Monday, September 1, 2014

Words for the Week // No.11

You. Are. Awesome. And that is non-negotiable. You are capable, worthy, smart, creative, funny, caring, and unique.

That's all I wanted to say today.

Have a wonderful week!
xo Hanna

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Estonian wedding traditions (Part 2)

I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend. Today I'm sharing the second part of the Estonian wedding traditions (here's part 1 in case you missed it), covering all the traditions and customs happening at the reception. 
One of the most beautiful traditions happens right at the beginning of the reception, once everyone has been seated. It's the lighting of the candle of happiness. It's a tall candle symbolizing the fire of our marriage. It's usually lit by the parents, in our case our fathers, and we should light it every year on our anniversary. Our fathers also said a toast - one of the few moments during our wedding that had me in tears.
After that it's mostly fun and games. In a traditional Estonian wedding, there are jobs/positions (for lack of a better word for it) that need to be filled. There's the Wedding Seal, The Guard of the Bride, The Wedding Stud, The Dance Father, and The Kibe Yeller to name a few. The job of the kibe yeller, for instance, is to yell "kibe!" whick means bitter in Estonian and it's a sign that the bride and groom have to kiss. The lenght of the kiss is counted outloud, and they need to extend it every time. There's also a song that everyone can sing to help provoke the kiss. The point of the song is that everything tastes bitter until the bride and groom's kiss makes it sweet. So, there was a lot of smooching going on :).
Then there's the Guard of the Bride. That is a very important job, because in an Estonian wedding, guests may steal the bride and ask the groom for "ransom". Usually, the ransom is a task the groom has to do to get his bride back. At our wedding, there was one attempt to steal the bride, but the guard did his job and caught the thieves red handed.
The photo above shows the election of the Wedding Seal, who's job is to "seal" the deal with their lips. So, when another position is filled, the wedding seal kisses him/her on the cheek to seal the deal.
Then it's time for the first dance, which in Estonia is called the Opening Waltz. My father played the music for our first dance on a concertina (for lack of a better translation), an Estonian folk instrument.
And, more games. The games played during the reception are all up to the Pulmaisa (the man running the show, so to speak), so he may do many, or just a few. His job is to start the party and keep it going. Our Pulmaisa was great, and everybody was having so much fun. There was lots of weird dancing and singing involved.
About half an hour before midnight, the cake is served. Nothing really awe inpiring here, but I just wanted to point out, that some traditions seem to be international.
And, then, at midnight it's time to pass on the bridal wreath. The bride put on a flower crown, and the groom puts on a hat, everybody sings along the song of the Bridal Wreath and the flower crown and the hat are passed on to the next couple. They are the ones most likely to be the next to marry, so they become the new bride and groom. For the bride and groom, that marks the end of their wedding day. It's also customary for the bride and groom to change clothes after that.

After that it's more dancing and playing, but the "official" part is over. A decent wedding lasts until the wee hours of the morning, of course, and ours was a very decent wedding indeed.

I hope you've enjoyed taking a peek into an Estonian wedding. I loved sharing this part of our culture with you. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments, I'd love to ellaborate.

xo Hanna

Photography by Kerli Halliste
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Estonian Wedding Traditions (Part 1)

I know some of you've been waiting for this, so today I'm going to introduce you to the wonderful traditions of an Estonian wedding. Because there are a lot of traditions to cover, I'll split it up into two separate posts. This on will cover all the rituals performed before the reception.

Nowadays, with the globalization of the world, all sorts of new traditions have become part of the weddings around here (a lot of american traditions, of course). I think these kinds of things are always evolving, so while I'm not against new traditions, there is something special about sticking to the old like our parents before us. So, from the start of our planning process we new we wanted a traditional wedding.
The first thing you need to know about an Estonian wedding is that the whole event is led by a person called Pulmaisa (which means Father of the wedding). Pulmaisa is usually a man, although some women do it as well. The job of the Pulmaisa is to keep the wedding going, basically like a host at an event. He also prepares and conducts all the rituals, and games.

The wedding starts with the ceremony, as per usual. Unlike in the States, it's not really custom for the bride's father to bring in the bride. Usually, the bride and the groom come together, but nowadays more and more people are loving the american way. We used half-and-half, meaning that my father brought me half way, and then me and Rein walked the end together symbolizing our joint wish to tie together our lives. After the ceremony, the guests can congratulate the newlyweds and usually that's also when you serve champagne and do all the group photos.
After this a number of rituals follow. The specific rituals being performed my vary slightly depending on the Pulmaisa, but most of them are done in every wedding. Our first ritual was getting rid of all the sins from the brides pre-married life. I had to prepare a rock where I'd written my name on that symbolized the weight of my sins, and Rein had to throw it in the pond. Side note: these rituals are always infused with humor, so don't take them too seriously. It is said that in the old days, the groom had to throw his bride into the water to see if she was sinful or not. When the bride sunk (which she probably did, since most people didn't know how to swim back then), she was sin-free, but when she didn't, she had something to hide. As times changed, the ritual also changed from throwing the bride to throwing a rock.
The next ritual was planting a tree. We buried the testament of our marriage under our hawthorn and the tree should grow old and strong, just like our marriage. The most popular tree to plant at weddings is of course the mighty oak, but we chose the hawthorn because of it's beautiful blossoms. I love this traditions, because a tree is such a beautiful symbol for a marriage, and in 20 years we can come and visit our tree and see how big it's grown and it will always remind us of our wedding day.
After the tree was planted, it was time for me to give up my maiden name. There are a number of ways to perform this ritual, from throwing a rock with the maiden name to a river to sending it to the sky with balloons. We chose to send off my maiden name with a flower wreath that I threw into the river flowing by my parents' house. Attached to the wreath was my manifesto of accepting my new name which I read out loud and which both my parents had to sign.
Now that I was officially Mrs Saar, it was time to make sure we would be blessed with many children. This ritual is always performed under a stork's nest (since they are the ones bringing the babies, you know). The groom has to climb as high as possible, and place a ribbon (with the names of the bride and groom written on it) around the pole that the nest is built on. Our Pulmaisa joked, that 20 cm of ribbon is said to equal one baby, so with a ribbon as long as ours we should expect about 11 (excuse me, what was that?).
Many of these rituals are often performed during the car procession that follows the ceremony. The procession called Pulmarong (wedding train) is actually just the whole wedding party moving from the ceremony location to the reception location, so there's a practical need for it, but sometimes it's also used to make stops to do the rituals (not every ceremony location has it's own stork's nest, for instance), and for visiting places that are special to the bride and groom (like where they first met). The fun thing about the procession is, that random people can put up road blocks for the bride and groom which they can only pass when they have performed the task which they are given. Usually it's something that they need to know how to do as a wife or husband, like chopping wood or changing a baby's diaper.
We had two roadblocks. At the first we had 2 separate tasks, but we could assist each other of course, like a married couple does. I had to put together an old meat grinder, and Rein had to chop wood (the ax given to the groom is always old, blunt, and rusted to make the job harder). We passed that test, and as a thank you to the kind people for their effort it is customary to give them a bottle of vodka.

At the second roadblock, we had to build a bird's nest box. My task was to select the right pieces that are needed to build it from a set of pallet pieces, and then we had to work together to build it. Luckily, they had a diagram to assist me in choosing the right pieces, so we passed this challenge with flying colors.

And, finally, we arrive at the reception location. That concludes the pre-reception part of the wedding. I hope you've enjoyed reading about our traditions and customs. I'll be back tomorrow with part 2 of this series.

Have a wonderful weekend!
xo Hanna

Photography by Kerli Halliste
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