Notes From Hairenik
The wedding plans continued--I accompanied Karen to order the wedding cake one week in advance. I promised Sergey that I would accompany him in purchasing new clothing, including shoes, a suit, shirt, and tie. To make things easier for both of us, I decided that we wear the exact same outfits--matching neckties, shirts, suits, and coats, which we purchased during the course of 14 days. Karen had picked his own suit with his bride to be but had asked me to help look for a necktie. We spend nearly four hours one day rummaging through piles of ties both loosely arranged and wrapped in boxes in dozens of clothing "shops" throughout Yerevan.

As a side note, shopping for clothes is an experience in itself because there is no one store you can go to as can be found in the West, where you can find everything you need from underwear to winter jackets. In Yerevan especially, one must go to a specific market to shop for a particular item. Clothing markets are plentiful here, but they are chaotic and if you don't know what you are doing they can be dangerous as they are breeding grounds for pickpockets or tricksters. In such markets vendors operate small booths where they display the items they have for sale, each vendor specializing in a different clothing type. One vendor may sell women's dresses and also men's dress shirts, while another vendor will sell all undergarments except pajamas, and so forth. The markets, which are essentially labyrinths, are tightly packed and the thoroughfares narrow, with no easily identifiable exits or entrances, and they can lead to a quite maddening experience.

We managed to pick out a tie, but then Karen was still unsure and went to another store the next day to purchase an alternate.

Several foodstuffs had to be ordered or acquired from the open markets. Dresses and gowns were purchased or rented. Transportation for over 100 guests had to be arranged to be transported from Yerevan to the village of Noyakert in Ararat region where the bride lived, then on to St. Hripsime church in Ejmiadzin, and finally to the restaurant in Yerevan where the reception would be held--only the immediate family would make the return trip to Karen's home to have a celebratory shot or two of cognac or vodka before going to the restaurant.

In the end the ties and cakes were all arranged, but there was one problem that had to be resolved straightaway: acquiring the "kavori kin," the godfather's wife (more about her in future postings).

I had a few candidates in mind who were acquaintances but I ended up choosing a woman from Vanadzor who I had met during a visit there a week before the wedding date. I asked her and she immediately agreed, which was a relief to me, as I would not have to answer countess inquiries as to where the godfather's wife was or why I did not have one, what kind of godfather could I be without a wife, and so forth.

She arrived in Yerevan the day before the wedding but the next day both of us were off to a late start. She needed to have her hair styled and blown dry and pleaded with me to take her somewhere to have it done. I took her to an old-fashioned barbershop that also had a old lady beauty parlor section just a few blocks up from my apartment on Nalbandian Street, but obviously that would not do. So I took her to my hair salon on Tumanian Street called Sephuria, only to find the bride's sister there having her hair done, the bride waiting in a sitting room below. Sergey's brother Karlin was also there, who was responsible for getting the bride and her sister back tout suite to their home in Noyakert. The godfather's wife's hair was styled and we were off to Raikon, where the caravan was waiting, arriving nearly 40 minutes late. We went to the 9th floor, thankfully by elevator as there were dozens of people mulling about. I greeted the smiling groom, someone made a toast, we ate some snacks, and left.

In my hired taxi were myself, my "wife," the wedding photographer, and the driver. We left the courtyard and waited for the wedding convoy on the main street just outside of the apartment complex, but it never came by. I called the groom and discovered that the procession had gone an alternative route for some reason without informing me. So in a rush we finally reunited with the groom's car and his escorts at the far end of the city, and then proceeded to the city's outer limits, where the rest of the procession was waiting for us.

In all there were at least 10 cars and two full-size vans packed full of people. With much fanfare including the relentless honking of car horns we arrived at the bride's home, with people lining the dirt roads to look on as if they were attending a city parade. Several neighbors had lined the entrance of the bride’s home as her father is the village mayor.

We went into the home and performed all the necessary rituals. While the bride, whose name is Lida, was being dressed assisted by my “wife,” the men stood around a table and made some toasts with cognac or vodka, and ate candies, dried meats, cheese, bread, and so forth. The godfather's wife paid the bribe to get the bride's shoe back (see The Godfather, Part I for an explanation) and then when she emerged she approached the table for the godfather to toast to them. Then we were off again but the bride's 8-year-old baby brother was perched at the doorway, knife in hand, to make the passage a difficult one. Sergey had told me the night before to give the kid $20 and get him out of the way so I did, but he began to shake his head as it was not enough. I gave him another 5000 dram to appease him but he still was disappointed, until I told him to cut it out. He smiled and removed the knife from the door jamb.

We descended from their home, got into our cars, and proceeded to Ejmiadzin via Masis instead of Yerevan, which shaved at least 30 minutes from our travel time. We were scheduled to be at the church at promptly 2:30. Naturally we were late and were chastised rightfully so by the young priest performing the wedding services--a wedding was also scheduled for 3:00 and the one before ours had already ended. I waited beside Karen while the godfather’s wife supported the bride. I stood before them with cross in hand held just above their heads as they leaned forward towards one another, thereby sanctifying their union before the eyes of God. As we emerged from the church a dove keeper was waiting just outside the foyer for me to pay for the four of us to release ceremonial doves, the cost of which was 5000 dram.

We were off again to Raikom but this time made our way to the 9th floor on foot as the elevator was reserved for the elder guests. The entire way up we were accompanied by a terrible band consisting of a clarinet player, a drummer (playing the dhol) and an accordionist—it was the same band that had been accompanying us the entire day. We arrived there only to stand around again, hold out a glass of vodka or cognac, someone made a toast to the bride and groom, and we were off again after 10 minutes or so. The restaurant guests were waiting....

When we arrived at the Miami restaurant complex located in the "third district" of Yerevan I entered the place to tell them that we had just arrived. The band's leader, who had also arrived but just moments before, grumbled something about my not telling him sooner and ran out to accompany the bride and groom into the restaurant. The guests finally settled into their seats, and the evening's reception moved forward--a celebration with plentiful food (the bribe for which I paid preceded by much fanfare), alcohol, absurdly arranged Armenian music featuring synthesizers and a violinist, and of course toasting.

All in all it was a wonderful day, mostly chaotic but fun. Now that I am an experienced Godfather for traditional Armenian weddings and generally know the ins and outs, my services are available for hire.

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