The Wedding Story –October 29, 2009
First, I’ll just tell you about this wonderful experience , my first Indian wedding, and hope I will even be able to upload a short video to give you a ittle feel for what it was like. I am also posting a couple of full size pictures, but there is a gallery at the end with thumbnails if you are interested in more pics…You’ll have to go to the second half of the post for most of the pictures. Be patient. It may take time for the photos to open, but it is worth the wait.
Aside from what I will write here, which will not do justice in any way to the actual event, it became apparent the next day that this was THE High Society Event of the Season in Rishikesh and apparently some sort of honour to have been an invited guest.
Here is a video link which will give you also some slight inkling as to what was going on:
I arrived in a jeep which was sent by the hosts to pick up “strays” who had no way to get to the wedding. We were told that the jeep would bring us back in “one, maybe two, hours”. This would have caused great stress for me in the past, not knowing exactly when I would be brought back home, worrying about what I would do if I had to stay longer that I had planned, etc., but from the next post you will understand that there was not the slightest bit of concern surrounding this “not knowing for sure”, and I happily boarded the jeep for the ½ hour ride to the venue of the wedding. IT was a very famous, fancy restaurant and affair place, and, as all of these things are in India,
completely outdoors – no matter what the weather…and luckily this was a beautiful evening, slightly chilly butnothing more.
At first glance, it looked like we had arrived at an over decorated Christmas party there were so many lights. And the setting was enormous….and once inside, realized that it was even larger than I imagined from the outside .
As we entered the lighted gateway, we were greeted by the groom’s father, who is a very sweet man and was ever so pleased when I told him I was a friend of his son and that he is a wonderful man with a very good heart, always willing to help, always gentle, always smiling…Just past the entrance was a gymboree kind of jumping thing to keep the kids entertained during the affair. (Indian weddings literally last all night and many people stay until morning). I then found my way moving into the central area where the actually ceremonial part of the marriage would take place, with 4 decorated chairs set up for the two couples (did I mention it was a double wedding?), under a decorated and flower adorned canopy.
The entire area in front was a large sitting area of very comfortable kind of couches, not individual chairs, draped in white, for those who just want to sit and chat and have a fun evening out with friends and relatives, or need to put a small child down to sleep, or even lay down to rest themselves. This is the area where many people just stood or sat and mingled with others, while waiters continually circulated with all kinds of wonderful looking appetizers and drinks.Since this is the area facing the ceremonial area where the actual marriage will take place, those interested in this part of the wedding hang around here most of the time as well.
This area was filled with the most amazing array of fabulous saris, in every color imaginable, beaded, gold, unbelievable…pictures for sure will not do this justice. The women wore fancy shoes, were bejeweled hand, foot, ears, nose even forehead, and hennaed from finger tip up to elbows and feet as well. Some were perfectly happy to pose and even dance for the camera.
Most were unwilling however, to have their pictures taken and I respected this.
Off to the left is a huge elevated stage where dancers perform (the entire night) to the music of Bollywood movies, and each dance is chosen for its meaningful connection to something having to do with marriage, love, courtship etc. The costumes change regularly and it is quite an amazing show. Just below this is a dance floor for the guests who wish to dance as well. This is where I danced (!) as well when I felt like it. At the beginning of the evening the area is taken over mostly by the women, and there are very few men there, but as the evening wore on, the stage was taken over mostly by younger men who are amazing dancers. It was a pleasure just to stand there and watch them dance. And once the dance floor was taken over by them, no women ventured out there again for the rest of the time I was there.
At first I thought this was the entire place…and although warned that there would be well over a thousand people there, I didn’t see more than about 400-500 and just figured it was a small wedding. It wasn’t until I was there for more than an hour that I discovered where the “real” scene was. Down a row of stairs, off to one side was an enormous, football field size area (which I tried to take pictures of but due to the size and the poor lighting at night, I could not really get a good feel of the enormity of the area and the number of people congregated there). This area contained long tables covered with carafes of food at regular intervals, along all 4 walls…every imaginable India delicacy was offered here and each carafe had a sign telling you exactly what was inside. It was a buffet to end all buffets and was available the entire night for anyone who felt the need to eat, or eat again, and apparently, well over 1000 guests felt eating was the main reason for going to a wedding. THIS is where all the people were!!! Most were just standing and eating while wandering around, but there were many tables set up as well and lots of small groups of people sat at these tables, as if at a restaurant, and simply sat and ate and talked and enjoyed themselves, apparently completely indifferent to what was going on upstairs at the same time, which was of course, the marriage ceremony itself.
Basically what happens is the groom arrives and in danced in by family and friends and a live band and lead to the ceremonial area.
There he sits for hours while he is greeted by everyone interested in doing so, has money showered over him to intone prosperity, there is a priest who performs a puja,
eventually the bride is also brought in (and this is the first time they are meeting(!)), they bedeck each other with garlands of flowers as their first intimate act, and then just sit there, having their pictures taken by everyone and anyone.
didn’t stay longer than midnight, so have no idea what happened after those first 4 hours.
That’s about it for the technical details of the wedding. The next post will contain my personal experiences of the wedding and the further proof of a personal lesson well learned.