At her kına gecesi (henna night) she wore a close-fitting headcovering that was a cross between a Victorian poke bonnet and the sort of headdress worn by Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated second wife of King Henry VIII. Her dress was a glorious full-length lace garment in the deepest claret. Her youthful face was a pale oval from which big eyes peeped out at us. She was so stunning that even my neighbor, who rarely asserts herself, nudged me in the ribs and insisted that I take a picture.
Actually, it occurred to me that modern weddings, at least in Cappadocia, have become little more than one big photo opportunity with the bridal couple forced to gaze out at banks of cameras in all shapes and sizes for much of the evening.
That’s just one small instance of the distance we have traveled in 10 years. When my neighbor’s sister married in 2000, I, with my small and non-professional camera, was designated the semi-official wedding photographer, and when I came back from the printer with copies of the pictures it was only with the greatest of difficulty that I was able to prevent some of the older members of the party from secreting them about their persons. Now even the grandmas have mobile phone cameras and probably no one except the official photographer bothers getting the pictures printed.
On the night of the wedding itself I was sitting beside another neighbor who came to Göreme from Derinkuyu (of the famous underground city) 16 years ago. “Do you remember your wedding?” I asked. “Where did you have it?” “In the house,” she replied. “There was none of this then.”
No multi-layered cake, no band playing at a volume so high I needed earplugs to endure it, no guests in frills, flounces and shoes with neat little ribbons on the back.
As we stood in line to pin our gifts of gold and banknotes to the bride and groom I reflected, too, that there had been so much less money floating about then. Most of my immediate neighbors own only small quantities of gold since their friends and family couldn’t have afforded to splash out on them. Now, even with the price of gold at an all-time high, the bride was soon weighed down with bracelets and gold coins.
One habit hangs infuriatingly on, though, and that is the habit of writing down precisely what everybody gives so that an equivalent amount can be given to a member of their family at any future wedding. Standing in line, I shuffled uncomfortably about for a bit, then handed my gift to the mother of the bride. “My name is always such a problem,” I said, remembering how long I’d held up the line at a wedding in Avanos while the maitre d’ attempted to pronounce “Pat.”
But this was a happy occasion, crowded and full of a sense of community. The music went on until 2 a.m. but I was happy that for once I was losing sleep, not to the business of hot-air balloon tourism but to something that was part of the real life of Göreme.
Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.