My Favorite Wedding

By Mike Meagher
Friday December 21, 2007

Although it wasn’t on my One Thousand Things To Do Before I Die list, the rock and roll frenzy, Yemeni style, that I was caught up in, dancing with dozens of Yemeni men and boys, will certainly be among the One Thousand Things I’ve Done That I’ll Never Forget entries when my life-journal is written.  

The occasion was the wedding reception of my friend and across-the-street neighbor, Bashier, who had met his future wife about a year before the marriage, but for the most part, had had no contact with her, for theirs was an arranged marriage. Some of the dancers were his close friends and relatives, who I knew, but most were strangers to me. Yours truly, the wildly dancing, white-haired geezer, was certainly a stranger to them. 

I had no idea of what to expect when I reached the wedding site in Concord, California that hot July 30 in 2006. Although families arrived together, the men entered the huge concrete block building through one door while the women went through another. The women wouldn’t be seen again, I discovered, until after the celebration when they rejoined the men for the ride home.  

Following the men, I entered a large room, furnished with tables and chairs, where scores, if not hundreds, of Arabic men and boys were sitting and milling about. Most were dressed casually, but some wore suits, or sports jackets with open-collared shirts, and a few men wore sports jackets over traditional Yemeni gowns, colorful scarves wrapping their heads. Through an archway was an even more cavernous room, like Costco without the merchandise, with more table-chair setups, glasses and water pitchers on each table, and even more men and boys. On the stage a band was playing. It didn’t take long to realize that although I didn’t understand the lyrics, it was rock and roll music, Yemeni style.  

Although I stuck out like a computer at a typewriter convention, I felt at ease. I’ve known the family for over a dozen years, and have found them and their friends to be kind, friendly, and family- and work-oriented. If they’re not working, they’re with the family, and vice versa. We’re lucky to have them as neighbors, and I was honored to be celebrating Bashier’s wedding with the family’s friends and relatives.  

Bashier later told me the wedding had taken place while we were waiting for it to begin. Just after I’d driven off to the wedding site, a white stretch limo half a block long had appeared to pick up the bride, groom and their respective families. On the way to Concord, in the limo, the couple were married by their fathers. We guests in Concord weren’t there to witness a wedding, we were there to celebrate. By the time Bashier joined us, he was a married man.  

And how he joined us. When he arrived, a boisterous cheer arose, and we all started toward the main door. Bashier entered the room riding on the shoulders of friends and relatives, looking somewhat dazed, but smiling. Slowly, with plenty of cheering and celebrating, he was carried through the rooms to a head table, on a dais against the side wall. Bashier was given the ornate center chair, flanked by three cousins on either side. Men and boys approached Bashier, talked and laughed with him, and more often than not, gave him a hug. The celebration had begun. 

The band started playing again and lots of men, most younger than me, headed for the dance floor and started boogeying. I followed. My feet met the floor, and I gave it my best. Soon others were dancing with me, many trying to figure out my steps. I never have, so they never did. I danced with Bashier’s dad, his brother, and his uncle Mugalli, who wanted me to do a crazy pattern that took so much energy I could only humor him for a bit and then, out of breath, went back to my own style. I danced with assorted cousins, and of course, Bashier himself, who later told me he wasn’t supposed to come down from his “throne,” but, hey, boys just wanna have fun. 

An hour elapsed, and a dinner break was taken. A very American-style buffet was offered: cheeses, cold cuts, rolls, meat and chicken choices, vegetables, fruits, salads and sodas. Nothing exotic, but it sure hit the spot. No liquor. Hundreds of men and boys, no fights, no arguments, no one passed out. This alone made it different from any wedding I’ve attended, save a cousin’s wedding that took place in the Bible Belt.  

After everyone had eaten and visited, the music began again. After another hour of some of the most vigorous dancing I’ve ever done, I had to call it a day. My clothing was soaked, and I had finally run out of energy.  

My favorite wedding: Bashier’s wedding reception.