This past Saturday I had the special privilege of preaching at the wedding of a young couple here in Lima. I met this couple about six months ago when I was invited to speak at their church about marriage. It was nice that they invited me back to take part in their special day. It proved to be yet another lesson in cultural learning for us.
We have attended several weddings here in Peru, but this was the first time we have actually participated in one. We arrived at the church about 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. Everything was beautifully decorated and we were greeted by a few of the groom's family members. No one else had arrived. We were ushered to our seats and a talented musician began to play the keyboard. It almost seemed as if our arrival marked the time when everything was to get under way. For more than an hour we sat there as slowly folks began to arrive. Finally, about an hour late the wedding got started. I was able to speak and the folks were very attentive and listened well. After I finished the ceremony was basically over and I was asked to return to my seat in the auditorium with Debbie. Then the bride and groom slowly called every person to the front, one by one and had their pictures made. This "kodak moment" lasted for nearly 90 minutes. Finally, the new couple made their way through the church and headed for their decorated car. Rice was thrown, there was lots of applause and the young couple sped off into the night to enjoy their first ride as a married couple. Don't worry, its not over yet!
This is only the beginning of the nights events. The couple will drive around town for over an hour and enjoy a few moments alone. Everyone is expected to stay and wait for their return. At that point the formal reception begins. Wedding receptions include singing and even group games. This wedding included a full meal. It would be considered rude to leave early although it is not considered rude to miss the wedding ceremony entirely as long as you make it to the reception. It makes for a long and memorable night.
By the way, according to Peruvian law religious ceremonies at churches are not considered binding marriages. Christian couples are legally married earlier in the day at a local government office. Only two witnesses and family members attend the civil ceremony.