Saturday also began with a very late start (after briefly waking up for the amazing breakfast buffet). It was raining a bit so we didn't venture too far but we did walk around and see the Church in the rock, which was very cool. Again we bumped into our classmates while we were walking around town and, while we were having lunch, we witnessed a SlutWalk protest - hundreds of Finnish women (and some men) dressed outlandishly made for a "unique" cultural experience!
Saturday evening was the wedding itself, a positively lovely affair. After a short civil ceremony we were treated to more excellent Finnish cuisine for dinner: lots of raw meat and fish, but also delicious vegetarian options. The wine was very well paired with the food too. As we ate there were some toasts, mostly in English but also in Finnish. They were clever and poignant and paid great tribute to the happy couple. When Tuomas delivered his toast in Finnish to Emilia, it reinforced something we all learned at IMD - that only a very small part of communication comes from the actual meaning of words. Even though we couldn't understand his words, the heartfelt homage to his life partner was clearly evident.
Before we transitioned completely from sitting to dancing there was a brief bit of drama. It seems that someone kidnapped the bride! In order to earn her back, Tuomas had to answer trivia questions about her and then dance a traditional Texas line dance! At first his performance was not deemed enthusiastic enough so he gave it another try, pulling out all the stops, and won her back - what a great tradition!
Then the dancing started and it was a LOT of fun! The DJ played everything from 80s staples to contemporary Finnish music, to everything in between - including Finnish covers of classic songs. Despite the cool weather outside, it got very, VERY warm inside so I had to alternate between dancing and cooling off outside. Eventually the best man made an announcement that it was time to stop drinking . . . and start getting wasted - what a great sentiment!
As Katie and I were dancing with one of my Chinese classmates, having a blast, it reminded me of a failure of mine from the IMD year. I was so focused on academic achievement that I missed many opportunities to bond with my classmates, foregoing parties to work, for example. It is so evident to me now, though, that my classmates were IMD's greatest assets, and relationships with them are the greatest benefits that I took from the program. This is now the top piece of advice I give to incoming students: to take time to get to know their peers. In my case I am now finally doing it at, for example, weddings like this one - better late than never!
At 1 AM we had to relinquish our venue so we all hopped on a bus to The Tiger, the self-described classiest club in Helsinki. There we had some tables reserved and kept the dance party going until 4 AM. As the club closed, Katie and I walked back to our hotel under the early sunrise and relished in the denouement of what had been an incredibly fun night.
Sunday began with brunch at an island mansion. Our party was noticeably diminished in size, partially because some people had already departed, but also because many people were still suffering from the previous night. Those of us who made it out were treated to excellent recovery food and a great view of the bay. Afterward Katie and I ferried over to Suomenlinna, the world's largest sea fortress, for some touring and sight seeing.
Sunday evening featured a final, casual dinner with the wedding couple and then Monday morning we were up eaaaaarly to catch our flight to Switzerland. Somehow it is easier to get up at 4 AM, though, when the sun is already rising. As we waited for our airport ride, I breathed in and took one last look at the gray, early lit skies above the train station and savored my most "canonical" view of Finland. It was a short trip but a fantastic introduction to a great country and great people! Many congratulations to Tuomas and Emilia!