If you want to go to a real wedding dear HX followers, MB suggests that you make friends with some younger Lebanese people and get yourself invited to one of their awesomely spectacular weddings!
MB had the recent honour of being invited to the wedding of a female Lebanese work colleague who hails from the Christian Koura (or Kourah) region of northern Lebanon where the church service took place. The actual ceremony took place between Christmas and New Year, and MB is just now back in his Qatari residence following his 2-day Lebanese wedding adventure.
The Orthodox Christian ceremony took place in the Monastery of Our Lady of Balamand in Koura, which was built by Cistercian monks in 1157 AD, presumably after fine-tuning their stone masonary skills in Ireland, where many of their monuments remain to this day. The beautiful old building at Balamand sits on a spectacular mountain-top setting, overlooking the blue Mediterranian Sea on one side, and snow-covered mountains on the other. The city of Tripoli is also visible in the distance, Tripoli being the second city of Lebanon.
The Orthodox wedding ceremony was the first such ceremony attended by MB and he can inform followers that it differs somewhat from an RC service. The wedding mass is entirely chanted by the priests, with no verbal involvement from the congregation. And as the ceremony was entirely in Arabic, and MB not being in possession of the greatest of liturgical Arabic, MB could not compare the content of the ceremony with that of a Roman one.
Unlike in Ireland, when the church ceremony finished, the newly married couple stayed at the altar area for greetings and photos. So everybody made their way to the top of the church to shake hands and express mabruk (congratulations) to the young couple. For the benefit of Arab/non-Irish readers, Irish couples generally parade down the church isle at the end of the ceremony to applause from the congregation, and greet everybody at the exit door of the church as they depart.
Following the church service, MB attended the family home of another work colleague which was located in a nearby village. Arabic coffee and other treats were consumed in front of a large open timber-burning fire which reminded MB of the fires one sees in every home in rural Ireland. That fireplace was the first encountered by MB in eight years in the Middle East. Lebanon has a cold winter climate with much snow, unlike MB’s Arabian Gulf region, which has varying degrees of ‘absolutely roasting’ all year round, and where fireplaces are an unknown.
And then onwards to the wedding party. And what a party it was, in the purpose-built (for weddings and other functions) The Legend Venue near the town of Jounieh, further down the Lebanese coast about 30 minutes drive from Beirut. MB estimates that some 500 people were in attendence and all were treated like kings and queens, princes and princesses, for the entire evening. To describe the wedding / party / food / music / dancing / etc / etc / etc as spectacular would not do it justice. In Ireland, such wedding parties do not take place, with the exception of parties thrown by VIP celebrities and multi-millionaires for their off-spring. But in Lebanon such parties are commonplace, with many wedding events costing hundreds of thousands of US dollars, and some more. And according to another Lebanes friend, the Lebanese trend is that such wedding parties are getting even more lavish and even more expensive.
The Lebanese like to dance. More so than the Irish MB must say, and that’s saying something. Once the music starts, almost all able-bodied attendees are on the dance floor raising hands in the air, clicking fingers and dancing the night away. MB even witnessed a young female Muslim ‘hijabi’ on the floor outdoing many with her dancing moves, and at same time holding and sipping her haram glass of cool white vino!
Photography. MB had camera in hand all day long and took many shots, three of which appear below (MB will hopefully feature many more photos in the coming weeks once the bride returns from her honeymoon and gives MB permission to post them up). But MB was very interested to see the 2 separate Professional Photographers and the separate Video guy at work during the event. Latest technology was very much evident – a drone/video camera hovered over the monastery, about 100 feet in the air, to record the arrival and departure of guests. The same drone also hovered silently over the heads of guests in the wedding hall (ceiling height some 20 to 25m), recording the entire evening of feasting and dancing, all controlled by a young photo guy from his iPad.
The camera gear was similar to that of professionals back home – Canon cameras with large aperture (professional) lenses. An assistant to one of the photographers also went around all night taking close-ups of guests using a prime lens (50mm x 1.4mm MB suspects – for the benefit of photo geeks), a practice MB has not seen at weddings back home. Hopefully, MB gets to see their final product in due course, to compare with his own shots of the occasion, taken with MB’s relatively more modest technology.
So, without further ado, and without the permission of the bride (gulp!), MB gives you all 3 photos from the occasion:
The view of the mountains from Balamand Monastery:
The wedding service – inside Balamand Monastery:
The Legend Venue, near Jounieh, Lebanon: