We intended to spend just one, or maybe two days in Ollantaytambo.
The thing about intentions is that you never really know where you might end up if you let them run off course.
On our way back from Machu Picchu we decided to stop over in this little village – there are more ruins there and I have a vague recollection about it being one of the places where the Inca really held out on a battle against the Spanish. In any case, those ruins are included in the tourist boleto and we were hell-bent to get our money’s worth on that particular purchase.
"I can haz snuggles?"
We chose our hostel based entirely on the fact that the write-up said they had cats, and we really miss our own kitties. It was as simple as that.
We arrived exhausted after getting up at 5 am and tromping around in the scorching heat all day, so we were a little disoriented when we walked into the common area and found a group of people popping champagne and the hostel owner scurrying around with bags of groceries and packages of flowers.
We had walked into a pre-wedding celebration. The hostel owner’s sister was to be married the next day, and she was frantically trying to finish preparing for the festivities.
Recalling the insanity that was the night before our own wedding, we asked if there was anything we could do to help. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves chopping carrots, peeling garlic, arranging flowers, hanging garland and moving tables and chairs around.
By the next morning, we had been invited to attend the two-day celebration. We were told to be ready to go at 9.
Good thing the groom has a sense of humor...
Apparently the bride has a long history of being late, and this day was no exception. As we waited, we got the opportunity to get to know the groom and his family (from Germany) and receive our traditional decoration to wear to the first ceremony, which was really a two-for-one with a civil service and the traditional shaman ceremony.
Justin gets some traditional flair
To begin the traditional ceremony, the wedding party and guests paraded through town, following the Shaman who spent the better part of the 20 minute walk blowing on a conch shell to alert our presence to everyone in the area.
We wound our way through town, over a fence, into a horse meadow, past some crops, over an irrigation ditch and into a cornfield.
There are small ruins scattered all through the Sacred Valley, many of which are never seen by tourists as they are too small or are located in someone’s field. I can’t think of a more stunning place to be married.
The ceremony was long (3 hours), and at times, intense. We didn’t understand most of what the shaman was saying, but overall we got the gist of what was happening.
Unlike most weddings we’ve been to, the ceremony involved a lot of guest participation, especially with the parents.
At one point the men and women were separated and sent into different areas. We gathered in our circles, the women with the bride and the men with the groom. We were given some kind of herbs to smoke (not those kind of herbs…) and as we each took a puff, we were asked to give some words of wisdom, advice, or support to the bride and groom. It was an interesting mix of thoughts, given in German, Spanish, and English and was mostly about marriage and love, but also about staying true to yourself and finding support when you need it.
Mom and sister give advice to the bride.
Something we found very interesting was that during the “I do” part of the ceremony, the bride and groom told each other not only what they liked about their partner, but also what they didn’t like. People we have spoken to about this ceremony are often confused as to why we would be so drawn to this part since the general consensus seems to be that you shouldn’t be telling your loved one what you don’t like about them, especially at your wedding.
Let’s be real here. People don’t typically love everything about their partners. The thing about marriage is that if you go into it thinking everything is going to be perfect and that love conquers all, well, you’re in for a hell of a surprise. Marriage is a partnership and, like all partnerships, there will be times when the partners don’t agree. Love, in and of itself, doesn’t solve problems. People solve problems. What drew me to that portion in the ceremony was the fact that it was so honest. They were saying that they loved each other for all the ways that the other person is so wonderful AND that they loved each other in spite of whatever imperfections they might have. They were really committing, openly and clearly, to their partner as a whole person.
Near then end of the ceremony a young girl came running up with a plastic bag filled with fresh milk. The parents of both the bride and the groom took turns tossing cups of wine, and this milk, to the four directions. Afterwards, the bride and groom took turns pouring the rest of the wine and each guest drank from the same cup.
Justin partakes of some ceremonial wine
After it was all said and done, we headed back to the hostel for the first night of the fiesta and a huge homemade meal.
The next day was the traditional Christian ceremony and large reception. It was held a few kilometers outside of town at Tulupa, a restaurant in yet another stunning little valley.
Tunupa Restaurant in the Sacred Valley
The ceremony was lovely, the food was excellent, and the pisco never stopped flowing.
Like most events where people have been drinking and dancing for 6+ hours, there came a point when the crowd started to get tired and began to take a break from the dancing. There is a way to stop this. It’s called “Crazy Hour” and it involves scary clowns with balloons, masks, bizarre hats, confetti, foam (yes, foam) and a serious dose of dance music. Within seconds everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was back on the floor whooping it back up. Amazing.
Exhausted, happy, and very drunk we finally piled into a minivan, with the groom’s family and friends, to be carted home sometime in the wee hours of the morning. The journey may or may not have included rambunctious group singing of various American rock classics, and a rousing chorus of Mein Hut Der Hat Drei Ecken…the only German song I know all the words to.
When we started out on our adventure around the globe we left our itinerary wide open, knowing that we wanted to be available to take advantage of whatever the universe might present for us…for example, a random invite to an incredible wedding.
For more pictures, check out the slide show: