Many Are Cold, but Few Are Frozen

David Lawrence's personal blog

The Real Wedding



Ten years ago in Tbilisi

Ten years ago today I was married, for real, in Tbilisi, to Tatyana Chernyak. We had already been married, sort of, in an Orthodox Church in May.  But on this day we were married legally, in a secular ceremony, in the Palace of Happiness. Some people, including my wife, believe that the church wedding is the one that counts. But to me, the one that counts is the one with the party.
Today I'm celebrating alone. My wife's in Kiev with our two children. I sent her a sweet SMS in the morning: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY BABYGIRL! I love you and miss you and I am happy (and lucky) you married me! I spoke to her this afternoon, and she sounded happy. So I bought a bottle of Merlot and a pizza, and am enjoying them even as I write.

We had originally planned to get married in Kiev, but in those dark days it was really tough to get visas for Ukraine. I was working in Georgia, where the visa regime was much more relaxed. That, plus the fact that Georgian food is much, much better than anything you could get in Ukraine, made it a no-brainer. The only downside was that I had to plan the whole thing. Luckily, with a lot of help from my friends, it worked out. Perfectly.
I wanted to get married on July 3rd because the next day would always be a holiday in the States. I imagined that every year we'd go out to dinner, go dancing, drink heavily, have sex all night long, and then sleep in really really late. That was before kids, of course. But as it turns out, we've almost never been together on our anniversary because she's always in Ukraine in the summer. This summer is no exception.

My family came from the States, including my two tiny neices. Her family came from Ukraine and Moldova. Friends and colleagues came from Ukraine, Armenia, and of course there were a lot of friends from Georiga.

After the ceremony we went to a church on a hill in nearby Mtskheti, the traditional place to go for newlyweds (in most former Soviet cities, you go to the war memorial). Then the party started. We had a Georgian feast, plenty of wine, traditional Georgian music, a jazz singer, and even a belly dancer. Because it was almost the 4th of July, the director of the hall had fireworks go off at midnight.

For me, the challenge was to stay sober. Everyone wanted to drink with us, and would approach our table, give an elaborate toast, and slug down a glass of wine. You had to drink the whole glass. I knew this would be a bad idea if repeated 100 times. But luckily, there was a yellow-colored pear soda that was the same color as the wine. After each toast, I poured pear soda into a glass and stirred out the bubbles. At the next toast, I'd drink to the bottom.

I sometimes think about the couple who married after us that day at the Palace of Happiness. He was a man with ginger hair, she was a pretty, dark-haired Georgian girl. This is their 10th anniversary too. I wonder how things went for them.