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18 September 2011 / leggypeggy

Weddings—a big business in Central Asia

A wedding dress showroom in remote Kazakhstan.

In Australia, I’m hardly aware of weddings. At weekends, especially in good weather, you see bridal parties milling outside churches. And there are the processions of bridal cars, and dresses on display in shop windows and on the covers of the many bridal magazines. But otherwise, I never feel as if weddings are ‘in my face’.

It’s different in Central Asia. From Turkey onwards, we have seen countless weddings in progress or about to begin. Cars are elaborately decorated and processions hoot their horns wildly. Wedding dresses are for sale everywhere too. I’ve even seen them displayed outdoors in the rain—wrapped in several layers of plastic.

A few weeks ago, we stopped at a little general store in the middle of nowhere, not long after crossing the border into Kazakhstan. It was a long, low building, only one room deep. The left end was a fairly modestly stocked shop with dry goods, tinned foods, drinks, lollies, ice creams, toilet paper and such. But the right end was a huge and magnificently stocked showroom of at least 20 wedding gowns. They were all white-white (except for two traditional dresses), and they all had cinched waists, fitted bodices, lots of lace, ruffles, flounces, frills, hooped skirts and other heavy decoration.

In the West, these dresses would ring up in the thousands. I saw that price tags here were in the thousands too—20 to 30 thousand, in fact, but that translated to just $200-$300 in US dollars.

A girl, who I assume is the daughter of the general store owner, assured me that she had made all the dresses, but I’m thinking my question may not have been completely understood. She may have meant that she chose them, or was in charge of selling them. She posed proudly with her favourite dress—I know that question was understood.

A favourite dress.

I’m also sharing here a picture of the smartest. cheekiest bride I’ve seen on all my travels. She and her husband-to-be were walking toward the large garden in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where many wedding ceremonies seem to take place (we saw three wedding parties within just a few minutes).

It was threatening rain and the groom dashed back to the car to grab some umbrellas. He lit a cigarette to calm his nerves and strolled back to his bride. I caught her attention and got a smile and a nod that said, yes, it was totally okay to snap a pic of the two of them. As I raised my camera, she twirled to her partner and planted a huge kiss on his lips.

And then I noticed with great satisfaction that she was wearing flat shoes. I like her style.

NOTE: If you have access to Facebook, please feel free to share this post with others. I can’t get on Facebook in China, so it’s impossible for me to let people know I am adding to the blog now. Thanks.

Clever bride in flat shoes.

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