Last week I had the real privilege of attending my colleague Paromita’s wedding here in Bangalore. Trust me when i say that it is an experience I will never forget. Like basically everything here, it was the black & white, night & day opposite to any other wedding I have attended or participated in either in the U.S., France or Spain.
First, on a personal level, it was my FABULOUS reason for going sari shopping and that in itself was fun as hell and I assume that a girl never forgets her first sari However, without having girlfriends here or family to help me sort out how to wrap the 9 yards of fabric around me, I would have looked pretty scrappy doing it on my own. I sort of imagine I would have looked like a mummy at Halloween more or less. So just before the wedding I went to a salon for a bit of hair help and sari draping. I had three women basically tying my petticoat as tight as possible, then wrapping, tugging, pulling, shoving pleated fabric down into my petticoat here and there to secure it… haha It was wild.
And thank god for safety pins because I still haven’t bought brooches yet and without them my sari would have been falling all over the place! Anyway, saris are sexy, feminine and so much fun to wear but they are also VERY difficult to walk around in at first. I mean, come on, imagine being wrapped up like the luggage at the airport in the bubble wrap, and then walking like normal. Not gonna happen, haha. And I love the fact that young Indian women don’t have the same body image hang-ups that we do in southern California or western Europe. Women who have extra kilos and pounds on them still wear a sheer sari or a sari that shows their (not flat) belly — but without tugging on it to cover up. They wear them with sexy pride I love it.
Note: The wedding took place at my colleague’s flat so as I recount the tale keep in mind that we were in a casual and intimate yet limited space without the typical infrastructure and support staff on hand that other wedding’s might have. And, as usual, I was the only foreigner. And lastly, I don’t know the difference between the Bengali traditions and what is simply part of a standard Indian wedding, so if I make any mistakes please forgive me!
Tradition calls for the groom’s car to be met outside and basically for the bride’s family and friends to feed him! So I went down with the group and indeed they brought a small plate with some sweet pastry treats and a glass of water. No champagne for these guys, and no one seems to miss it to be honest. I can’t imagine a wedding or pre-wedding setup without it but again things are different here. So we fed the groom and all went up to start the ceremony.
First and foremost, the bride looked stunning. Paromita’s sari was shimmering in red and gold and the jewelry she selected was lovely. Just the right amount of bling-bling that I expected from an Indian wedding. Her makeup was also very exotic and lovely to me, like nothing I had ever seen. In the U.S. and Europe we like the people in the wedding party to match and have a uniform color palette, the brides are typically in some shade of white, our makeup is subtle and there is no bling-bling on our brides. Gramma’s pearls, yes. Bling bling, no!
As we moved to the main room where the ceremony took place, everyone was forced to remove our shoes. Now, I really didn’t want to be prissy here but I had a couple problems with this. First, my sari had been draped on me WITH my shoes as the height guide so if I took them off I was going to be stuck “carrying” a fist-full of sari for the rest of the night to avoid stepping on it — or more likely — tripping over it all night. But, okay…I will know better for next time. Second, I had worn my virtually new gold sling-back Prada’s (only the 2nd time I had worn them) and I had this really bad feeling about leaving them out ((remember that Sex & the City episode with Carrie’s new Manolo Blahnik’s??)). I just didn’t want to leave them where they could be damaged. But again, okay. I will know better for next time.
Indian wedding ceremonies start out with the bride and groom meeting with family, friends and the priest separately. Both are fed sweet pastries again, spoken to by the priest, and family members either sprinkle herbs on their head or place one hand on their heads to give a blessing. It is really sweet, actually.
Next the bride moved into the main room where the groom was waiting. But there is no veil. Tradition states that she uses two large green leaves to cover her face as she walks around her husband three times (I might be wrong on this detail) with the help of her family. The groom has also changed into something akin to a genie costume for me that is white and super transparent — so much so you can see his undies. In fact, I saw the wedding photos of one of my work mates and he changed into a wedding outfit that was even MORE transparent and showed his chest too! What is this? I can’t show my shoulders in public but guys can show their chests and undies? Seems wrong!! haha Then after a bit of ceremony they were both lifted up into the air by friends and family and it was then that Paromita dropped the leaves and the groom could finally see his lovely bride. After this there was a couple of hours of the priest chanting, speaking, blessing, and doing his thing. Dang, Indian weddings are L-O-N-G. These couple of hours were a time of real audience participation too because the priest is always in constant need of something — herbs, flowers, red powder, a bowl, etc etc…it’s fantastic. And since he is sitting down it is easier to call out to the people sitting around. This gave the wedding a real interactive feel
One of the last traditions is for the couple to walk around a pit of fire seven times. But we were inside of a flat so this complicated things tremendously I think and was responsible for the only crying moment of the whole ceremony. Again, this is something really different because we tend to tear up or cry at weddings — even guys at times! But not in India…I think it is because they go on for so long there doesn’t seem to be one climactic moment for a good cry! Anyway, the priest added some type of herb to the mini bon-fire as the couple walked around it and the fumes were so severe and drifting right up into Paromita’s face that she was really suffering and end up crying. In fact, most people had watery eyes from it but the priest just kept on going like a trooper!
If memory serves, this tradition ensures that a couple will be together not only in this life but also in their future lives. Now, as beautiful a sentiment as I think that is, I am damn happy that I didn’t do the fire walk with my ex-husband Carlos — to me he is pretty much an ass who doesn’t pay child support and it would be a punishment to be attached to him life after life in my future haha What happens when an Indian divorces I wonder???? Have the priests sorted that out here???
The sounds of an Indian wedding are also totally new and different for me. No harpist or Bach, no sounds of organ music or classic guitar. It is upbeat and very alive. I think there was some music at the beginning but that was almost immediately taken over by the lovely sounds of prayer by the priest (or at least I assume it was prayer). And then at “intermissions” those sounds were taken over by the bride’s best friend, who acted as maid of honor and participated in most of the wedding. She would loudly do that throaty-tongue lah-da-lah-da-lah-da thing (what for me is typically heard being done by women in the middle east). Then the grandma and one of the girls also blew incredibly loudly into a conch shell from time to time. The cute little girls tried to teach me to blow it but I just made an ass out of myself, haha. Was fun though. One thing that was pretty confusing for me was that the maid of honor, who was sat next to the bride most of the ceremony, carried on her own conversations and laughed with people around her during quite a lot of the ceremony, although no one said anything to her so I don’t know if this was typical behavior or not. For me, I would want my maid of honor to make the day about me and I’d assume that appropriate silence is part of that … will have to ask.
I had a wonderful time, and it was an amazing wedding. It was a real treat to be out socializing and experience it with my favorite work mates, too. It cracked me up though that the women from work all looked absolutely STUNNING and so elegant and the guys just came over “as is” after work! haha WTF? No freshly pressed shirt, no washed face… haha Ahhh boys!! I think I blame the wives for this though, they should make the men dress properly because it appears it doesn’t happen automatically
Oh, and the Prada shoes? Yeah, I think they are a victim of this wonderful experience actually At the end of the ceremony there was a part where the friends wouldn’t let the bride and groom pass back into the living room until they essentially “paid a toll” for lack of a better term. Everyone from the large ceremony packed into the hallway where all the shoes were lined up and the shoes were all just stepped on. I guess someone accidentally trampled them, and the leather ripped on one of the heels. They were so pretty… but c’est la vie!
XOXO from Bangalore
© Angela Carson, Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011