“It’s too complicated, and you could never explain it.” These were my husband’s words when I asked him if he thought it would be a good idea to write about Maria and Jose’s wedding in Belize. Despite his misgivings, I decided to challenge myself and bring a slice of the experience to my readers. There were just too many funny, interesting and goofy things that occurred at our house before, during and after the celebration, I felt compelled to share!
I have never hosted a wedding in my home before, but in my former life I catered many parties and know the downside and the merits of doing so. On the one hand there’s the possibility of bad weather and the 50 strangers traipsing through my house. However, the cost savings and personal touches and intimacy of having a wedding at my own home were too tempting to pass up. Especially considering the couple getting married was Jose, our trusty handyman who lives downstairs and dear Maria, one of my favorite people in Belize (she taught me my favorite recipe for Arroz con Plantanos).
Jose rented tables for food served outside, and procured a caterer – the ever popular Palapa Bar down the beach, owned by friends Jodi and Scott. He found a Justice of the Peace and arranged for Maria’s family to come by Water Taxi from Corozol to San Pedro and to stay at AkBol Yoga Retreat, a short walk from our house.
Fast forward to the day before the wedding. We moved all the furniture out of our living room to make room for dancing and the DJ. Chairs and tables were delivered after a lot of negotiating with a taxi-van. We really had to guess as to the numbers of guests since Maria didn’t ask for RSVPs and had invited about 30 couples/families. Her informal attitude about the guest list should have tipped me off about how things would transpire…
I must admit I feel out of sorts if I don’t have a timeline and checklist for hosting any kind of event. So when I looked at the clock and it was only two hours before the 4 pm wedding, I was alarmed to note that Maria didn’t have her hair fixed, her dress was still hanging in the closet, the outside serving tables were not decorated, and bags and bags of paper goods were still down in her apartment . I kept telling myself, “This is not your wedding. You are not in charge.” Easy to say but I felt very, very uneasy with how things were going down.
Miraculously, the police officer’s wife came and decorated all the tables inside and out, a hairdresser down the road arrived with her hot curlers, tables were set and the wedding came together. The only glitch was that we forgot to tell the bride when it was time for her to make her appearance! After a few minutes, this was remedied as well. I was thankfully reminded that, in Belize, time moves more slowly and everything always works out.
Another difference between weddings in the U.S. and down in Belize – the menu. When I think of weddings I imagine decadent buffet tables lined with beautiful appetizers or fancy china laden with artistic, faultlessly plated fare. The food at this wedding could not have been more different. Yet it was, in its own way, perfect. Here’s an idea of what we all enjoyed:
- An array of dips (sausage dip, bean dip and pico de gallo)
- Smoked chicken drummettes rubbed with seasonings (my own recipe is below)
- Steak tartare
- Smoked beef (well done for the Belizeans, who won’t touch it if it’s even close to pink
- Roasted beef with rolls for sandwiches and some in Fajita sauce with tortillas on the side
- Fruit salad
- Mashed potatoes
- Cauliflower and broccoli medley
- Wedding cake (handmade by a friend in Corozol and brought via water taxi)
Now, a glimpse into some Belizean wedding traditions:
- The bride, seated in a chair, is hoisted above the crowd — much like Jewish weddings. However, she holds an open bottle of tequila and pours it down the throat of everyone who lines up for their “shot.” (I complied and gave it a try – but asked for “just a little shot.”)
- When the bride throws her garter, the man who catches it has to replace it on the leg of the single woman who has caught the bridal bouquet…WITH HIS TEETH. I am not making this up.
- After each wedding toast, the crowd chants “BE-SA, BE-SA, BE-SA” (meaning “kiss, kiss, kiss”) and the bride and groom have to kiss.
The ceremony began about 40 minutes later than planned and after hors d’oeuvres, a few toasts and delicious meal the party got into full swing around 7:00 pm and didn’t end until 1:30 am. Whew. What a night!
The next day, it took four of us six hours to clean, mop the floors, replace the furniture, and get the house back in order. But it was all worth it. I don’t know that I’ll ever have the occasion to hold another Belizean wedding in my home and my husband and I were honored to help this beautiful couple celebrate the beginning of their married life together!
And now for my own recipe for Spicy Chicken Drummettes:
Spicy Chicken Drummettes
Ingredients (per 5 lbs. chicken wings or drummettes or a large cut up chicken)
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 2 minced medium sized shallots
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1+ Tbsp. 5-spice powder (available in most markets)
- 2 tsp. regular paprika
- 1 tsp. dry or 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary
- ½ tsp. cayenne or to taste-add more or less
- 3 Tbsp. canola oil
Mash garlic and shallots with salt.
Mix in the rest of listed ingredients and coat the chicken. Marinate a minimum of four hours or overnight in a covered container or zip lock bag in the refrigerator.
Remove chicken from marinade. Place on foil lined or parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.
Bake wings at 425 for 25-30 min or until brown. (Whole chicken pieces needs to be baked longer, about 50 minutes to one hour.) You can make this a day ahead then cover with foil and reheat.
Garnish with rosemary sprigs and sliced lemons to serve.
Note: The chicken wings or pieces can also be grilled on a barbeque, which I often do in the hot summer months.