header photo

Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

El Salvadorian Civil Wedding

At 5am Dave hopped on the panga with Isaac for the 7 hour round trip ride into town to pick up supplies for the wedding.  Isaac keeps a big truck in La Union so that he can do his shopping.  He asked Dave to drive as his regular bodyguard/chauffeur was not available.

Melissa got to sleep in a bit, and then (gulp!) launch the dingy herself to go over and help the hotel get setup.  It’s been ages since Melissa drove the dingy.  Dave is strong enough that he can launch the dingy by himself because he can handle both the forward and aft pulleys that lift the dingy – one in each hand.  Melissa can’t do this.  So she has to go back and forth between the pulleys letting the dingy down slowly one rope at a time, and then when it nears the water, pushing it off the back deck with her feet as she lowers the last pulley into the water.  Whew.  Ok, the dingy now launched, she’s got to see if she remembers how to start it.  Yeah, she knows she’s gotta pull on the rope, but what about the choke and throttle settings?  So she figures it out, gets the dingy started and thinks to herself, “Ok, before I untie the dingy from Apsaras, have I forgotten anything?”  She ponders a minute.  Can’t think of anything, so she takes off.  Gets half way to the hotel and remembers she left the aft head pump switch on.  Dang it.  Oh well, Dave can turn that off when he returns.  As she nears the hotel, another small panic sets in when she can’t remember how to turn the engine off.  After a moment, she remembers that too, and manages to get docked without any trouble.

After a quick breakfast, it’s time to start on setup.  Melissa notices that all three of the hotel staff are playing with napkin folding.  They can’t get the napkins to stand up the way they want.  So Melissa grabs her laptop, googles “napkin folding”, finds a website with pictures of how to fold napkins 24 ways.  She shows the crew and they start laughing.  So we spent the next 20 minutes trying out various configurations, but Melissa quickly realized that the hotel’s napkins weren’t stiff enough to make them stand up in most of the configurations.  She tries to explain this to the staff.  First she looks up the translation for the word starch.  This doesn’t help at all because (as she learned later) starch doesn’t exist down here.  So then she tries the word for “stiff” which is rigido.  That and some gesturing finally got the idea across to Bianca the cook who explained to everyone else.  Not that this napkin folding was essential to the setup for the wedding – but it provided a bit of morning levity before the heavy lifting began.

This is Stephanie, the hotel assistant manager, who has been missing in action for the past few days due to a school assignment.  Melissa was afraid that when she showed up today that she might feel her toes had been stepped on since Stephanie was supposed to be in charge of the wedding plans.  But she turned out to be grateful for all the help and we got along like gangbusters.  She is still learning, but her English is better than our Spanish.

When Dave and Isaac arrived back with the balloons, it was time to blow them up.  Isaac had purchased a small balloon pump, and Dave just used old fashioned lung power.  But the balloons kept popping spontaneously, and then even worse as we were trying to hang them up.  Eventually Dave decided to start filling them with less air and that helped.  Stephanie and Isaac both lit up when Melissa showed how to curl ribbon with the edge of a pair of scissors – apparently never having seen that before. 

Melissa started work on the deck.  She had suggested to Isaac that since all the hotel rooms were empty – that we take down the sheer curtains and use them out on the deck to create some billowy decorations.  She then made big bows out of wide white ribbon to tie it all together.  Isaac laughed when Dave commented, “You didn’t know you were getting Martha Stewart.”  In an El Salvadorian civil ceremony, the bride and groom sit at a small table, and the attorney who is officiating sits across from them facing the audience.  So we decorated a table and chairs with white and blue material.  Then we tied the arms of all the plastic chairs together once they were placed in rows so they wouldn’t blow away in the wind.  The bride stopped by mid-day to take a look and said to Melissa, “I love it!” (the bride spoke a little English).

Alas, the best laid plans… as the ceremony was just about to take place, the winds kicked up and rain threatened.  Dave realized all the hatches on the boat were open and headed back across the bay to button up the boat.  He got soaked on the dingy ride as the waves were kicking up.  He saw gusts up to 45 knots while he awaited the winds to die down before coming back.  He missed the whole ceremony!  Meanwhile, back on land, the high wind gusts frightened the guests out on the deck, so a last minute scramble ensued and the whole setup was moved to the side of the hotel under an awning.  Unfortunately not all the chairs got tucked under the awning, so when the rain started in big heavy drops, there was another shuffle mid-ceremony for people to squeeze in under the awning while the hotel staff scrambled to get all the cushions out of the rain.

In the end though, despite the challenges, it was a lovely ceremony with the ocean in the background.

The attorney that performed the wedding is cousin to the bride.  We were told that it was very unusual to have a woman official perform the service.

Once the ceremony was over, it was time for hugs all around.

Then onto dinner.  The hotel had planned to serve fruit with chocolate as an appetizer.  So of course, Melissa had to hop in and help out with that dish – showing the hotel staff how to put the chocolate in a plastic bag, clip the corner, and drizzle the chocolate artfully over the plates.  (Because there will be people reading this post not familiar... Melissa has a small chocolate truffle business back home.)

Then it was onto the main dishes.  By then Dave had arrived back and he took over the grilling the meat on the hotel’s stove because the wind and the rain made use of the BBQ impractical.  Not to mention the fact that the hotel couldn’t locate the charcoal.  Meanwhile Bianca the hotel cook, Stephanie, and Melissa plated the food up.  There were 30 guests to serve, and in the hotel’s small kitchen this took some scrambling to ensure everyone’s food was hot and they didn’t have to wait long for service.  Once all the guests were served, there were high fives in the kitchen.  The marinated meats Melissa had prepared apparently went over well.  One of the elder guests said that it was the best meat he’d ever eaten in his life and was regretting having eaten so much of it.

Melissa had asked if it was ok to take pictures with her camera.  The bride and groom weren’t too sure about this at first and whether it would be a distraction.  “What is this gringo stranger doing taking pictures of us?”  But Melissa just kept smiling at people, and they began smiling back.  And then she pulled out one of Benton’s favorite party rules – everyone loves to see pictures of themselves.  So while people were eating, Melissa took all the photos she took of the ceremony and loaded them to her laptop and set up a slide show on the bar where people eating could see it.  Suddenly people started asking Melissa to take their picture, and before you know it, she was practically the official wedding photographer.

This photo was the bride’s mother who (if you’ve been paying close attention you might remember) is the local hairstylist that gave Dave and me haircuts a few days ago.  She made a special request to have a portrait taken.  She tried to talk to Melissa in Spanish but was disappointed not to be able to carry on more of a conversation because Melissa’s Spanish just isn’t conversational yet.

This is Isaac the hotel owner's son with the bride and groom.

And this is Sergio– one of the hotel staff.  Melissa snapped this one of him doing dishes during cleanup.  It’s odd what tasks each one of them will do or not do.  Sergio and Napoleon were mad because Bianca (the cook) departed before feeding them their dinner and fixing food is “women’s work”.  Apparently it was fine for Dave to help out on the grill with the meat because that is somehow ok for guys, but had Dave started to help the rest of us girls plate the food, this would have made him the brunt of a few jokes.

Once the group got over seeing gringo strangers in the crowd, Dave found himself being approached by folks who seemingly wanted to practice their English.  So he hung out with the crowd chatting about assorted topics as the evening evolved.

Isaac commented afterwards that he had never seen the group this happy or get along this well.  So he felt that the event was a total sucess.  There was no sniping and there were smiles all around.  However, turns out this isn’t the “real” wedding.  The church wedding for 300 people takes place on Saturday in the main square in town.  So despite being legally married, the bride and groom still can’t live together till the church ceremony is complete.  In fact, Isaac believes that this civil ceremony is the first of its kind on the small island.

Isaac also commented that Melissa was “like the energizer bunny”.  We laughed at this description as it’s not exactly new, but we’ve not heard it in a while.

After all the guests had left, it was time to dispose of the balloons.  Gordo helped out.  Apparently he once made a mess of a children’s party – hence he was locked away all day because he can smell an un-popped balloon a mile away.


Go Back