By, David J Roman
This weekend I travelled to Alajuela, Costa Rica to attend the wedding of my good friend Isaiah. A Miami man and a Tica (Costa Rican lady), their wedding was a delightful blend of cultures and personalities. During the course of the ceremony, we learned that it was more of an added experience since Costa Rican law requires a Catholic priest to pronounce union (they had already completed this step).
The ceremony was excellent nonetheless. Family and friends from both countries assembled in a church just north of the San Jose International airport. Wood paneling, sheer drapes, aisle bouquets arrayed the cozy chapel filled with well-dressed people, creating a respectful and energetic environment. The minister who led the service worked with a translator to engage all attendees and represent both cultures being brought together.
After sincere and tender expressions of mutual commitment, after the “aww”s generated by cute children bringing rings and flowers, and after a wise message from the minister, the newly-wed couple walked out with the beaming crowd to board buses that took us to the reception.
Alive with chatter, the bridal party and their wake of supporters stepped out of the buses onto the vivid green lawn of a pleasant garden overlooking the foothills of Heredia. We were greeted by relaxing typical Tico tunes drifting across the garden from the main ranch hall further up the hill. As we entered the reception room, we were greeted by live music performed by a local group well regarded in the community.
The marimba (a national symbol of Costa Rica’s music), guitar, drums and other percussion instruments set an easy mood that blended marvelously with the colorful décor and the festive energy. Exquisite glasses of passion fruit juice, fun appetizers, and a hearty Gallo Pinto con Pollo meal set the stage for what became a spirited, jovial, and unforgettable celebration.
Once everyone was seated at their assigned tables, the best man and maid of honor kicked off the reception with both humorous and heart-felt toasts.
Then, the wedding coordinator exclaimed, “Baile de Billetes!”, which signaled the start of a series of dances. In this “Money Dance”, people lined up to pin US Dollar and Costa Rica Colón bills to the bride or groom’s clothing, obligating them to dance with the donor in recognition of such generosity. The creativity of each participant (at times groups of participants) and the growing chains of bills flapping with each move the couple made led to friendly competition and hearty laughs.
The coordinator brought out the groom’s mother and the bride’s father to dance simultaneously with their newly-wed children, set to an upbeat retro American tune. The mother clearly recognized the music, and entertained the crowd with a surprising show of energy and agility.
When the general dance floor opened, the party goers flooded to join. We danced to a wide range of arrangements (e.g. solo, in pairs, lines, circles, groups, etc.) to popular Costa Rican, American, and globally-recognized music. I particularly enjoyed dancing salsa with a lovely young Tica lady whose gracious instruction and graceful counterpoint made it easy to improve and have fun.
The group dance gave way to cake slicing and classic bouquet and garter tosses for the young singles. When that sport was finished, we were surprised by the bright trumpet blasts of a brightly-dressed mariachi band that suddenly appeared at the ranch hall entrance. They flooded in and regaled us for some time with old favorites and special requests from the Costa Rican part of the family. Donning large sombreros, the new couple danced along with the mariachi performance.
Everyone decidedly drenched in sweat, in part from exertion and in part due to the high humidity, we sent the bride and groom off on their new adventure and bade each other farewell before going our separate ways. The warm atmosphere of the American – Costa Rican family fusion and bright festivity of the day we spent together left us optimistic for the couple’s future and thankful for seeing new ways to form community, express benevolence, and enrich our outlook on this world in which we live.