It has always been a secret dream of mine to get invited to a wedding while traveling, but it always seemed like such an impossible feat. Who in their right mind would want to invite a stranger to a wedding? If you share this wedding goal with me, then I wholly recommend visiting Uzbekistan. I don’t want to say it is guaranteed to happen, but there is a high probability (and this statistic is coming from a former engineering math geek).
As we were leaving the restaurant after dinner in Samarkand and walking back toward the hotel, my friends and I heard extremely loud music blaring from across the town. Being the bunch of sleuths we are, we decided to go investigate. Upon reaching the source of the noise and peering inside, we were ushered inside the gate by security. We were immediately seated at a round, 10 person table, covered with food. We quickly became bombarded by waiters pouring us shots of vodka. What I didn’t know, but learned extremely quickly, is that you don’t take the entire shot. The waitstaff has some sort of sixth sense about empty shot glasses and immediately shuffles over to provide a refill. Noted. Vodka is for sipping, not shots (in this scenario)!
We quickly became a very popular table, as the local guests were interested in trying to communicate with us, despite speaking minimal English. Through excessive hand gestures, vodka shots (or sips!), and dancing, we managed to get along swimmingly.
I have attended a handful of weddings in my life, and none of them compare to the caliber of this reception. There were about 600 guests in attendance, by conservative estimate. The bride and groom had their own table in the front of the hall where they sat facing their guests. However, the look on the bride’s face oozed misery, which we were told is common in Uzbekistan. I guess the “happiest day of my life” cliche is not applicable in Central Asia. Now anyone who knows me is familiar with my overwhelming obsession with cake, particularly birthday and wedding cake. I will never forget the cake from this Uzbek wedding. In fact, I am feeling tingly all over again as I set out to describe it to you. Two of the tiers of this monstrous cake were… wait for it… fish tanks! With real live goldfish swimming about! What!
Aside from the cake thing, anyone who knows me may be familiar with my questionable dancing skills. However, when you are at an Uzbek wedding and dragged to the dance floor by a local, you just go! I am not sure if this is an indicator of my dancing prowess, but the locals did hand my friend and I some cold, hard cash while we were dancing! Together we earned 15,000 som which is just over 2 USD (maybe a more accurate testament to my abilities).
Around midnight the festivities started to wind down or we just felt it was time to go (clarity decreased as the evening went on). This was by far one of my favorite travel memories because it is such an atypical experience, well, in other parts of the world. The next evening we heard the music pumping from the same venue, but steered clear as we didn’t have the stamina for two consecutive nights of bottomless vodka!