My Future as an Indian Wedding Crasher
Many times in my life I’ve said that people “treated me like family,” meaning they were kind or gracious or hospitable. When I attended a friend’s brother-in-law’s wedding in Pune, a city about three hours away from Mumbai, it was the first time that complete strangers actually treated me like their own family in every way. Having heard all about the grandiosity and general insanity of Indian weddings, I was beyond excited when my friend invited me out for the Monday to Wednesday festivities (when I asked why the wedding was being held during the work week, she said those particular days were auspicious).
Once I arrived at the first ceremony of the three-day bonanza, I realized that when my friend said “brother-in-law,” what she really meant was her husband’s first cousin.
This got confusing really quickly when people started getting introduced as “Ashwin’s brother” and someone else as “Ashwin’s real brother.” Well, who was the first fake brother? So it took me a little time to master the family tree.
Every minute of the 2.5 days we were there we were being fed, either huge delicious meals or small delicious appetizers and fresh fruit smoothies in preparation for the huge delicious meals.
I arrived just as the mendi (henna) ceremony was ending, and from this point on my mind was blown over and over again. This wedding was like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life, and unfortunately I know this article won’t do it justice. Extravagant and over-the-top do not even begin to describe (and I don’t mean those terms negatively). Each event was held in a space more expansive (picture about 1.5 football fields) and elaborately decorated than the next.
I have also never been fed so well and so constantly, ever. Every minute of the 2.5 days we were there we were being fed, either huge delicious meals or small delicious appetizers and fresh fruit smoothies in preparation for the huge delicious meals. This kept me in a constant good mood.
After spending a night at my friend’s in-laws’ house, we left the next morning for the puja ceremony, or the religious rituals for the groom and his family. Unfortunately nobody was there to explain the details of the ceremony, so while it was beautiful and cool to see all the family members involved, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Luckily, trays of delicious appetizers and sweets were rotating throughout the ceremony, so I just munched and people watched. That evening was the sangeet ceremony, one in which the bride and groom’s family and friends performed choreographed dances that they had been working on for months.
Even though it’s common knowledge that foreign women look really stupid in sarees, I still bought a saree for the next day’s festivities and had someone drape it for me.
If you’re trying to picture what the stage looked like, picture one that you would find at an Aerosmith concert, including the appropriate lighting and sound equipment. Not kidding. The highlight of this crazy evening might have been, after many hundreds of people had been drumming and singing for awhile, a 10-year-old boy getting on the microphone and, among other Hindi songs, singing “Baby” by Justin Bieber.
Even though it’s common knowledge that foreign women look really stupid in sarees, I still bought a saree for the next day’s festivities and had someone drape it for me. I could’ve spent all day staring at all the beautiful, intricate sarees the women were wearing and the kurtas that the men were wearing.
In the morning was the groom’s procession to the wedding ceremony–the entire groom’s side (that I was apparently a part of) dances and sings as the groom proceeds towards the wedding on a white horse. This was by far the most fun part of the entire wedding and the perfect opportunity for me to bust out my awkward white girl dance moves. It has to be said that Indian men are freaking good dancers. The women dance wonderfully too, but I must notice it more with men because I unfairly subscribe to the stupid “American men can’t dance” notion (or is it that white men can’t dance… See? I don’t even know which stereotype I’m trying to perpetuate).
Arranged marriages are very much the norm in India, and talking with my friend helped me overcome some of the negative connotations that I’ve always associated with arranged marriage.
The wedding itself included a ceremony where the bride and groom give each other garlands and another smaller fire ceremony with singing, throwing of rice, tikkas for the bride and groom and much more (my sincere apologies to any readers who can tell how badly I’m describing Hindu wedding rituals). This ceremony was just for family, but there I was, sitting next to the groom’s mother and sister.
The reception that evening was a small, cozy gathering of 5,000 PEOPLE. I’m sorry, what? I don’t even know 5,000 people. The bride and groom stood on stage and greeted every single guest while I ate, ate more, and then took a short breather before continuing to eat.
Afterwards, it was really interesting talking with my friend about the wedding in the context of arranged marriages and learning more about how that process works. Arranged marriages are very much the norm in India, and talking with my friend helped me overcome some of the negative connotations that I’ve always associated with arranged marriage.
The conclusion? I need to crash another Indian wedding.
Have you traveled to India and experienced an Indian wedding? How was your trip? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.