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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

Unawatuna Beach Party and signing a bit of paper!

SRI LANKA | Monday, 24 March 2008 | Views [1958]

Here, are the details from the day of our wedding in Unawatuna, Sri lanka on the 24th of March 2008. I will start with a little bit of a build up to the day and at some later date I may even get around to telling you about the rest of our holiday. 

We ended up going down to Unawatuna a couple of days earlier than initially planned, as the weather wasn’t too great.  We’ve always been happier down there in overcast weather than Hikkaduwa further up the coast.  In the end it was as well as it gave us that little bit extra time to make sure everything and everyone were ready for the big day.  We were quite dismayed when we first got there and realised the unusual weather they’d been having had taken away the beach.  So not only was there no beach area to sit on for the night do but it wasn’t possible to walk down the beach from one venue to the next as we’d hoped.  The up side was that it was coming up to full moon and we knew the sea would get calmer after that.  Sure enough as the days went by the sea grew calmer and looked inviting again, the sun began to shine and the beach became a little wider.  The beach by the nighttime venue was still non-existent but our friend who owns the place was having a platform built and he assured us it would be ready on time.  So our initial fears soon subsided and it was time to ensure that things were in hand for the actual wedding.


Sure enough the manager at The Villa had it all in control not only did they know we’d booked all the rooms for certain dates but they had the list of the food we’d requested and were ready to do the lot.  He also knew that we needed to go and register the marriage with the registrar before the actual day.  Just as well he was on the ball as this was all news to us!  So one morning the manager, Steve and I jumped in a tuc-tuc to go to the registry office.  Or so we thought but in actual fact we ended up in the registrar’s house where the children were chatting away in the background and watching a bad film!  This is quite normal and so very Sri Lankan.  We duly helped to fill in the forms and they had a great struggle trying to translate Humphreys into Sinhala script.  It was just the final bit of evidence I needed to make me realise loosing Davison would be a mistake!!  The next thing we know the manager has popped outside and comes back with the tuc-tuc driver to be the second witness.  No worries there but it turns out that he couldn’t write anything other than his name!  Again all very Sri Lankan but it helped to calm our nerves as we were chuckling away.  These were only the preliminary forms so we weren’t really bothered and were assured that we could use our own witnesses on the day.


By the morning of the wedding the staff had cleaned the place even more thoroughly than normal and as we were using their brass ornaments and ceremonial oil lamp and they had them gleaming.  Since our families were staying with us in The Villa breakfast was a very sociable start and about 6 of our friends joined us for a Sri Lankan breakfast feast too.  People then went off to do things to give us space to make sure everything was organised.  In theory we were only concentrating on ourselves but we ended up having to arrange a few things for other people and that made us slightly later than planned for getting showered and changed.  The elephant was due at 2pm and I was rushing to try to get my sari on by myself.  No mean feat but I managed.  Steve was ready so went down to find out what was happening.  Sure enough the elephant had arrived but when our youngest nephew tried to go for a ride the mahout said he would have to pay Rs 2000.  One this is way over-priced and two we’d already paid a lot of money to have the elephant there for rides.  By the time I got downstairs the mahout had taken the elephant down the beach and was charging tourists for rides.  You can imagine that we weren’t best pleased and really didn’t need to be sorting this out in the baking heat with less than 2 hours to go before the ceremony.  In the end loads of people were involved in the discussions, Steve kept getting called to the phone to speak to the big boss and it was all getting out of hand.  Once we realised we weren’t going to get the service we’d booked and paid for we told the mahout to take the elephant away.  It seemed a real shame but I realised that we’d tried to organise one thing too many.  If something had to go wrong then let it be the elephant and it all be sorted before the ceremony began.  Luckily most of the guests were trying to make jokes out of the situation to calm us and cheer us up and they were quite happy tucking into the ‘bar’ we’d provided!  We’d even bought a bunch of bananas for the elephant and it didn’t seem fair for her to miss out so we gave the elephant its treat.  Obviously we weren’t going for sit down meal so favours were out of the question but I’d even bought little Sri Lankan key rings for everyone.  Those who wanted one still got to have one even though no one got a ride.


By this time there was only 10 mins to go before the ceremony, the registrar was ready and the dancers and drummers were ready too.  We were asked to name our witnesses and duly did to them find out that one of them had to be a Sri Lankan.  Now I’d asked about this weeks before the wedding so was very annoyed not to mention embarrassed at having to ask someone to step down at the 11th hour.  Luckily there wasn’t any misunderstanding so we were ready to proceed.  This was the part where we expected to feel so very nervous but we were still talking about the elephant debacle and witness confusion so ended up being very calm.  The dancers and drummers were excellent and everyone really enjoyed it.  Their performance totally took the attention away from us and this had been our main objective although we knew we’d enjoy it too.  This was the biggest surprised we’d kept from everyone and it was the best part of the ceremony.  Once they’d done their bit and we’d been danced to the registrar it was time to start the next nerve-wracking part.  Neither of us had a clue what was going to happen so we just had to go along with the flow.  We managed to add to the poor registrar’s problems by having our oldest nephew as one of the witnesses.  Once again an unusual family name, Sonczak and there is no Z in Sinhala, threw the registrar but she coped!  We didn’t have any vows or anything but there is set phrases you need to say to make the whole thing legally binding.  Luckily with the waves breaking no one could hear us and could only see us enjoying ourselves.  Like I said we were dreading this part but the registrar struggled with our names so much that we were chuckling our heads off.  Especially when I became Emma John Davison!!  We kept having to ask her if we were finished and if Steve could give me the wedding band.  It all got done and dusted without being the dreadful ordeal we’d anticipated. Being able to look out onto the Indian Ocean is enough to calm anyone’s nerves.


Following that we lit the ceremonial oil lamp to bless the wedding and to make the whole experience that little bit more Sri Lankan for all. Steve’s parents, my Mum and brother Michael had also been invited to light it.  We realised they’d provided 9 wicks as 9 is an auspicious number in Buddhism so we also invited Michael’s wife Janette (who’d had to quickly step down as witness), Steve’s sister Kathryn and the youngest nephew Matthew to take part.  Once we’d got all 9 lit it was time to relax and enjoy the party.  The booze was freely flowing and everyone was well and truly into the spirit of the wedding being the best excuse for the ultimate tropical beach party.


I’d clean forgotten about the cake we’d ordered as it was supposed to be already cut up ready to dish out with the champagne. The staff simply couldn’t bear to do that, as they love a sense of occasion.  They’d presented the cake beautifully on a mirrored table and placed it in the middle of the garden.  Damn – time to be centre of attention again!  We duly cut the cake and cracked open a bottle of champagne.  I’d said no speeches, as we didn’t bother going down the road of best man and all that nonsense.  However I broke my own rule and put myself on the spot for one last time to thank everyone for the immense amount of time, effort and of course money they’d put into being there.  Now it really was time for the party to start and since we’d sent the elephant away I didn’t have to worry about embarrassing myself getting onto it in a sari!


My sari went down very well and of course I was the only one not in western dress.  I’d promised Steve that I would deflect attention away from him as much as possible.  He was in smart but casual western dress and looked great.  The minute I went downstairs everyone ignored Steve and wanted to see my sari, jewellery and so on.  Steve was fine but I felt a complete twit for about 10 – 15 mins!  It was worth it and I couldn’t have imagined myself wearing anything else.  It was a very deep autumnal burgundy/maroon – not sure how to describe it really!  The sari blouse was a deep burnt gold and it looked lovely glinting in the sun.  The edge was heavily embroidered in gold thread, as was the whole length of the dupatta – the part that drapes down your back in case you’re wondering.  All the lads in Steve’s family (i.e. his Dad, brother-in-law and 3 nephews) had bought matching shirts and looked great.  The Mum’s had got poshed up of course but everyone else had listened well to the instructions and were in comfortable clothes suitable for the hot climate.  This also helped to keep the whole thing as informal as we wanted it to be.


Not long after sunset the staff got out the buffet and it was simply fantastic – one of the best spreads I’ve ever seen and they’d done all the dishes we’d requested.  Not only that it was all beautifully presented and it tasted superb.  They’d made way too much of course but I’m pleased to say most of the lobster, prawns, full fish and seafood disappeared.  The Sri Lankan veggie food for me was great and they’d even made some of it spicy.  Once everyone was nicely stuffed Matthew went for a dip in the ocean and then he and his brothers kicked off an impromptu game of cricket in the garden.  That went down very well and almost everyone got involved at some point.  Sri Lankans love their cricket and the staff couldn’t wait for us to move onto the next venue so they could have a game!


No one needed to announce it was time to move on it just happened spontaneously and everyone was happy to carry down the lane whatever was left of our mini bar.  This may sound tight on our friend the owner who of course was doing business as well as providing us with a venue but rest assured there were plenty of mixers and beers ordered!  We’d also organised a pizza and salad buffet for when everyone got the munchies later and that went down well.  The music was of course all from our collection so people had to cope with our taste!  We’d tried to vary it as much as we could and everyone got up to dance at some point.


All-in-all a fantastic day and basically the whole thing went just as we’d hoped.  The main things such as the ceremony, food and party were excellent and everyone genuinely enjoyed themself.  If they didn’t they’re very good actors!  We knew we couldn’t fail with the location and it was great hearing those who hadn’t been back for years saying how they’d forgotten how beautiful Sri Lanka and in particular Unawatuna are. 


So there you go – probably too much information for many of you but it’s difficult to know which parts people are the most interested in.  Simply skip the bits that bore you!!


We won’t be back in England this year as we’re going to East Africa for 5 weeks in the long holiday for our honeymoon.  The plan for that so far is a week climbing Kilimanjaro, the a week doing safaris in Tanzania, a week pottering around Zanzibar and chilling on its beaches and finally popping over to Uganda to meet up with some friends and more animals and sightseeing.


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