Wedding Dash: Jasper, Canada


Having been supposed to alternate Canada and Svaneti articles while away for a few weeks, I find myself mixing the themes up in this one, simply because that’s where I’m at.

I was asked by my niece and her fiancé to officiate at their wedding a while ago near Jasper, in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. This was a huge honor, my first such. Because I am not licensed to perform ceremonies resulting in a legally defined marriage anywhere, the couple had the legal side performed a bit earlier, and left the rest up to me.

We arrived the day before for a rehearsal, dodging further reports of the wet weather which has plagued summer here thus far. The setting: a spot on the Athabasca River bank, at the end of the road of Jasper airbase for small planes, with wooden seats and a plank gazebo which reminded me of a Japanese Shinto shrine. All around us was the glory of the mountains, a 360-degree panorama of splendor. Back at our hotel, elk does came around grazing. We had already seen mountain goats on the main road, and a bear off it not far away: typical for the area. I would also see a loon, most haunting of birds, with chick on its back on the lake the next day.

4 pm was the big moment. I had been allowed to dress as I wanted, within reason, and eschewed the strict formality of a dark suit for a multicolored silk vest over reds and purples, with a traditional gray felt Svan hat nodding to my chosen homeland of the last 20 years. The bride was hardly late at all, and we began. I received the bride from her parents; gave a short speech about the event and relationship; led them through their vows and exchange of rings (hers of gold, his of black silicone, engineer’s choice) and allowed them to kiss. It was over.

We had all been instructed to take umbrellas, looking at weather reports. Indeed, the clouds had been amassing. But, kindly, they held off releasing their load until I was unhurriedly finished. This was the time for me to step aside and let the chosen photographer do her job, with the main wedding party hoisting clear umbrellas, a lovely, lighthearted event as the spitting began. I was most relieved not to be shooting, as I rarely do this for weddings, not considering myself a professional in the genre and finding it quite stressful. We departed for the reception party.

Once more a divergence from the Georgian traditions I’ve grown used to. We went to a horse-riding facility near Pyramid Lake and entered a large-roofed gazebo with fold-down partial walls, a fire in the center and gas heaters hanging from the conical ceiling: just as well as it was COOL outside! The rain continued, but not for long. Speeches began, with two of my other younger relatives as MCs. I inserted an impromptu toast using the long, spiraling “leader goat” drinking horns I had brought just for this event and as a gift. The guests added “JOS!” to my “Gaumar…” (cheers) nice and loudly three times as required. My present also included a selection of the best Georgian food products in a hamper-bag: churchkhela, spices, sauces, wine in a Svan tower clay bottle, wine vinegar, a Barambo chocolate box and more. There had to be a Georgian element in the proceedings!

Food was a buffet taken table by table; there was no wedding cake this time. It was all very light-hearted, fun, joyous, meeting new people as our two families came together, mixing primarily German ancestry (the groom) with British (bride’s mother) and Chinese (her father), rather typical for multicultural Canada. It was a weekend I will never forget, and I wish the lovely happy young couple, now camping around British Columbia on their honeymoon, all the best as they embark on this new adventure.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

By Tony Hanmer

18 July 2019 18:55