Our Traditional Turkish Village wedding – the evening.

“Just take a deep breath” – those words were running through my head as I stepped out of the car. A few days prior to the big Turkish wedding party I had been discussing how worried I was and my stepmum’s very useful words of wisdom were ‘take deep breaths’ – I must have thought about that conversation and replayed those few words in my head 100 times that day!

There was already music playing, which they stopped when Berkay’s brother gave us the signal to start walking towards the empty space in the middle of the floor. There was a make shift aisle between rows of chairs, and when the DJ introduced us, hundreds of heads turned to face me. My instinct was to burst into tears and it took all my effort not to do so! The photographer captured this moment perfectly – lips tightly together, dread in my eyes…  
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As soon as we entered the middle of the make-shift dancefloor and started our slow dance (after Berkay’s cousin taught us how to during the day….) Berkay’s brothers laid out some giant sparkler fireworks around us in a circle and fired some confetti at us, which looked great for the photos but made me jump at the time! Slowly, other couples and family members joined in the slow dancing – including Berkays dad, much to the amusement of his family who had never seen him dance before despite attending hundreds of weddings!
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Berkay’s dad wasnt the only family member joining in the fun – Berkay’s uncle grabbed one of the traditional giant drums that always take pride of place at a village wedding, and started bashing it – apparently he had never played one before but one glass of raki later and he was playing it so confidently you’d think he was an expert! To accompany the very, very loud drum, the DJ was playing a keyboard and singing. I can’t even explain how loud it was!
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After the slow dance, it was time for the real madness to begin – the traditional, loud, Turkish music that reminds me of a swarm of angry bees buzzing – if you’ve heard this kind of music you’ll know exactly what I mean. I don’t do dancing, so I was dreading this, especially because as the bride, all eyes were on me. I’d only ever done Turkish dancing once before and that was on our actual wedding day back in April, and only for a couple of minutes – I should definitely have practiced more! Basically, it involves standing around in a circle, wriggling your shoulders, clicking your fingers and shuffling to the beat of the massive drum – at least that’s what I tried to do. It was really entertaining watching everyone else dance, a lot of them really got into it and were obviously having great fun. I tried to stay with Berkay as much as possible but he disappeared off a few times and I was left in a circle of women. Bless Berkay’s cousins really tried to look after me and made sure I was dancing in their ‘circle’, but I’ve only met them a few times so I was still nervous. After a while some of our friends from Fethiye joined in the dancing. They are much older than us and are almost like second parents to Berkay when he’s in Fethiye. They said they made the journey all the way to Denizli just so that I had someone I knew there which was so sweet. My face definitely did light up when I saw them dancing amongst the sea of people I’d never met before – I navigated towards them and just standing next to them made me feel so much better, although of course I was still searching for Berkay in the crowd!
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There were so many people from far and wide – everyone really makes an effort to turn up. September-November is wedding season in Turkey and this fairly small village can have up to 10 weddings per week, but apparently everyone was commenting how many people had turned up to our one and how they’d never seen one like that before! Berkay was especially pleased that two of his best friends from his army days made the journey, he keeps in regular contact to them via whatsapp and Facebook and they spent almost 10 months together day and night in the army so it was nice for him that they wanted to come.

After a few dances and a very quick sit down it was time to pin the money. I spoke about this in my blog post about our actual wedding in April, as it was a tradition that I wanted to make sure we did then too. It’s tradition in Turkey to pin money on to the bride and groom, rather than give gifts. In English weddings you end up with toasters, slowcookers and kettles, whereas in Turkey you end up with lots of paper notes, much more useful, and looks great in the wedding photos too. At first, people formed a fairly orderly queue, got a pin from Berkays cousin and then pinned the money to us before shaking our hands and double kissing our cheeks, but the neat queue quickly turned into chaos and I had people grabbing me, kissing my face and rushing at me with money in their hands from all angles – very overwhelming. We had anything between 1 dollar and 100 lira notes pinned to us, along with some small gold coins, another Turkish tradition. These small, gold coins are worth different amounts depending on their weight and are often given at special occasions like weddings, births of babies etc. We got around 12 gold coins pinned to us, but we only got to keep the 7 given to us by family – the others were kept by Berkays family.

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After the money had all been pinned to us, the photographer asked people to come up for photographs with us – notice the outfits, it’s normal for guests to not dress up at all, although a lot of the closer family members did. There is certainly no upstaging the bride so that’s one less thing to worry about, everyone just goes along to join the celebrations and have a boogie which is lovely.

After the photos, the DJ dropped the bombshell that he would be bringing a chair out for us to do a solo dance around. Berkay had the unfortunate job of breaking this news to me and translating and I believe my reaction was ‘I hate you’ – I’m disappointed the photographer didn’t get a photo of my face when he told me because I bet it would have been absolutely hilarious. Berkay apparently didn’t know about this before, it’s a good job I didn’t know because I’d have been worrying all day! It was literally my worst nightmare, actually even worse than I could have imagined, but with hundreds of pairs of eyes watching I had no choice. First of all, I took my seat in the chair, the DJ played music, the drummer played, Berkay’s shoulders started shuffling and he danced around me in a circle. After a couple of minutes, the music stopped, the DJ shouted ‘did you like it?’ I answered ‘yes’ but I couldn’t possibly type what I was actually thinking as it involves many, many swearwords. Now it was my turn, Berkay sat down on the chair and I danced around him in a circle. I have no idea what was going through my head but I know that it felt like the longest few minutes of my life! We caught the whole thing on video and watching it back does really make me laugh, even though I hated it it is definitely something to look back on and smile about. So many people who know me commented how they couldn’t believe I had done it as they’ve known me for a long time and know how shy I am.
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The night carried on and we carried on dancing, my feet were aching, my fingers hurting, and I was very tired after being up since 4am and travelling, but we weren’t allowed to sit down and just had to keep on going. Everyone was enjoying themselves and eventually as the dance floor started to empty a bit, I managed to sneak off and sit down, leaving Berkay, his brothers and their friends dancing around like loons but having lots of fun.
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By the end of the night, I had blisters all over my fingers from all the clicking whilst dancing, I suppose that’s a sign of a good party – injuries from dancing!

Overall, it was a very interesting experience but one I definitely will never, ever be repeating! Clearly, it meant a lot to Berkay and his family and they did go to a lot of effort to organise the whole thing – it’s important to take part in the traditions and embrace the culture on both sides and I’m glad I was brave enough to do it, it’s definitely a story to tell everyone!
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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. (: