It has been over a month since wedding madness overtook my life and sent me into a flurry of activity. Over the past month I have played the role of tour guide, host, florist, chef, wedding planner, friend and bride. I have welcomed new and old friends, marveled in the union of my two families and celebrated my wedding sailing along the Bosphorus. Here is the first flurry of images from the wedding…
Photoshoot Location: The backstreets of Arnavutköy
Hotel: Villa Denise Hotel, Arnavutköy
Wedding Site: Gümüş Damla Yatı, Kuruçeşme
Photographer: Brother of the Bride
1.) I started the day with a bird pooping on my head…which has never happened before in my life, and represents good luck in Turkey. Usually people are advised to buy a lottery ticket after the event, I got married…perhaps the same thing?!
2.) My hair was transformed in ways I did not think was possible
3.) I LOVED my dress. My mom made the sash and the veil. It was perfect.
4.) We did a photo-shoot with our photographer on the backstreets of a small seaside neighborhood It was so fun to wander the backstreets with our wedding party. Bridesmaids and groomsmen do not exist in Turkey, so we were a spectacle People stopped us to take our picture. One mother wanted a photo with her son and my bridesmaids. It was so funny.
5.) I had both my parents walk me down the aisle. The DJ played the most bizarre version of ‘Here Comes the Bride’ that I have ever heard in my life, and the Turks were so confused by the rice-throwing tradition that I was bombarded with rice after 3 steps down the aisle,…before the ceremony even began
6.) It was so incredible to see the generosity, love and warmth which welcomed me into this family. It was really humbling and amazing.
7.) My brother was the life of the party. He got everyone to dance (including Caglayan’s grandmother and coworkers) and danced the whole night with a bottle of wine in his hands
8. )My dad gave a speech during the ceremony and included a Turkish quote. People cheered. It was adorable.
9.)When we exchanged our vows and the rings, all I saw was Caglayan. It felt like the world stopped.
10.) Our party favors were a box of M&Ms with our faces on them. It was hilarious!
11.) I danced like a madwoman as the traditional Turkish wedding line wrapped itself around us. By the end of the night I was barefoot and my dress was covered with wine. success!
While we are pretty much set on the wedding front, we have a few more tasks to complete. This week’s project? The selection of invitations. Now, this should be a very simple task. Neither of us take it too seriously, nor do we have any radical opinions or needs. We have agreed the invitation will be in Turkish, and must be simple and elegant. However, this is not an easy task. After an hour-long search, we quickly discovered that Turkish invitations could not be more tacky. They are limited to the colors of white, off-white and beige, occasionally sprinkled with tacky cartoons of brides and grooms, as well as ugly hearts and flowers. They are most similar to the graduation announcements in the states that have not been updated in a few decades. We eventually found one that satisfies our need for simple elegance, and some color.
What I learned:
There are numerous invitation shops above Sirkeci Train Station. If you head to Eminonu/Sultanahmet, walk towards the train station. Once you are there, instead of turning left with the tramway, walk straight up the hill and you will discover several small invitation shops with binders full of most invitation brands.
In my personal opinion, Koza Invitations offer the most classic and contemporary styles. We chose a beautiful design with off-white card, gold text and Chinese flowers hanging from the top and bottom. We love them!
In Turkey, you do not give invitations to guests until one month before the wedding. Most invitations take no more than 2 weeks to print. If you order invitation 2 months before the wedding, you will be fine!
Invitations are expected to be hand delivered by the bride and groom, or their family members.
It is customary (and almost obligatory) to invite your boss to your wedding.
Our invitation selection cannot be appreciated until you get a taste of the plethora of horrible and tacky options that we were forced to skim through (do not worry, none of these were considerations). Look below at your own peril!
Every two or three weeks, we make our way across the city to Caglayan’s mom’s apartment for a special breakfast. The table is full of treats of every flavor and origin. There are numerous options covering the table. Every type of breakfast pastry, homemade jams, special cheeses, fruit and nuts, a constant flow of tea and lively conversation. We have been gathering more frequently with his parents and grandmother to plan the wedding and discuss the details of the event. Our last mission: to introduce a western-style ceremony. It did not go well. The YouTube video selection is somewhat limited. I found Kate and Will’s wedding video, but obviously our wedding will be nothing like the royal wedding of the century. I am still searching. However, the opportunity to bond and laugh on a Sunday morning is always a treat.
First of all, the illusions of sipping champagne and basking in bridal camaraderie as you wait for your ‘aha’ moment seem to be a complete and absolute myth. I do not know where these images come from, (perhaps Hollywood chickflicks are the most likely culprit), but they could not be further from the experience I had. However, I will also acknowledge that New York City was perhaps not exactly the best place to escape the bridal princess syndrome that rages in Istanbul.
Exhibit A: The Bridal Boutique at THE Macy’s of Manhattan (which claims to be the largest department store in the world and takes up an entire city block). I saw dresses that would not fit into a car, let alone a closet. I saw corsets, I saw sparkles, I saw sequins and bling of every kind. The Jewish American princesses of the world were well-represented, as were their mothers, grandmothers and everyone else with a formal or informal role in the wedding. Within 5 minutes I had to leave. The bright lights, beads and sequins were too much for me to stomach.
Now, to the process as a whole. Appointments are made and must be kept for anyone to give you the time of day. They are limited to an hour, and while that time is satisfactory to try on the handful of dresses that are flattering for your body shape, and within your budget, you feel like your fate has been sealed and every employee has decided whether you would be a real client or not by the time the session comes to a close.
The search: We went to every type of shop imaginable. The special bridal collection hidden in the back of a boutique in SoHo, the overpriced and make-up stained J Crew collection, and several cute boutiques that serve as a refuge from the cheap fabrics, and mechanized, emotionless ways of David’s Bridal. We went to 5 shops in total, in just 3 days. Apparently, my plan to find a dress in this amount of time was a little ambitious. Many brides spend months simply focused on finding the right dress. My search was that much more complicated because I was hoping to find the perfect dress for two very different weddings. I needed something that I could dress-up and bedazzle for our Istanbul wedding, and dress down for the free-spirited island wedding of my dreams. Additionally, it turns out that it often take 5 months to make the dress, and then several visits to a tailor to ensure that it fits. This was all new information to me.
Two special New York Bridal paradises and boutiques:
Lovely, hidden in a quiet street walking distance from Union Square, this boutique has every type of dress for anyone who envisions a truly extraordinary and unique dress. It’s style appealed to my romantic and vintage tastes, and the staff was warm and unaffected from the Wedding Industrial Complex. We ate sushi on a rainy New York day, and then spent a wonderful hour playing dress-up at Lovely. It was very fun.
Saja, a small wedding boutique for the free-spirited bride who wants something special, but off-the-beaten path. The store itself claims to be a refuge for the `modern, etherial and non-traditional` bride. All of the dresses have beautiful details and light, flowy fabric. I felt like a greek goddess in each and every dress. While it took me 3 visits to finalize and clarify my selection, this was where I bought THE dress.
THE dress: It is beautiful and simple. It is elegant and flattering. It flows and is perfectly my style. It has a beautiful back, a plunging neckline and falls to the floor. I will be myself on my wedding day(s). I will feel free, and I know I will be able to dance. I am excited.
On Saturday, some of the family gathered to celebrate our exciting news. It was a simple dinner that required restraint on behalf of the Turkish side of the family. Like so many cultures and traditions, engagements and weddings in Turkey are dictated by tradition.
I have learned about many of these traditions over the last few weeks….(mainly highlighting our strong diversion from tradition). Here are some of the basics:
In Turkey, the proposal occurs first, but the engagement is not official until the families come together to celebrate and acknowledge the engagement.
The engagement ceremony is traditionally held in the bride’s home. During the engagement ceremony, rings are exchanged in a short ceremony.
It is traditional for the bride to receive jewelry and gold coins from the grooms family.
Both the bride and groom traditionally wear engagement rings.
Our family celebration was held at C’s grandmother’s house on the asian side of Istanbul. She lives in the same neighborhood where C grew up, and in so many ways is like a second mother to him. It was an informal, but joyous affair. We feasted, we drank wine, we posed for pictures and I was warmly welcomed into the family by his father in a lovely toast. While we were posing to cut the cake together, I decided to introduce some American flair and tradition, and with limited explanation, I covered my groom’s face with cake. You can imagine his surprise, and the absolute delight of his family. The entire room erupted in laughter. Afterwards, the wonderful women in his life (who I adore): his grandmother, his aunt and his mother, as well as his uncle, spoiled me with beautiful gold coins and jewelry. I was overwhelmed by the attention and generosity. Overall, it was a very lovely and joyous night.
Yes, the rumors are true. The facebook frenzy is difficult to avoid, and my excitement is impossible to describe. Every time I look at my finger I am shocked by the sparkling reminder of the extraordinary circumstances that cement our bond and enhance each and every step we take as we build our life together. I have shared the story with a few friends, but wanted to meet the curiosity in a public space with a limited audience. To my loyal followers, here are the details of the proposal (if you have not heard the story already;)
It was a perfect surprise, and perfectly fitting for the two of us. It was a normal Monday night, and you-know-who told me that he wanted to take me out to dinner because he anticipated a busy week at work and wanted to ensure that we spent time together (neither of these two events were out of the ordinary). However, by the time my day was finished, I was exhausted and craved some time at home. I attempted to cancel the plans, but he was determined. He came home and told me he wanted to spoil me. Everything he said and did seemed too good to be true (I even started to joke that tonight must be the night, without truly believing it. I even gave him a pat down looking for a box!). We headed to Taksim and to our favorite Italian restaurant, where we celebrate Valentine’s day and our anniversaries. The owner knows us, and always goes out of his way to ensure the night is perfect in every way. There are no more than 15 tables in the small, dimly lit room. It is warm and cozy. There are checkered tablecloths and candles on every table. Frank Sinatra was playing in the background. We ordered a bottle of Italian wine, and all of our favorite dishes to share. We talked about the day, and started to reminisce about our time together in New York and DC, our travels in Rome and Cappadocia. The next thing I knew he was asking questions about my favorite days we’ve spent together, and still without any awareness on my part, we discussed all of our favorite memories and each of the special experiences we have shared. He asked me to identify my favorite evening that we have shared together, and I walked right into it…I said that while the night we were currently sharing was not out of the ordinary, I found it perfect in every way;) After some subtle build-up, he eventually said to me something like, “I feel so lucky to have you in my life. You have made me so happy. there is nothing that would make me happier, or feel luckier than if you said yes to my next question….will you marry me?” He slid the ring box across the table, I shouted ‘of course’ with delight and then burst into tears of joys. Shock and joy consumed me, and my eyes went back and forth between him and the ring in front of me. It felt like time stopped and we were the only two people in the room. Eventually, the owner sent over a free dessert and came over to congratulate us. We demonstrated an excessive (by Turkish standards) amounts of public affection as we slowly wandered home. We laughed a lot. It was another special and joyous day in our life together. I really could not be happier.