family is from Egypt and she began to tell me how unlike weddings in the Gulf, they don’t have separate mens and women’s events for their weddings. They all celebrate together.
Ladies continued to arrive. Old and young. In every type of dress imaginable. Some wore fairly basic traditional dresses or suits with a headscarf. A few of the younger girls had short dresses. But most were elegant, stylish, colorful, evening gowns.
One lady looked like Elvira. A red silky skin-tight, mermaide-like dress with ever-so-low cut top with her breasts pretty much spilling out. Black accents at the front right beside her breasts, in case you hadn’t already noticed them. The back was open except the black silk lacing it up. All to match the long, black hair, reaching down towards her hips.
For two hours we sat and watched.
During this time we began to get hungry, so looked at the menu provided to see what was on order. Surprisingly, western food was to be served – not Arabic food. I was surprised as DD eats quite often with this family and it is always arabic food on the menu at their home.
- 1st course – greens, buffalo mozza cheese, sun-dried tomato salad served in puff pastry
- 2nd course – smoked salmon stuffed with some kind of light (cream) cheese and spice mixture
- 3rd course – lemon sorbet
- 4th course – beef tenderloin, grilled chicken breast, mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables
- 5th course – chocolate tart with ice cream
Then, many of the family left the room and went outside so we presumed the bride and groom had finally arrived. Not quite yet.
The first course was served. I thought this was somewhat unusual, to begin eating before the guests of honor joined us. Another 30 minutes while they were outside with family. Mind you, it was probably about 11pm by this time. We could hear music and drums, but could see nothing that was going on. We presume the men were also gathered with them and would then send the bridge and groom on their way. Finally, they entered.
There was a little of the “lalalalalalalallala” from the chorus of women in the room, that is typical at weddings.
A first dance. Screech!!!!! To Shania Twain’s “From This Moment”…..??? I was shocked, again. First because they danced together. Second, the choice of song being non-Arabic.
It must have been somewhat awkward for them. Particularly for the groom as he was the one and only male in a room of 500 women, but also because they were being videotaped and shown on two 3o-ft screens on either side of the room.
Then up to the stage they went for some pictures. More dancing. More pictures. The groom left, perhaps an hour later.
More dancing with all the girls. Our table of girls went up to dance. The music was probably 75% Arabic, 25% Western. To my surprise, they even played some Black Eyed Peas! Never expected to hear anything like that! When the Arabic music played, it was actually a live, male band that was hidden behind the panels of fabric surrounding the room. (I spoke to a Qatari lady a couple days after this. Sometimes, they will actually video the band playing and show it in the room, so it feels more ‘live’. This way the women can see the band, but the band cannot see them).
Meanwhile, we made our way through the rest of the meal service.
As we couldn’t take pictures, DD ‘s friend told us they had a photographer set up outside that could take our pictures. So off we went. DD had lots taken with her friends and we had a couple mother-daughter ones taken together. (Scanner not working, so can’t upload these…..) Here are some others, taken in the room.
I left, shortly after midnight. Unfortunately I missed when the men joined the party.
The men from both families, about 40 or 50 in total, came into the room. They did a traditional sword dance. Because they were in the room women that need to covered up, so picture-taking was then allowed. This was when most of the pictures I’ve posted were taken (by a friend of DD).
The girls danced and partied until early hours of the morning, about 3am. As DD said to me later…. the perfect girlie night. Dressing up, dancing all night, a big sleepover and then they all got to sit pool-side while skipping a day at school. Not exactly the type of experience I ever had at the age of 15!
The families and friends seemed so thrilled and freely displayed their happiness and joy of the occasion. It was a fantastic evening. One I am most grateful to have experienced.