After our Times Square adventure (before our Broadway adventure), we met up with the family for Part 1 of the Brooklyn wedding at Ethiopian restaurant Gheneb. Cousin Kassa, on Aunt Leslie’s (my mom’s sister) side of the family, married Justine González – which was the whole purpose for us coming to NYC to the first place. We were thrilled to be sharing this with them, especially since we never really had a public wedding ourselves. You can check out their story here (especially read the portion on how Kassa wood Justine with fake Spanish). It was a multi-cultural Ethiopian (Habesha)/Hebrew/Puerto Rican/Caucasian celebration which was quintessential of Brooklyn.
We got really good at taking the N and R lines from FiDi to Brooklyn over the next few days for wedding activities. Here’s the route.
On a good day, this takes about 30 minutes all in. The first day we tried it, it was a good day.
We got to Gheneb promptly at 5PM for the commencement of festivities. We met up with a few friends of the bride’s – Javier and Natalio (who she met in Cordoba, Spain in college) – and had some Ethiopian St. George beer while we waiting for the wedding party to arrive. We were pretty sure things would run on Puerto Rico/African time but we had to run on Caucasian time just to be sure (we didn’t want to be THAT guy!).
More family and friends started to trickle in and by 530PM we began to sit down in a private room in the back. We reunited with Merri, Dane, and Micah (my other Aunt and cousins from California and quickly found out that Merri and Dane were in the process of moving to Colorado).
Ethiopian cuisine ensured including samosas and then sampler platters of meat (including kitfo, the raw meet delicacy). More beers were brought, and toasts and speeches commenced.
We sat across from Seble, one of our Ethiopian cousins (Beza’s daughter), and she reminded us all how to eat with the injera bread (using it as a delivery mechanism), and even fed Dane a few times. Feeding one another is a sign of love, and is a very prominent part of the culture (I was continuously stuffed while traveling throughout Ethiopia due to this effect).
Unfortunately we had to cut out around 645PM to make our Phantom of the Opera 8PM performance back in the Times Square area, but the Brooklyn wedding dinner allowed us plenty of opportunities to catch up with family. Here is a precious picture of the groom and the mother of the groom.
After some more Manhattan interludes, we were back for more Brooklyn wedding fun the following day for the actual wedding. This time we had some trouble on the N/R line going to Brooklyn. A train was delayed, causing a backup in the system. We ended up getting on a train 20 minutes late that was stuffed to the gills due to the backup, with poor air circulation. We were in our monkey suits for the wedding, so by the time we exited at the Prospect Park stop, we were already drenched in sweat. Luckily, we only had to walk across the street to arrive at the Brooklyn wedding venue, the BKLYN Commons.
The venue was very Kassa and Justine, and reflected their multi-cultural heritage and service to the community. The event was held on the top floor (dinner and pre-wedding preparation), as well as the two rooftops for the ceremony, drinks, and dancing. We arrived around 410PM and waited until 430PM to head upstairs to the roof and grab some seats for the ceremony. The ceremony got started around 445PM.
As we walked up the stairs from the top level of the building to the roof, we noticed a lovely jazz duo playing some tunes while we waited for the festivities to commence.
We took a seat in the middle shaded area near the drink bar and socialized a bit with the folks around us. We ended up meeting another Brendan, who was one of Kassa’s friends from when he was in college at Concordia University in Montreal. He was going back to school to get a second bachelor’s degree in engineering (his first was in the liberal arts, and he didn’t feel like he was maximizing the benefit from it career wise).
I also was able to catch up with the rest of the Schaffers in attendance and took a nice pic of Merri and her crew. It was in the 90s on the rooftop and we were all sweltering, but we did have some very fashionable fans provided for the wedding.
As the ceremony was about to get started, we took our seats and I snapped some pictures of the eclectic crowd. I love the fans against the beautifully colored dresses.
The procession began around 445PM, starting first with Kassa, Leslie, and Girma.
Followed by B’rouk looking dapper and poised as always, with one of the bridesmaids at his side.
And then Nebiyou with a bridesmaid as well, both smiling intensely.
Then, the ring-bearers, one from each side of the family, looking deliciously cute.
After the grooms family, the bride, Justine, and her family finally took the floor.
The ceremony was quick but unfortunately hard to hear from our seats. It began with the officiator saying a few words about Justine and Kassa and their union, and honoring the multi-culturalism of their Brooklyn wedding.
Then, a the lighting of the candles for those that could not attend – using an altar set up with pictures of deceased loved ones, including Marv and Betty. The mothers of the bride and groom led the way, followed by the couple.
After the candle ceremony, prepared vows were read. We only caught bits and pieces, but what we caught was extremely heartfelt! Here is Kassa delivering his.
The final part of the ceremony included the exchanging of the rings and asking the crowd whether we confirm the union – to which the crows responded enthusiastically with the Puerto-Rican phrase “Wepa!”, translating loosely to “Oh yeah” or “Go for it!”. It was an important step to gain community approval.
Then, the party began, starting with everyone rushing the bar. Here’s a pic from above.
Eventually we joined the bedlam as well. The bartender Robert had premixed some amazing papaya rum punch which we imbibed in the Justine & Kassa wedding-favor mule mugs. Once we got our drinks, we headed to the top part of the roof to get away from the crowd, and stumbled against this beautiful backdrop, perfect for photo taking.
After some time, the Brooklyn wedding party gathered for speeches and roasts, starting with the best-man, B’rouk.
The fellow on the left, Dan, gave a hilarious roast to Kassa, citing their life-threatening road-trip to Mexico where they almost got hacked to death with machetes by a gang in Chiapas. It brought everyone to tears (of laughter).
Justine’s friends also gave some wonderful speeches, following by speeches from the fathers.
Afterwards, we went back inside for dinner. We were seated at the family table next to Leslie and Girma, where Merri, Micah, Dane and Barry’s family (2nd cousins once removed) also set. Ethiopian tej shortly appeared, and it was the best I’ve ever had. Usually it is far too sweet, but this one, homemade in Boston, tasted more like a sour beer than a sweet honey wine.
The food was delicious – Ethiopian Caribbean fusion style – and both the wedding cake (white) and the chocolate sea salt caramel filling groom’s cake were tasty. Around 9PM, we all moved up to the roof again for the first dance.
Followed by the money dance. We didn’t realize this was a wedding ritual and had to look it up afterwards, but apparently in many cultures around the world (Nigeria, Polish, Ukraine and of course Ethiopian) they pin money to the bride’s dress, or throw money at the happy couple. In this wedding, they stuck bills to Kassa’s forehead.
We spent the next 2 hours dancing with friend and family, and eventually headed back to our hotel around 1030PM. It was a really fun day, and nobody let the heat get them down.