With my head resting on a chair in a random roadside restaurant in Bangalore, I was trying to gasp for air and gather some energy to stand up. I’d just fainted – after 4 days and 7 hours of continuous sari shopping. Borders, golden threads and beads, meters of clothes of all colors… all of them were spinning around my head and merging in a wild dance of wedding shopping demons. On that day, or a few months later, was I thinking that may be it was not worth it? No, not a single moment, and I will tell you why.
Being a guest at an Indian wedding is a unique, once in a lifetime experience. Organising an Indian wedding on your own is an experience which is worth a dozen of lives.
The reason why Bollywood movies are centred around weddings is not (just) because of all the colors and flair. It is because any Indian wedding IS worth a movie. Or two. Mix it with a Russian one, and you can double the effect.
Walking down the aisle
In my culture, a wedding preparation procedure as well as its meaning has always been crystal clear to me. In no particular order: you find a dress, make a guest list, secure a picture-perfect place to sign the papers and exchange rings, organize an elegant party (as a crazy party might not please all the participants), and survive the big day from 7 am make up to the last disco beats with happiness or stress, or both.
A modern Russian wedding is about two people, publicly creating a union in one day, or in a few hours. A modern Indian wedding is about rituals, celebrations, prejudices, generations, parents, families, guests, bonding, laughers, tears, emotions, dramas, peacemaking, traditions, religion, philosophy, wonders. All this is happening against a backdrop of shopping, shopping, gift exchange, shopping, eating, dancing, eating. If at least on of these ingredients is missing then it is as good as if it had never happened. Our wedding had it all …
Gossiping about guests while drying mehendi 😉
Our wedding turned out to be a very special affair not just because of a crazy mishmash of cultures. It truly celebrated what such an event is ought to celebrate – “togetherness”. It was the first time that our parents met each other. It was a weekend when we met our childhood friends after decades of not seeing them. It was a place to which people traveled for over two days across the oceans, or hopping from one train to another, without even questioning their travel destination. Thank you.
The groom is having fun with his friends during mehendi
Parents are exchanging presents with each other, spreading a national flair
When we were organizing the wedding we wanted to cherish traditions, but also to fit it in the modern and intercultural context and top it with a never-ending celebration – which, thanks to our guest and families, didn’t appear to be such a difficult task.
Guests made sure that we were properly “beautified”, and no precious paste has gone waste! (see gallery)
Both Russians and Indians are superstitious people – for that reason symbols, rituals and traditions were respected and gladly followed from both sides, which couldn’t make us happier.
It is believed that the brighter a mehendi is, the more a husband will love his wife. Srikant knew it well and made sure I was getting enough lemon juice on my henna, as it brings out the color
To that feeling of “togetherness” there is only one secret ingredient – wonderful people, beautiful souls. With a never-ending energy, everyone just blended with every second of music, dance and celebration (as it is how we met in the end of the day!), and the mood reached the first highest point during the Sangeet. When I was bugging friends about preparing small performance acts for the night, I knew how busy everyone was and didn’t expect much. To my surprise 3 hours of time were not enough to fit in talents of the guests and their beautiful acts, many of which were put together just a couple of hours before the event! We shall not forget any of them! A genius mini-bus taxi from SA team, a charming trio from Belorussian Beyonce, German and Russian traditional dances with live music, unforgettable singing from Vidya and Manish, Bollywood dances …
Gosh, are our friends talented! (see gallery)
As responsible hosts, we tried to set an example by learning traditional dances from our own countries.
To the disappointment of our guests, the first night had to be cut down short, to save some energy for THE day. In a traditional way, the celebration would extend for a few weeks, but we had 2.5 days at hand, with little desire to compromise on events.
The groom is heading to the wedding venue on his “vehicle” (which was borrowed from a security guard the previous night 😉 )
While the loud procession was slowly moving to the wedding venue, I was hiding in a wooden house, thinking of being a “shy” bride, but failing miserably to be one!
The ceremony had started with the mesmerising chanting by the Hindu priests, which made all my worries, concerns, fears (mostly about somebody getting a sunstroke) and mind fluctuations fade away. The garlands and rings were exchanged which meant that from that moment on we officially and publicly accepted each other as husband and wife.
Heading to the mandap to perform a sacred wedding ceremony.
Before organizing the wedding I read as much as I could to find out about the traditions of Hindu wedding and was deeply touched by the meaning of each tiny step during the rituals. The most emotional part (for the family of the bride) is when parents “hand over” the bride to her husband and his family, and pray that he treats her well and that a happy destiny lies ahead of her. Unseen by most eyes this was the moment when my family was all teary-eyed, which made my heart cringe and my eyes cry.
Ceremony at the mandap (see gallery)
The ceremony was concluded with a traditional photoshoot – this is the point of the weddings when a bride and a groom usually only want to eat and sleep. But the ocean did its job, and last bits of energy were quickly restored.
Srikant is heading to the closing party with his “elephant” on his shoulder
After the emotional ceremony and a couple of hours of naps and rest for those who were lucky enough to get it, an evening reception, or call it a party, was opened with the old Russian tradition. A bride and a groom are greeted by parents with an auspicious bread in their hands, which is decorated with the symbols of prosperity and fertility. A bride and a groom are ought to bite it. Whoever manages to bite off a bigger piece will be the head of the family. We are still arguing within the family about this matter, but a resolution of my aunt speaks to me the most: Srikant’s bite was undoubtedly bigger and wider, but mine was deeper 😉
And then the fun has begun!
What happened after these pictures will remain as a memory, as a history, as a matter of potential censorship and paparazzi phones drown in the ocean …
After the last teary emotional hugs with the guests were exchanged and meters of saris were carefully packed to be sent home, we curled into a taxi and headed North, to a hidden paradise with little connection with the external world …
All pictures in this post were taken by talented Chenthil Mohan.
PS. I’ve said it many times but it will never be enough. Thank you to our friends and family for being just who you are and how you are. You are exceptional.