AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 2 – Turkish Dancing

Our village wedding was one of the most bizarre days of my life. One of the best things though, was seeing Berkay and his friends/family dance around like absolute nutters! This photo was taken during one of the special dances only the men do – his brother ran off to grab a firework, stuck it in the middle of the circle and then the men danced around it, knees bending, doing little bunny hops, shoulders wriggling, fingers clicking… Complete madness but it definitely made everyone laugh, seeing the smiles on their faces! I’ve heard of women dancing around handbags, but men dancing around fireworks was a new one to me! Although it’s not a scenic photo, it certainly captures a moment of the ‘real Turkey’ and the madness it sometimes involves!

Our Traditional Turkish Village Wedding – the Day

Traditional Turkish village weddings can go on for 2-3 days. Time restrictions meant our’s only lasted one day, and I skipped the traditional henna night. Since we had a long way to travel, we woke up at 4.30am on the Sunday morning and drove the 3 hours from Fethiye to Berkay’s family’s village in Beyağaç, Denizli.We arrived there just before 8am, bright and early, and preparations for the day’s events were already well underway. When we got to the house, everyone was out at the local marketplace (where the wedding was being held) taking the delivery of the tables and chairs and getting the food started. After a brief reunion with our dog Boncuk, we jumped back in the car and went down to join the others in the town centre.

At this point, things were calm, everything was fairly relaxed. I greeted Berkay’s mum, dad and brothers and then our attention was drawn to a small gathering of 4 women by the side of the road. They were cooking some of the food for the wedding. When you have 5000 guests invited, you have to do everything on a larger scale… and they certainly did. They had 4 huge pots (rather like cauldrons..) full of various things, one of which was keşkek. Keşkek is a very traditional part of Turkish weddings and they take great pride in cooking it. It’s a weird food, served at special occasions, weddings, funerals, religious celebrations etc. A lot of people are involved in the preparing and cooking. It’s made from wheat, locally produced from the villages in most cases, and ground meat, and is lovingly and slowly cooked in these huge cauldrons. It’s a hard job to mix it with the huge wooden spoon as it is so thick, it’s definitely a good arm workout! It’s reminds me of porridge… but porridge mixed with ground meat, butter, and lots of oil… once it’s ready it’s often slopped in a bowl and covered in spicy pepper sauce. It certainly doesn’t look, or sound very appealing but it doesn’t taste as bad as you think and it’s a good, hearty food that definitely feels like it’s been lovingly homemade by your grandma.
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Aside from keşkek, there were various other dishes being cooked up by paid chefs in the market place – rice, beans, cacik, a meat stew, brain soup (yes… BRAIN soup) and hundreds of loaves of bread. We were the first ones to try the food at around 9.30 am, just before the official 10am start time of the day part of the wedding.

After sitting down with some members of his family to eat the food, Berkay left me to go and help the men of the family carry on laying out the tables and chairs. 100 tables, 500 chairs, huge rolls of tissue tablecloths, hundreds of packets of napkins, jugs of water… it was certainly a mammoth task to get everything ready.

At 10am the steady flow of people started arriving. Most of them I’d never seen before, only a handful would even recognise me in a lineup, and thankfully I didn’t need to wear my wedding dress until the evening, so I could blend in a little. We didn’t greet everyone who attended, as there literally were not enough hours in the day, but we did get called over every now and then to greet important guests, the older generation, old family friends or those who have a higher standing in the village. I must say, in the most polite way possible, that it was very much more of a thing for show. Berkay’s dad has his own business and is very well known in the village and nearby areas – he sells animal feed, and since everyone owns a farm there, he clearly has a good client base! As a result, he spent most of the time standing greeting people and talking to his friends, gesturing for us to go over and say hello every now and then. It was much less of a celebration of our marriage, and more of a ‘look, I’m such a wonderful dad doing this huge wedding for my son’ kinda thing, and if you’ve read my previous posts about Berkay’s childhood you’ll know why that leaves a bit of a bitter taste.
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Anyway, as the day went on and lunchtime approached, the marketplace became very busy, with hundreds of people coming to join in and eat. Berkay’s brothers, younger cousins and family friends were running around like headless chickens trying to make sure everyone who arrived got their tray full of small silver dishes, filled with the different foods from the kitchen. It’s normal in Turkey for 5-6 people to share from one bowl, although everyone has their own spoon, so that helped minimise the washing up! As you can imagine, it took a lot of work to make sure the bread was restocked, fresh tablecloths were placed on the tables after each group of people left, the water jugs were refilled, the empty plates and trays were taken away, washing up was done in a little washing up station behind the kitchen area, chairs were rearranged, tables cleared, tea glasses filled and delivered, making sure the elders and the important people were greeted as a sign of respect… It was a lot of work for them, and really very overwhelming for me. At this point I was sitting alone with Berkay’s aunts and female cousins who were really trying to do a good job of looking after me, they could definitely sense the panic in my eyes! Berkay was rushing around helping but I was told to sit down and drink tea..

I’m not entirely sure just how many people turned up during the day for the food giving, but I can say with some certainty that it was over 2500 people. Just to put it into perspective, Berkay’s family slaughtered one of their cows, which provided 60kg of meat, they also had another 30kg of beef gifted to them so that makes a total of 90kg. Half way through the day, all 90kgs of beef had been eaten in the meat stew and they had to rush out and buy another 12 chickens to cook!! 90kgs of red meat, all gone, and we’re not talking about whole steaks for each person that came, we’re talking a few small cubes of meat in a bowl of stew shared between 5-6 people at a time over a period of about 7 hours, so that should give you an idea of just how many people came to enjoy the food!

Each family that came gave Berkay’s parents a small envelope with money in, to help cover the costs. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this, and some say that it’s normal, other’s say that it’s not normal at all and that any money given should be for the bride and groom, and not for the family. It seems that each village has it’s own customs and traditions, and this is one of theirs. Over 13,000tl was given to Berkay’s family throughout the day, again emphasising just how many guests actually attended!

Thankfully, Berkay’s family’s house was only a 5-10 minute drive away from the marketplace and we were able to go back to the house a couple of times for around half an hour just to sit with no eyes watching, use the wifi, speak to my family, play with Boncuk and most importantly, breathe.

Initially, we were sent back to the house to retrieve ‘my’ gold.  I say ‘my’, but effectively we just rented it. As I have already mentioned, the whole day really felt more about ‘keeping up with apperances’ rather than really being a celebration, and this tradition of the bride wearing gold is another which really made this clear. It’s normal for the groom and his family to give the bride gold, and lots of it. Unfortunately gold is very expensive at the moment, and we are not rich! The day before the wedding we stopped at Ortaca, near Dalaman, and went to the nearest gold shop, where Berkay purchased five 22 karat gold bangles which cost the best part of £1000 – even then, I had to convince Berkay that that was enough, and he would have happily got into a lot of debt and bought more just so my arm looked a little more decorated! Clearly after the wedding we would have no use for £1000 worth of gold bangles, so we planned to sell them straight back the day after, and we were prepared to lose a little money in the process. (As it happened, when we did sell them back we would have only lost around 90tl but I decided to keep 2 of the bangles as I liked them so much!) I’m not a person for expensive jewellery or designer items, so I had never worn anything worth so much as all this gold. Berkay’s mum let me borrow her gold necklace, and her sash, which was covered in cloves and gold coins, but we forgot to wear this! It’s apparently tradition in this village to wear it across the body which I had never heard of before. We did genuinely forget about it until it was too late, but I’m quite glad because the clove smell reminded me of the dentist, and I am terrified of the dentist so it didn’t help to calm my nerves!
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After going back to the marketplace in the afternoon and greeting more guests, it was time to head off to the hairdresser to get ready. Berkay dropped me off at the ‘salon’ (a concrete basement with a sink in the corner, a mirror and a chair) with his cousins and aunt while he went off to get changed, go to the barber and get the car covered in ribbons.

Despite not being able to communicate much, the 4 hours I was sat in that salon room were quite enjoyable. It appears that this is the only hair salon in the whole village and she was very busy.She started with Berkay’s cousins hair, then the children, then his aunt, and eventually it was my turn. The whole time I was in there people were wandering in and out, and lots of little girls coming in and out waiting their turn too. I could sense people’s excitement. A young girl sat next to me completely fascinated, she kept staring at me and edging closer and closer, almost sitting on my lap and kept nudging my arm. Another little girl came in and spotted my dress hanging up on the back of the door and her eyes lit up – I guess every little girl loves the thought of being a bride and Turkish little girls are no different. After what seemed like a lifetime of curling and pinning my hair, the hairdresser then started on my makeup. “Sade”, Berkay had told her when he dropped me off, which means plain. I knew from friends who have had their own village weddings that I wasn’t getting out of that salon without bright blue eyeshadow, thick black eyeliner and bright red lipstick, I’m not sure what the significance is between blue eyeshadow and brides, but apparently the two go hand in hand! As predicted, I ended up wearing more makeup than I’ve ever worn in my life, which was the furthest thing from ‘plain’, but I actually liked it as it made me feel different, I guess almost like a mask, which I definitely needed to help with my confidence to get me through the evening – I even asked for extra glitter which was then sprinkled all over my hair and chest.

Next was the part which I had been dreading the most – putting on my dress. Thankfully, it was a corset dress so it allowed for a few extra lbs that I’d gained since the last time I wore it in April, but it was very difficult to do up. Berkay’s cousin and aunt were in charge of lacing me in, although I knew it didn’t feel quite right, so the hairdresser done some final tweaks to make sure it was done properly. I was so concious of my wedding dress as most of the villagers are very, very traditional and even having shoulders on display is a no-no. I had come prepared with shrugs and shalls to cover up but everyone reassured me that it looked fine – a lot of the guests had never even met an English girl before so I didn’t want to give off the wrong impression, it was definitely a lot of pressure!
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Finally, after 4 hours of being beautified, I was reunited with Berkay, who was now dressed in his suit, freshly shaved and covered in hair glitter which looked a lot like sparkly dandruff…interesting. With a lot of help, he got me and my dress up the stairs and into the car which had been decorated with ribbons, flowers and fancy number plates, letting everyone know that we were the bride and groom, just in case the outfits didn’t give it away! We went back to his house, I mustered up the courage to have a last minute pee, which was very difficult in my dress and definitely a two-person job, thank God they have a ‘normal’ sitting toilet and not just a hole in the floor, otherwise that could have gone very, very wrong.

Eventually, about 7.45pm it was time to get back into the car and make our grand entrance.. We pulled up outside the marketplace and Berkay jumped out to speak to his brother’s about the plan of action.. I was sat in the car hyperventilating and lots of little girls came running over to the car door. ‘Gelin! Gelin! Bak, gelin!’ – ‘Bride, Bride, look, Bride!’ they shouted out to each other and to their mums. They were so excited to see me and my dress and it was weird having so much attention and excitement directed at little old me!

Once Berkay had had his instructions, it was time to get out, take a deep breath and make our entrance together, with all eyes on me, the ‘yabancı gelin’ – foreign bride…

Our Turkish wedding Part 2.

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After an afternoon of driving around Fethiye for our wedding photoshoot, at 5.30pm we arrived back in Calis and back to our apartment. Berkay left and went to the wedding venue while I met my nan, Mum, step-mum and sister in our apartment for a quick re-tighten of my dress and a toilet break, which was hilariously awkward and dignity depriving!

After some final tweaks and best wishes, they left me and my sister/bridesmaid, Abbie, alone in the apartment and headed to the venue themselves, while we waited for my dad to knock on the door and collect us. Dad hadn’t seen my wedding dress at all before the moment he walked into the apartment, so it was an emotional moment for him when he did knock on the door and see me I think, he definitely had a few tears in his eyes! At this point it was around 6.15, and we were expecting to be at the venue by 6.30, however the registrar lady had rang Berkay and hold him she’d be late as she was lost… I have many friends who have also been married by this lady and being late seems to be her trademark!

As it got closer to 6.30 we decided to start walking towards the venue – Guven’s restaurant, which was less than a 10 minute walk from where we were staying. On the way two very lovely Welsh ladies who read my blog, and happened to be staying in the same apartments as us, stopped me to say how lovely me and my sister both looked and snapped the below photo, which I love. I hate being the centre of attention so walking down a fairly busy road on the way to the restaurant was quite embarrassing, Turkish and English people sat in the bars and walking past us were all saying ‘awww look’, and shouting that we looked lovely, one person even said ‘aww are you getting married today?’ erm, no, this is just my usual evening wear! D’oh.
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When we arrived at Guven’s the registrar still hadn’t arrived but shortly after we saw Berkay running down to meet her from the bus. Once they had gotten into position, Carole (owner of Guven’s) started playing the traditional ‘here comes the bride’ music over the speakers, Dad took my arm, I took my little sister’s hand and along we walked, down the long makeshift aisle of Turkish rugs. At this point, my poor mum was crying hysterically much to the bemusement of our Turkish guests. It wasn’t a little sob, or a silent tear in her eye, it was a loud, wailing cry, which really made me laugh, a welcome distraction from the realisation that everyone had their eyes on me! I love the photo of Mum crying and the smiley faces of Berkay’s family in the background as they saw me walking towards them.
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After dad handed me over to Berkay, we took our seats in the beautifully decorated area just meters from the beach. The ceremony was very quick, and with the help of my lovely bilingual friend, we had a translation of the service read out in English too.
“You have declared your wish to marry. According to the documents you have submitted, there is no objection to your declaration. Now, in the presence of the witnesses and in our presence, will you please tell us once more:
Dear Danni, under no obligation and with your own will do you wish to marry Berkay? – Yes.
Dear Berkay, under to obligation and with your own will do you wish to marry Danni? – Yes.”
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“You have heard Miss Danni Smith & Mr Berkay Degirmenci wish to marry. Do you bear witness to the marriage? – Yes.
In the presence of myself and the witnesses, you have declared your wish to marry. As there is no objection, your marriage agreement is now made. With the authority vested in me by the Turkish Civil Law, I now pronounce you husband and wife, congratulations and best wishes.
The main aspect of a marriage is that the family union is protected with an eternal peace and happiness. A long lasting marriage is bound together by mutual love and understanding. You must support and help one another on your bad days and difficult times with as much love and understanding as on your good days. Your support for each other will also form the foundations of the happiness of your children. I wish you both health and happiness, you can now kiss your wife!
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Our two witnesses were Berkay’s brother and my step-dad. After the registrar had completed the paperwork and we had signed all the right places, she handed us our official red marriage book, the Turkish alternative to a marriage certificate. My brother gave us our wedding rings which were tied together with red ribbon to signify us being bound together, he then cut the ribbon straight through the middle once the rings were on our fingers. This is traditionally done in Turkey at engagement ceremonies rather than weddings, but we really wanted to incorporate that into our day and I think my brother really enjoyed being a part of the ceremony and having that role.

It’s also tradition in Turkey that whoever stamps on the other persons foot first after reading the vows and being confirmed as husband and wife, is the boss of the marriage. Berkay will tell you I’m always in charge anyway, in fact he sometimes lovingly refers to me as ‘boss’, but it was nice to be able to make a statement to confirm that. I’m glad the photographer captured the moment, perhaps we should get this framed and put in every room as a small reminder…
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After a round of applause by our guests, it was time to greet everyone, starting with our families. My mum was crying again at this point but I love the photo of us hugging, and of Berkay and my dad too. Slightly more traditional was the way I greeted Berkay’s parents, with his stepmum and dad putting their hands out for me to take, kiss and raise to my forehead as a sign of respect. I really dislike doing this, but it’s a cultural thing that I know is important to them, so I have to embrace it.
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My family had never met Berkay’s family until this day, so I was nervous about what their opinions of each other would be, the two backgrounds are very different and neither side really knew what to expect. Berkay introduced everyone to each other and although they were unable to communicate with each other, both families joined in the hugs and handshakes and were united in their happiness for us both which is all that really matters.

After the greetings, it was time to step down onto the beach for photographs, much to the annoyance of my poor little sister who cried her eyes out when she felt the stones and sand in her shoes, so we didn’t manage to get any good group photos with her as our bridesmaid.
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Me and Dad, and us with my mum and dad.
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Us with my brother, and my grandparents.
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Us with Berkay’s dad, step-mum and brothers.
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Us with Berkay’s aunt’s and cousin, and with his uncle, aunt and younger cousin.
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Back on dry, flat, non-sandy land with my sister, our little princess bridesmaid.

One of the main reasons we wanted this particular venue, and at such a late time of day, was to ensure we got some sunset photos on the beach together. Anyone who has read my blog will know just know much I love sitting in Calis and admiring the sunset, so getting these photos taken was something we both really wanted, and the photographer didn’t disappoint. He had us pulling all sorts of poses and it was rather embarrassing as everyone else was standing and watching, it had also started to get very windy and a bit chilly, my veil was blowing all over the place which actually made some of the photos even better!
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By the time we had finished the sunset photos it was time to cut the cake. A very, very lovely lady made this cake for us and I’m so pleased with how it came out, it was exactly as I’d asked for it. The cake had two layers, one was chocolate sponge with chocolate chip cream filling, the other was lemon sponge with lemon curd filling and it was delicious! I spent days and weeks looking online for ideas and knew I wanted something relatively simple, then settled on this design with red hearts flowing down one side, both the Turkish and England flags at the bottom along with the bride, groom and of course our lovely Boncuk dog! She done such a great job, especially on little Boncuk! Guven’s restaurant had arranged for little fireworks around the cake which looked brilliant at the time, and in the photos, but not so good when I realised one of the sparks from the firework had hit my dress and burnt a small hole. I was trying to figure out what caused it then saw the culprit caught on camera, as you can see below – honestly with the amount of hairspray I had on I’m just glad the spark didn’t touch my hair, it would have gone up in flames!
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In the lead up to the wedding I’d been so worried about being centre of attention and how nervous I’d be but after the initial ‘Oh shit, everyone is looking at me’ thought faded, I really enjoyed it and started to relax. It was so lovely having my close family and Berkay’s family together. I know some family members were annoyed or sad about not being invited or about the fact we had the wedding in Turkey, making it nearly impossible for them to come, but honestly I’m so glad we did it this way.  A wedding in England would have meant none of Berkays family would be able to come, and even Berkay himself would never have got a visit visa at this point in time! Berkay’s family wanted a village wedding with 500+ local people invited but that’s not me either, and having the wedding in Calis, the place that is such a huge part of our lives, was definitely the best choice. 
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Dad, stepmum, Berkay & I, Mum and Stepdad, and Berkay with his immediate family.
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After all the slightly cheesy but very lovely photographs were taken, it was time to sit down, enjoy the buffet, drink and dance, but not before the traditional Turkish practice of ‘pinning the money’ on the bride and groom…

Part 3 coming soon.

Click HERE for part 1.

Our Turkish Wedding Part 1.

Back on the morning of the 27th April I woke up in our apartment to the sound of the waves on the beach, with Berkay in bed beside me. It was our wedding day! Traditionally I know the bride and groom aren’t supposed to see each other the night before, or the morning of the wedding, but quite a lot of our wedding day was a bit backwards!

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the forecast rain for the previous day had fallen and cleared ready for our day! Berkay and dad took me, mum, my stepmum and my little sister to the hairdresser in Fethiye around 10am. I had been worrying about how well this would work out since we booked her as she doesn’t speak any English, but she’s the wife of one of Berkay’s work friends so we got a good deal and she was really friendly, despite the rather large language barrier. Dad and Berkay left and went back to Calis and all the ‘boys’ had a shave and massage together, but not before Berkay gave instructions to the hairdresser about how NOT to do my hair and makeup, I did not want to have blue eyeliner and be orange! The lady done my makeup first, and other than some bright pink lipstick initially, it looked really nice, even if I do say so myself! Next was the hair, I came prepared with a photo of how I wanted it and she did that really well too.

Next, the hairdresser started on my little sisters hair while I went into a corner of the salon behind a screen and started putting on my dress. I was worried about the dress fitting right and not showing too much boobage (!) It was a little odd getting dressed in a tiny corner of a hot salon on the 2rd floor of a building in Fethiye town centre, but apparently this is the done thing in Turkey, and most brides do get ready in the salon with their friends/family. After a lot of pulling, tightening and lacing the ribbon by my mum and stepmum, we managed to get my dress on and looking exactly how I wanted it. A quick 10 minutes back in hairdressers chair and my veil was in and hair finished, complete with ALOT of pins keeping it in place, ouch.
 
At around 11.45 Berkay arrived back at the salon, now clean shaven and fully dressed in his wedding suit, to pick me up. Now, this is the backwards part of the day! While usually the bride and groom get ready separately and don’t see each other until the ceremony, we were spending the entire day together having a wedding photoshoot before our service at 6.30pm in the evening. This is normal in Turkey, sometimes they even have their wedding photos taken on a different day to their ceremony and wear their wedding outfits, do their hair and makeup etc twice, sometimes days, weeks or even months apart!

Berkay had already seen photos of me in my dress as I couldn’t resist showing him, but it was still very exciting and surreal when we were stood face to face with each other in the salon fully dressed in our wedding attire. A couple of minutes later and we were walking downstairs and through Fethiye town centre towards the car with the photographer behind us, leaving my family back at the salon.

I think my family found it quite hard to comprehend how, and why, we would spend all afternoon driving around in our wedding clothes and squashing my dress in the back of a boiling hot car. I must admit, when I first got to the car and realised how much of a struggle and how uncomfortable it would be to sit in my ridiculously tight corsetted dress squashed in the back seat, I did wonder ‘what the hell am I doing?’ but when I thought about the beautiful photos we’d get as a result, I realised it would be worth it and I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

Our photographer knew all the best places to go for photos. Berkay was driving and the photographer gave him directions. We ended up driving through Kayakoy and onto the road towards Gemiler Island. In the middle of the road high up on a cliff side, the photographer instructed Berkay to pull the car over and with a bit of help I struggled out of the car and scrambled across the dusty road and rocks to the side of the cliff. The photographer climbed up a few rocks, knelt down and snapped some photos, shouting at us what poses to do. These two photos are some of my favourites because I love how blue the sea looks in the background, it captures the true beauty of the whole Fethiye area and looks almost too perfect, like we were photoshopped in! I can 100% say we were not and actually none of these photos have been at all edited or photoshopped as we collected the CD the day after and they didn’t have time to edit them.
 
On the way to Gemiler the photographer had spotted a perfect photo opportunity in a field, so he made sure we stopped there on the way back. There’s a funny photo he captured of me and Berkay walking through these plants and me with a look of pure disgust on my face because of the amount of bees that were buzzing around my feet and all the other wildlife in the flowers that I was trying to avoid getting stung or bitten by! ‘Just sit down in the middle’ the photographer said, easier said than done with my dress on, so I settled for a half kneel-half sitting pose, but it still came out really pretty.
 
Next stop was Kayakoy, but not before parking the car next to a pancake house for a lunchbreak and a glass of tea. Yes, local people and tourists were sat in the shady pancake house enjoying a spot of lunch when in we strolled, dressed up in our wedding outfits looking totally out of place. So many people walking past wished us well and said ‘may God make you happy’ etc in Turkish (Allah mutlu etsin / hayirli olsun) but I felt really silly sitting struggling to eat a pancake with my big white dress on with everyone staring! It was a lovely sunny day without a cloud in the sky, but thankfully not unbearably hot so wandering through Kayakoy after our little detour was quite pleasant, if a little difficult because I was holding my dress up making sure it didn’t get caught on any sticking up stones or rocks. The first few photos were very posed, and reminded me of something you’d see in a catalogue. He had us doing all sorts of poses which had me in fits of giggles because they were so ridiculous! He had me staring into a stone window at  a random person and pretend sniffing flowers at one point.
  
 
I really love the individual photos of me and the full length shots of my dress, the photographer definitely captured the surroundings well as well with the green trees and ruins in the distance. I’m not usually that much of a fan of Kayakoy but it’s nice to have a bit of Turkish history in our wedding photos.
 
 
 
After having a lot of snapshots taken at Kayakoy we headed back towards Fethiye where I requested we stop at Asiklar Tepesi (lovers hill) as that is my favourite place to get beautiful panoramic views of Fethiye. Each time I visit Turkey we always drive up there and sit down with a drink and an icecream or something similar and admire the view so I’m glad we managed to have some of our wedding photos there.
 
By this point it was around 2.45pm and the photographer suggested we drive to Gunluklu bay, via Calis. On driving through Calis, he decided it would be a good idea to stop at the infamous half finished, multicoloured houses by the canal. Rumor has it that these old houses were owned by someone in the Turkish mafia who was either killed or put in prison and the wife/s argued over what should happen to them afterwards, so they’ve remained unfinished, unused and left to be ruined by weather and old age. Whatever the truth about these buildings is, it’s a real shame as they would have been lovely properties in a nice location and keeping them there with no plans to use them is a waste of good space. We accidentally walked around the area once and got told we weren’t allowed to be there, so when the photographer told us to get out of the car, enter one of the buildings and walk up the the top floor I was a little worried, especially with the potential ‘mafia’ link!! Regardless, we did as he said and walked inside the house, through piles of rubbish and a lot of broken glass, mindful of my dress all the time, and up the stairs to the first floor. The photographer did manage to get some nice shots but it was still a very random, slightly scary location!
 
The next stop was Gunluklu bay, the other side of Calis, past Ciftlik and Yaniklar, on the main Fethiye-Dalaman road. They took a small entrance fee and we parked up, got out and stood among the huge trees which provided much welcome shade. The trees in the background made a lovely backdrop and I love all the out of focus green blurs behind us. The only bad thing was that I got absolutely eaten alive by mosquitoes and covered in bites that swelled up, I had 3 elbows on one arm at one point and had to make an emergency stop at the chemist on the way back to Fethiye.
     
One final stop was a tiny beach that I’d never been to before, I didn’t even know it existed and I’ve forgotten the name now but I hope to go there again and find out next time I visit Turkey. It was down a long road near Yaniklar and it was really beautiful and empty.

At this point it was 4.30pm and time to go back to Fethiye, Berkay walked back to get the car and I stood waiting in among the trees for him and the photographer to come back. I think this photo perfectly captures my mood at that moment, hot, bored, stressing about the wedding that was due to take place in a couple of hours time, covered in itchy mozzie bites and worn out from lifting my dress everywhere. 

Right after these photos were taken we headed back to Fethiye and back to the hairdresser who done a quick touch up of my hair and makeup and then we set off on our way to our wedding ceremony and celebration in Calis.

Despite doing things backwards that day, and having our photos taken before actually being married, seeing each other before the ceremony, I’m so glad we did it that way. All the wandering through fields, getting a bee stuck in my veil(!!), climbing over rocks, through dusty ruins and being squashed in the back of the car with my big white dress for hours was all worth it and having these photos of all the beautiful places around Fethiye as our wedding pictures to look back on forever is just the best feeling – we certainly wouldn’t have got those lovely photos from a wedding in England, would we?

Wedding date and 4 busy days..

I got back on Sunday evening from 4 lovely days in Turkey. We didn’t have much time to relax as we had a million and one things to do to get organised for our wedding in April, and with only 3 working days to do it!

We were running around like headless chickens in Fethiye all day Wednesday getting paperwork, photocopying it, driving backwards and forwards from marriage offices and council offices to doctor’s surgeries (as part of the marriage requirements Berkay needed a blood test to check for diseases that can be passed onto children etc)! I had had 0 hours sleep the night before as I had been flying all night, and landed at 7am, so I was walking around in a tired, half asleep, half awake state. By some miracle we managed to get everything done in one day, apart from the blood test results, and we were able to book a date for our wedding…

27th April 2016! 5 weeks tomorrow!

After booking the date, we managed to order and pick up wedding rings in the space of a couple of hours, book a hairdresser, photographer and venue, order flowers for me and my little flowergirl sister, buy some items to use as wedding favours, speak to a lovely lady about making our cake and get Berkay’s suit ordered, tailored and picked up. All in just 3 working days! After all the plans were put into action, my family have all been able to book flights and accommodation and apart from my wedding dress fitting next weekend, I think everything is sorted and organised!

Fethiye and Calis are still as lovely as ever, and it was great to catch up with our friends there, and of course spend some time with Berkay, even if it was just a few days. It always amazes me how quickly I adapt back into ‘Turkish Danni’ and whenever I land in the country it’s like I’ve never even been away.

I have lots of photos to share from my visit, and also lots to share from my previous visit last month! It’s all a bit crazy at the moment and I feel like a bit of a jet-setter flying back every month! I really need to catch up with my blogging but with wedding plans, and also trying to gather the hundreds (literally..) of documents and paperwork required for Berkay’s visa application, and working 9-5 weekdays, means I have little time to think of anything else.

I love that I can sit and write on my blog and it’s so funny to see how life has changed since I first started writing it 3 years ago, it started out as a blog about living in Turkey, then moved onto the struggles of army life and separation, and now I’m definitely going to bore you all with wedding and visa updates!

For now, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite photos taken last week.

Weddings!

This weekend was a busy one. On Saturday, my mum got married!
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It was all a bit of a whirlwind romance really.  She split up with her previous partner last year and moved into her own house, my uncle helped her move in with a few of his friends, one of them, unbeknownst to her, would be her future husband! He helped her move in, sent her a ‘new home’ card, got her number from my uncle and started talking. Two months later they told me they were getting married! Won’t lie, we all thought she was nuts. Bat-shit-crazy nuts. But so far, they’ve proved us all wrong, her new husband is lovely and I’ve never seen her so happy.. Who are we to judge? (:

Anyway, Saturday 29th March, 7 months after meeting, they officially tied the knot!

After doing some last minute wedding preparations and getting the venue ready for the reception, me and Berkay stayed at my Mum’s house on Friday night, along with my aunt.
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We had a 7am wake up call, ate breakfast and spent the next 4 hours getting ready, helped along with a glass of bucks fizz of course! Poor Berkay was stuck in a house of girls. Mum was having her hair done by her hairdresser, my aunts friend was doing her hair, and then there was me… Berkay was just sat downstairs flabbergasted by what was going on… so much so that he took himself off on a long walk around the town for an hour! Bless.
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Mum had 3 pairs of wedding shoes – decreasing in height and increasing in comfort! I also took along a ‘back-up’ bra, dress, shrug, and shoes, which quickly made an appearance after stuffing myself with the buffet! 

When he came back, all our hair was done and we were all fighting over the only mirror with good-lighting in the house so we could do our make-up.  “Hurry up and get ready Berkay!” we nagged…  “I’ll only take 10minutes”… he said. He wasn’t wrong either. He was all suited and booted within minutes while us 3 girls were all rushing around like sweaty headless chickens upstairs.
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The photographer arrived at 11, by then luckily we were all ready, and began a mammoth photo shoot in the garden, what a lovely sunny day it was, thank God! I can’t wait to see all the professional photos, she took hundreds! The only thing I don’t like is how posed they all were, “til your bouquet towards me a bit, move your hands down a bit, now stare up at that tree” – I’m not a fan of cheesy posed photos like that, candid shots are best, they capture the special moments best.

Berkay went off to the register office in a different car, and Mum, grandad, my aunt and I followed in the wedding car. We got stuck at every set of traffic lights, and the sunny warm weather meant the streets were full of people walking, so everyone kept stopping and pointing “oh look, someone’s getting married!”
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We got to the register office and had a 15 minute wait until the part I was dreading most – walking into the actual register office room. Anyone who knows me knows how shy I am, walking into that room with everyone turning to look is the worst thing I can imagine! I know everybody was looking at how lovely mum looked, rather than at us two bridesmaids following, but it was still very scary. Uhhhh.

I took my seat next to Berkay, and a few minutes and the wedding vows later, it was official, they were Mr & Mrs Gormley! It’s so weird now that mum has a different surname to me, even after her and dad divorced she still kept his name, so we’ve had the same name for as long as I can remember!  I was a witness and had to sign the book, so once again I had to stand at the front of the room of 70 people all watching… my worst nightmare!
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After all the necessary paperwork was completed, and marriage certifcate all signed and handed over, it was time to head outside for more photos! We were there for ages having lots of photos taken by the photographer, all 70 guests managed to squeeze in at one point. I’m sure the photographer got some nice shots.  After the photos were all done, it was time for the traditional confetti throwing, some people had bubbles to blow too –  the groom’s family couldn’t resist a little rendition of  ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ – most of them are West Ham fans!
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All us guests headed off to the reception venue, and waited at the bar for the guests of honor to arrive. Everyone grabbed a glass of Bucks Fizz to raise when they walked in.
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When the speeches were over and done with, and presents given out, it was time for the buffet! Pride of place on the buffet table was the wedding cake – which everyone was admiring. As you can see from the photos, mum didn’t have a red dress, she wanted a claret one, so claret was the theme of the day, the cake, roses, ribbons, banners , balloons. Our bridesmaids dresses were blue. Has anyone figured this out yet? Claret & Blue? West Ham. Ewwwwwww. The groom even had West Ham cufflinks and there was an alternative bride and groom cake-topper, with co-ordinating claret dress and West ham shirt!
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After the buffet it was time to cut the cake, then the first dance, which was to Ellie Goulding’s ‘How long will I love you?’ – a few other people joined in the dancing, but me and Berkay were too shy. He did eventually get up and do one dance with mum, but I just sat down all night!
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The reception was lovely, but it was a very long day. The wedding was at 12, so we were all sat in the reception venue from 1pm til very late evening – this meant everyone had plenty of time to get nice and drunk – resulting in some pretty hilarious dance off’s! I didn’t really speak to anybody most of the night, people were coming up to me and saying hello and I had no idea who they were – ours is one of those families who only gets together for events, which doesn’t occur very often, so I’m so glad Berkay was with me.

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After chatting, eating and dancing the day away, it was time for the bride and groom to leave – everyone formed a circle on the dance floor, had a kiss and a hug and wished them well – and then off they went. We followed literally 2minutes afterwards as we had a taxi waiting. We were so knackered from the day that we were in bed snoring asleep by 10.30pm!

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Mum & Berkay enjoyed a little boogie.

Click here to compare to my experience of  a Turkish wedding last year.

A Turkish wedding..

Turkish weddings are spectacular occasions, I’m pretty certain they invite every person they’ve ever met, literally, hundreds, even a thousand people all gathered together to celebrate, the Turks do know how to throw a party.
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The wedding celebrations go on for days, and it’s not unusual for the legal wedding ceremony to take place months before the actual wedding party, the equivalent of what we would call the ‘reception’. This was the case for our friends. They were legally married in April this year, and had a very small family get together in a restaurant. They held the actual wedding party, and everything else that goes with it, a month later at the end of May. I have their permission to share their photos so thought I’d do a post sharing my experience of a Turkish wedding.

The days and weeks leading up to the big wedding party were spent planning, we went to their house often and each time they were doing something wedding-related. On on particular occasion, they came in with a massive box of invitations to send out, ”how many people are they inviting?!” I asked, ‘not too many, just 500”….

500 people, and that is considered a fairly small wedding by Turkish standards! I don’t even know 50 people, let alone 500. The wedding party was taken very seriously, the groom’s father spent an awful lot of money on it, with the help of credit cards!

The night before the wedding, they had a henna night, I’ve heard this is normally a women-only thing, but both bride and groom attended in this case.
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The next morning, the day of the wedding party, Berkay headed off to our friends village where they had sacrificed a cow and were serving up traditional Turkish meals to everyone who happened to be passing by. There was a steady flow of hundreds of people throughout the day, all coming to eat the food being offered as part of the celebrations. This carried on until late afternoon when it was time to get ready for the big party..

Typically, wedding parties are held in the late evenings, and can go on until the early hours of the morning. They are often held in large halls, ‘wedding salons’ or school yards. In this case, it was the school yard directly opposite their house. It seems so bizarre to me to hold a party in a school playground, when we think of traditional British wedding receptions, they are held in fancy halls or venues, all beautifully decorated tables and chairs, balloons, seating plans, perhaps a buffet or meal, and plenty of alcohol flowing. This was not the case here at all. Everyone was sitting on plastic garden chairs, hired from the local council, there was no food, no alcohol, not many decorations. It was all very simple, yet completely bonkers at the same time. We arrived at 8 o clock, just in time to see the bride and groom’s extravagant-looking car speeding through the village beeping its horn loudy to let everyone know there’s a wedding going on. The bride and groom’s names were written on the banner draped over the car, and it was covered in streamers and huge ribbons, I wish I had taken a photo!

After greeting the bride and groom’s parents, we found a couple of spare chairs and sat down, completely overwhelmed by the amount of people and the noise of the drums, something that is ever-present at Turkish weddings.

The bride and grooms close family and friends stood up and lit some sparklers, held them in the air and formed a little walkthrough archway with their arms, the bride and groom arrived and walked hand in hand through them, it all looked quite romantic with the sparklers! They walked straight into the middle of the yard and stood opposite each other, the bride had a veil over her head and a red ribbon tied around her waist, this is a ‘maidenhood belt’ or bekaret kuşağı which is tied around her by her family before leaving for the wedding. The groom said a prayer and removed his bride’s veil, revealing her face. Small fireworks were lit in the background and they then had their first dance, a typical slow dance, and then other couples started to join in.
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After the first dance, the real party begins. Loud drums, all kinds of musical instruments, live music and singing and A LOT of dancing. The dancing goes on all night and is crazy, traditional Turkish dancing. The wedding we were at had only Turkish music, but many are more modern and include western music, I can’t count the number of times I heard wedding parties in the school yard behind my house playing gangnam style last year!
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After a while, it was time to bring out the cake. The cake was HUGE, 7 tiers (yet still nowhere near enough to go around all the guests) and had yet more fireworks lit on top. The bride and groom placed some lira notes on the cake and it was cut up and distributed to guests, we didn’t stay around long enough to get any, unfortunately, as Berkay had to get to work!
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Just before we went, the dancing was put on hold for a while and the bride and groom stood at the front of the seating area with ribbons draped around their shoulders. Guests are expected to pin money or gold coins to the ribbon, instead of giving presents. This was one of my favourite parts, I think it’s a good idea and a nice little tradition that looks great on the photos! We were near the front of the queue to pin money on, right after the groom’s family. Each person that pinned money on got a photo taken with the bride and groom and then went back to their dancing.
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We had to go home after this as Berkay had work, but I’m certain the wedding carried on until the early hours with plenty more fun and dancing.

It was very different to any wedding I have ever been to before, but it was an experience to say the least. If we ever get married, I’m sure we’ll incorporate elements of both traditional British and Turkish weddings, or maybe we’ll do as many of my friends have and have two, they are very different after all. (: