Tag Archives: weddings

Our North American sojourn

Last night, we got back from our whirlwind trip to Ottawa, DC, and DF, and boy, were we tired. Al calculated that our total flying time for this trip was 54 hours, with at least six additional hours of airport time (looking at you, Dulles, you monster), which means we traveled an average of five hours for each day of our trip. Yikes. But you know what? It was SO worth it. We had so much fun, and we packed each day to the gills with friends and family, which was the whole point of this North American adventure.


Here, in brief, is what we got up to on each leg of our trip.


In Ottawa, we attended the lovely wedding of Tom and Kristy. Tom is one of Al’s closest friends from high school in Canada, and Al was a groomsman in the wedding, which ended up meaning zero responsibilities and lots of perks for him and his fellow groomsmen, since the bride and her attendants were totally on top of things. Lucky guys.

Al and me at the wedding

Al and me at the wedding – Brittania Yacht Club, Ottawa

The bride and groom

The beautiful bride and handsome groom 

We were lucky enough to hang out with the newlyweds and some other friends after the wedding and we also got to spend quality time with Al’s brother Calum and his adorable cat, Mick Jagger. This cat is seriously The Cutest. Look at these photos of Jaggy and her lion haircut and look me in the eye and tell me she is not the CUTEST cat in the world. I dare you.

Watching the Real Housewives of Orange County

Watching the Real Housewives of Orange County



All in all, Ottawa was fun and relaxing, and after five years of visits to the city, I finally got to see it not covered in a solid foot of snow and ice. It’s much nicer in the summer (and I can go running without my ipod literally freezing!).


In DC, our main goals were to see as many of our friends as possible, and to buy things. Well, maybe that second one was just my goal, but I succeeded handsomely! I pretty much raided Forever 21, snatching up anything vaguely nautical, including a pair of not-so-vaguely-nautical sailor shorts. I wore them to the bar to meet our friends, and as we were walking there, I asked Al, “Am I too old to wear these?” He said no, but I’m still not sure. I sort of just choose to ignore the whole “21” admonition built into Forever 21. I think it should be renamed Forever 30-ish, so ladies like me can feel good about buying cheap clothes there. Anyway. DC was great! We saw lots of people, ate lots of good food, and enjoyed the hot, muggy weather and low-level chaos that makes DC DC.

DC breakfast

DC breakfast

Seeing our friend Tanya at The Passenger. Note my nautical attire.

Seeing our friend Tanya at The Passenger. Note my nautical attire.

DF (Mexico City)

The final stop on our North American tour was Mexico City, where we attended the beautiful wedding of Anna and Íñigo. Anna is one of my closest law school (and DC) friends, and she and Íñigo are some of our favorite people to go salsa dancing with. Their wedding was held at a gorgeous museum called El Museo Franz Mayer, in the heart of Mexico City, and included awesome food, tiny jugs of Mezcal, and lots of salsa dancing. So much fun.

At the wedding

At the wedding

While in El DF, Al and I also got up to some sightseeing. We were staying at a hotel in a very hipstery neighborhood called La Roma. Just how hipstery was it? Well, our first night there, we went to a Japanese restaurant where people sat outside on kegs and a wandering gypsy band played klezmer music as we ate, so… you tell me. Also, Al wore this, just to blend in:

Just hanging out in La Roma.

Just hanging out in La Roma.

We also spent an afternoon sightseeing near the Zocalo, downtown, where we wandered around  the Templo Mayor, the ruins of a prominent temple in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (right on top of which the Spanish built Mexico City — how considerate of them). I was especially interested in seeing the Museo del Templo Mayor, where they keep such gory Aztec relics as “face knives” and other accoutrements related to human sacrifice. It was fun to celebrate the part of my heritage that involves ripping out people’s still-beating hearts and sacrificing them to the sun god. You know how it goes.

Stone skulls

Stone skulls, Museo del Templo Mayor

Cool door

Cool door

Me and a giant Mexican flag

Me and a giant Mexican flag

Helpful pamphlets at the Cathedral downtown. Our favorite was "100 questions for a Mormon."

Helpful pamphlets at the Cathedral downtown. Our favorite (not pictured) was “100 questions for a Mormon.”

We also ate lunch at Pujol, number 17 on the current list of the world’s 50 Best Restaurants. We were expecting great things from Pujol, but we walked away a bit underwhelmed, for a few reasons. First of all, if lunch is going to cost $260 USD, you want it to be spectacular. Not just good, but spectacular. Lunch at Pujol, though, was just okay. Some of the dishes were superlative (for example, their reimagined tres leches dessert was to die for), but others were just meh, and still others were downright, well, gross. Okay, so maybe I’m not the most adventurous eater, and call me old-fashioned, but if I’m eating at a fancy restaurant, I don’t want to be eating ant larvae. Yet, guess what I ate at Pujol? An ant larvae taco. (Note to self: next time, after lunch, don’t google the taco ingredients you didn’t understand. Escamoles are not a vegetable, turns out). We also ate a soup made out of ants. Which begs the question: was there a sale on ants at the market that morning, or were they just messing with us? Or both? Also, I could have done without the fried frog leg, bone still in, which was one of the courses. Blech.

But, some of the dishes were nice (and photogenic).

Delish dessert

Delish dessert

Tiny, very expensive, very cute fish taco

Very tiny, very expensive, very cute fish taco

After our Pujol experience, Al and I decided we’re kinda done with tasting menus for a while. Especially considering that the rest of the food we ate in Mexico was outrageously good (and affordable). I wanted to stuff tacos and queso fresco and frijoles in my bag and bring it all back to South Africa, the land where they think this is an example of authentic Mexican food:

"Da border?" Really, South Africa?

“Da border?” Really, South Africa?

So, now we’re back in Joburg, it’s freezing cold (I’m wearing a hat indoors), and I’m missing the sunny climes of my home continent. I’m really glad we took our trip, because it was a great reminder of the wonderful people (and food, and public transportation, and cheap clothing) that we have to look forward to when we eventually move back to the US. For now, though, I’m going to enjoy my remaining time here in SA by eating a lot of steak and biltong.

Hasta luego!

Sound Advice Thursday: How can I back out of wedding events?

Dear Steph:

When staring down the barrel of at least four weddings and three bachelorette parties in the next calendar year, is there any gracious way to decline any of the associated wedding events (engagement parties, showers, couples showers, etc.) without seeming like a total grinch? And is there any way to bring things up like the fact that spending $1000 on a bachelorette party and another $1000 on the wedding  (once airfare and things are factored in) can be a a real hardship and one we might try to find ways around? I don’t want to hurt feelings, but I also don’t want to go broke. Help!


The Harried Wedding Guest

Photo by Leah & Mark

Photo by Leah & Mark

Dear HWG:

This is one of those areas where I think American society needs a good, hard slap upside the head. Because things have gotten out of hand. In the good old days, if you were invited to a wedding, you’d buy the bride and groom a gift, drive to the wedding, have a nice chicken dinner – maybe a steak if these were fancy people – and then drive home. And you’re done. No weekends in Napa. No weddings in Bora Bora. No requests by the bride and groom to buy them a new house or fund their hypothetical children’s college educations. But sadly, those days are gone. Modern wedding guests are expected to attend – and pay for – a litany of events, with presents and plane tickets popping up at every turn. And there needs, frankly, to be an opt-out option.

I must defer, at least partially, to the inimitable Miss Manners and her incredibly helpful book, Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, on this question. Miss Manners, over recent years, has noted with dismay the increasing tendency of brides and grooms to turn events, such as bridal showers, into opportunities “to turn a milestone into material advantage.” When posed a similar question as yours by a woman who was facing multiple bridal showers for each of her engaged friends, Miss Manners advised that the letter writer should accept only one shower per couple, if any, and that she “need only express regret when [she] decline[s] an invitation – or six of them.” With regards to bridal showers in particular, Miss Manners has also noted that “[i]n proper American etiquette, a bridal shower is a lighthearted event among intimate friends, not something required to call attention to a wedding in the way that a rain shower calls attention to the need to fetch an umbrella.”

As much as I agree with her, this isn’t Miss Manners’ show; it’s mine. And speaking as a lady who has both gotten married and attended weddings, I am here to tell you not to fret about declining invitations to showers, brunches, lunches, parties, or even weddings. I myself had a bridal shower, thrown by my mother and some of my female cousins. It was a low-key affair for family – and one close friend – held at my cousin’s apartment; it involved party games, homemade lasagna, and tea. It was perfect. The people who were around came; the people who were not, did not. And it was FINE that some people didn’t or couldn’t come. I also had a bachelorette party, thrown by my wonderful maid-of-honor, Karen. Since most of my close friends and I lived on the East Coast at the time, the party was held in New York City. My dear cousin Catie, who was one of my bridesmaids, lives in Seattle and let me know that she could simply not afford to take the vacation days to come to New York for a weekend. And it was FINE. I understood! Because I am a human being with human feelings, like empathy and humility, and I did not expect anyone to shell out big moola to fly to a party for me, although many people did end up doing just that. Because they love me more. Kidding!!

Skipping weddings is also okay. We had people decline our wedding for a number of reasons, and we understood. Weddings can be tough to attend, especially when they involve travel. Of course, we would have loved to have each and every person we invited at our wedding, but we weren’t going to throw a tantrum if people couldn’t make it because we are adults and, shockingly, we are not actually the center of the universe. Remember: no one is obligated to attend a wedding (except for the bride and groom, and probably the officiant).

The bottom line is that if your friends are nice, kind, grown-up human beings, they will understand your sending kind regrets and skipping their many (superfluous) wedding-related events. You do you, HWG.

Good luck!