I was invited to my Indian friend’s wedding this Christmas. I received the invitation months ago, and my friend told me about some of the preparations him and his family were doing ahead of the big day. It was a fairly small wedding (on Indian terms) consisting of three days, which from talking to other Indian friends, is quite common.
On the first day, the bride and groom had separate functions with their own families. I am a friend of the groom, so went to his ceremony, which was in a small hall close to his home. In the morning we went there and he was presented with gifts from his family – gold Hindu jewellery, a special coconut knitted in burgundy cloth and jewels and also a sword.
He was sat at the front of the hall with his closest family members and all the guests were sat around talking amongst themselves as there was no specific leader or person to address the audience. It was like we were there to see the function, but weren’t actually a part of it. Me and foreign friends all wore Indian kurties, a long tshirt with coloured leggings or trousers. Somehow we all matched and chose to wear blue, which looked great in the pictures! Of course there was food provided afterwards, we all loved the paneer curry and snacks.
In the evening there was also a function, which was kind of like a bachelor party I guess. We returned to the same venue and upstairs there was dancing, both Indian and international music. Downstairs there was a buffet with Indian sizzlers (veg on a hot plate), curries, rice, pani puri and also a very distinctive ice cream making machine, which was a big cylinder of ice that one man twisted as another spread cream, fruit sauces and fruit juices over it. It froze when it touched the ice, then later he scraped it off into bowls for us. It was yummy!
Day 2: Wedding
The second day was the actual wedding ceremony, there was a wedding breakfast at the groom’s house, but unfortunately we were a little late (saris take a while to put on, and there were 9 people getting ready in one house) so missed breakfast. The whole of the groom’s party went in coaches to a location near to the bride’s house and when we arrived, the groom got on a horse and was accompanied by drums, trumpets and everyone dancing in the street to show he’d arrived. It was loud, exciting and the groom looked stunning on the white horse, which was also draped in a red and gold coat.
We went inside and waited for a while…quite a long time actually. There was live traditional music and to pass the time the guests spoke amongst themselves.
We went downstairs for another Indian buffet (rice, bread, curry, garlic bread, buttermilk, dosa) and then rushed back up to see the arrival of the groom to the wedding hall. He was now dressed in gold and carried the sword from yesterday as he made his way to the stage and sat on the red throne waiting for his fiancee to arrive.
When the bride arrived, her family held a carpet above her head, threw rose petals as she walked and accompanied her to sit next to the groom. It was strange that they didn’t really look at each other during the first few minutes.
The ceremony happened and to confirm the marriage, they both walked around a fire four times and it was complete. We were all given coconut ice cream and after lots of pictures on stage with the married couple we went back home.
Later that evening, we went to the groom’s house for dinner (even though he wasn’t there). We ate typical Gujrati food, which is really special and tasty, I love the tetlas and potato curry.
We could finally have a lie in and relax during the day before the evening dinner and dance reception. This was an event for both the families and there were about 300 guests. The couple were again on stage, this time the bride in a heavily jewelled pink dress and the groom in a suit, sat on a sofa as a very animated and lively host talked to the audience and played some games. It felt less formal than day 2 as the crowd was engaged and the couple seemed more relaxed than the day before. After a few speeches, we ate (do you see a pattern here?) and then the hall turned off the lights and converted into a dance floor. The guests went crazy dancing and I did too, singing to Bollywood songs and Western pop songs. It was so much fun and everybody was dressed so well.
In summary, Indian weddings are exhausting, it’s a lot of waking up early, driving to functions, wearing lots of make up, smiling for photos, eating and dancing. But I loved being part of their special few days and learning more about Indian and Hindu culture through the events I saw and the people I met.
Although I’m in India for a few more days, I feel I’m all wedding’d out and am not quite ready to attend another one, my stomach is looking pretty big after all the food I’ve eaten.