Day one is the meeting of the two families.
The two sets of pre-appointed padrinos (godparents) arrived withing hours of each other to the community of Tinke, near the stoic Ausangate snow-capped mountain looming in the near-distance. It was a chilly, early evening near the end of August. Snow is not prevalent in these high-altitude plateaus, and especially strange for this month, but the uncharacteristic rains for this season had so-turned to flakes of white. The padrino couple for the groom's side had traveled on horseback, travelling over the snow-dusted hillsides, while the padrinos of the bride came via hired transportation from a city three hours away, traversing the rough rocky roads that led from the paved highway to the bride's father's house. There they were served a meal of boiled potatoes and fire-roasted alpaca meat. The bride's father tells them that potatoes are all that grow here. This is their staple: fresh or dehydrated potatoes and meat.
The two families and two sets of godparents will meet in the evening of the first celebratory evening where they will spend the night sharing stories, and discussing the events and responsibilities of the next couple of days. Bottles of pop and beer come out, which are shared between all, as well as dried coca leaves for chewing.
They talked on into the night. Everybody loves a wedding. It's a time to celebrate. In the community of Tinke, weddings are only celebrated once a year, in the month of August.
Meanwhile, the wedding couple are in another room, resting. They are not a virgin bride and groom. They already have a child under two and share a one-room adobe home. But, the time has come to make this union official.
Are they nervous? Anxious? Excited?
Hair salons and manicures are unheard of in rural areas. To the outsider, the wedding attire may not differ much from the everyday typical outfits of this region, at least for that of the bride. But, the locals know that there is a reason for each piece, a story to be told, special layers only for this special occasion. The ornate detailing is different and specific. The groom will wear the same head-piece as his bride-to-be, but only for this day in his life.
The bride's hair is neatly braided and pinned back by her godmother. She has shiny new shoes and wears fluorescent yellow stockings. She is beautiful.
The fathers know that the traditions are so important. They want their children to keep the same traditions of their ancestors, to keep their customs going. They know that there are a few changes already happening. For instance, the men used to wear traditional black, calf-length sheep-wool trousers. Nowadays the men all wear jeans. But, the groom is also handsome in his new blue-jeans, running shoes and traditional poncho.
They are ready to make the journey to the municipal building. They are quiet and respectful of the customs to follow.
The mayor of Tinke meets the godparents, the couple and their fathers in the small municipal office-room. Outside the doors, vendors sell fresh vegetables and fruit in the market-place.
The godmother straightens the bride's adornments. She is always helpful. She feels pride at having this position next to the bride.
And the mayor announces that they are husband and wife!
Are they happy? Thankful? Peaceful? Or is there still too much to come for them to rest inwardly?
There are crates of beer in two piles before the wedding table. One side represents the family and friends of the bride, and the other the groom. The men start by dancing in a circle around the boxes of beer, sharing cups of beer as bottles are passed from person to person. Later the women join in. The father of the groom starts the monetary gift-giving by dancing up to the couple at the wedding table, and joins their heads together with a red silky cord, like the embrace of a lasso. There are two new, empty bowls before the groom and the bride. He passes his 100 Sole bill through the top of the red lasso and his son accepts it from underneath, putting it into the bowl before him. The son and daughter-in law serve him a plastic cup of beer and a plastic cup of soda. All day, as the wedding guests dance, they will offer their money gifts in this manner. It is like a competition of sorts- who's dish will have more money at the end of the day: the bride's or the groom's?
Day three is the home celebration. The party moves back to the rural landscape, now with snow nearly melted and to the home of the groom's family, where more / other guests will come. The live music band will also move here and continue on, offering the beat to which the guests will continue to dance. More food will be served, and wedding gifts will be given. This party could potentially go on for another week. After all, it's only once per year that these occasions come.