Thursday, August 23, 2012

An Estonian Wedding

About a month and half ago, Keenan and I had the pleasure of attending a couple friend's wedding at the gorgeous Vihala Manor Country Club, approximately 90 minutes outside of Tallinn. The groom, who hails from New Jersey, met his future wife whilst on holiday cruising between Sweden and her native Estonia several years ago. They began a romantic courtship and the rest as they say is history. 

I had originally planned on touring Latvia and Lithuania with Keenan, but as I had just started a new job two weeks prior, I didn't think it was sensible to request a full week off given I was already tasked on several projects. I flew into Tallinn on Friday afternoon and met up with Keenan and our London-based friends in the Old Town for a quick flash-by tour before piling up in the rental car for the rehearsal dinner at the bride's hometown in the Estonian countryside. At the house, we met both the bride and groom's extended families and close friends, many who flew from all parts of the US to attend the wedding festivities. 

The bride's family treated us out-of-town wedding guests to an Estonian feast of freshly grilled salmon, pork skewers, fresh summer salads, and other Estonian specialities, and of course, no Estonian feast would be complete without a copious bottles of vodka. The evening ended with speeches and gifts for the wedding party, followed some delicious Kringel, an Estonian-style cinnamon cake, coffee, and dessert wine. We all turned in relatively early, excited to witness their big day. 

We arrived to the wedding venue in the late morning for a few hours of exploring Vihala's expansive 50 hectares property before the 3 o'clock ceremony. Set in Lahemaa National Parks, this 16th century estate boosts several elegant historical buildings, a mini-golf course, restaurants and cafe, nature trails, and 68 hotel rooms. All rooms were well-appointed with modern amenities and tastefully decorated in warm hues. I can only imagine what the estate looks like during the winter months covered with a blanket of fresh snow. Coincidentally, Vihula Manor was also hosting a Vintage and Classic Car Day in which some 20 stunning classic Rolls Royces from the 1920s were on displayed, making for a lovely backdrop for wedding photos. 

The wedding ceremony took place outside on the Island of Promises overlooking a large pond and incorporated Jewish and Estonian traditions such as breaking of the glass, sending the bride's maiden name away to symbolise her new life, the groom climbing a tree to reach a stork (yes, there was a stork!) to bless the happy couple with children, and other Estonian games which involved embarrassing the groom. 

Then it was on to the cocktail reception and passed appetizers at the Tea House, followed by dinner and dancing until 2am in the Barn House. It was an intimate wedding of no more than 60 guests and we're so happy to share with the day with the bride and groom. After the London Olympics, the happy couple jetted off to the beautiful Indian Ocean island of Mauritius for their honeymoon. We're putting money on the books that they will have a honeymoon baby...we'll see. 


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