During my latest trip to India I was told shortly upon arrival, that we were to attend an Indian wedding - "Whaaat?!"- was my instant reaction, thinking that I had no sort of wedding-like clothes in my suitcase, nor shoes, bag... nothing that could be taken to a wedding, even less an Indian wedding!
My sis-in-law was quite pleased at that, cause it meant taking me shopping for Indian garb, shoes and jewellry, and I can assure you that's something she DOES love!
After our trip to Goa, she decided to take us shopping to one of the malls with the biggest selection of Indian formal clothing shops. We agreed that a saree would not be the best idea, since we didn't have enough time to get it fitted or fixed if it was a ready-made one (which means it has hooks and buttons to help someone like me wear it, cause wearing a saree properly is quite an art in itself!) so we'd go for a suit (kurta & pajama pants). I must say I like shopping, but going from shop to shop, looking and trying stuff on... I have a limited amount of endurance for that, so after three shops I was ready to quit and run... I had liked a suit that had a vest alongside the kurta & pants for the Sangeet or wedding, but Dee decided that we need to look at another shop, where luckily I found a gorgeous black & golden suit that was ideal for the wedding! So after trying it on, I said enough - we'll buy this for the wedding, and the other for the Sangeet and please can we go home now?
And I still had to buy the jewellry and the shoes... which meant another trip to another mall, and visiting another bunch of shops till I could convince Dee that I liked that and that, and I was done! I don't have a problem with window shopping for a while, but when I've found something I like and which price isn't bad, I don't want to go on looking.
Since everything I got for the wedding was store-bought and not handmade, I at least managed to get handmade in there with my make up, from two brands I've found on Etsy: Glittersniffer Cosmetics and Pink Quartz Minerals.
On the day before the wedding there was this traditional celebration called the Sangeet, where the family of the bride or the groom get together, and there are stories and jokes, and dancing and food, and mendhi (henna tattoo) for the women that wants to get it. I was dressed quite formally (for my taste) and thankfully not only Dee was too, but when we arrived there, I most of the rest of the women were too. Gaurav got to dress in shirt and jeans (lucky bugger) and were playing un-official photographer all evening (I'm sure a lot of his shots were better than the ones taken by the "official" one).
I decided to get the mendhi done on my hands (making sure it wouldn't stick out of the area covered my the gloves at work) and wow, it takes some talent to be able to draw all those lovely shapes! The bigger part of the mendhi goes in the palms of the hands, and just a lil in the back. It's quite a laborious process in itself, and once it's applied you have to let it dry for an hour, then apply lemon juice and wait for another two hours before removing it (I ended up using a butter knife to scrap it off) and not wash it with water till the next morning so it'll have a pretty dark orange colour and will last longer. Letting it dry for two hours meant that I couldn't touch anything, so I got lucky and got Gaurav to feed me dinner! ;-)
The day of the wedding I went to the beauty parlour to get a manicure & pedicure and to get my hair straightned (a wedding seems an appropiate excuse to pamper oneself). One of the surprising things for me about India is the amount of people employed doing things, I'll illustrate my point with an example: not only I got one guy doing my pedicure and another doing the manicure at the same time, but there was a guy just to wash my hair, and another holding the hair-dryer while I was getting my hair straighted by the hairdresser, again a guy.
As with the Sangeet, I did my own make-up, and I must say I'm quite proud that I got the handle of the mineral make-up, and did quite a good job with my make up for both the wedding and the sangeet, using PQM foundation and translucent veil, and eye shadows, and Glittersniffer's eye shadows.
After all the make-up, dressing up, and mainly the straight hair, I was looking rather different to the way I usually do, so much that my bro-in-law did a pair of double-takes while we were still at the house! So yeah, different indeed! So much that we decided to play a lil trick on Gaurav's parents, and see if they recognized me!
When we arrived at the hotel the wedding was held at, we joined the Barat (which is some sort of a procession where the groom on a horse wearing a pink turban, is precedeed by a band and his family members dancing) since we were invited on the groom's side (which was the brother of the wife of the elder brother of Ravi, Gaurav's brother in law, confusing yet?).
After a bit of dancing, of me trying to avoid being in the thick of things, Gaurav taking pics all around, the Barat got to the entry of the place where the wedding was taking place, the males of both families interchanged gifts, they then let the groom enter and is welcomed by the family of the bride, and then the whole family enters the place.
Here things can be slighty different depending on the time of the day (or night) the actual ceremony is taking place, since astrologers after some sort of calculations decide which days and at which hours is lucky to get married, so if the lucky time is 1 am, you have the party, the picture taking and the dinner before the religious ceremony, and if it's like 5 pm, you first have the ceremony, and then the food, the pictures and the party...
Once the groom and the family is inside the place, there are aperitifs served, and drinks, and there's chatting till the bride enters the room (in this case escorted by the females in his family, Gaurav says that the most traditional way is having her under a parasol carried by 4 of her brothers (family or as close as brothers). The bride was covered head to toe in a gorgeous saree and loads of jewellry all over, so much it was difficult for her to walk, and I can't imagine how hard it must have been for her to actually dance and have dinner!
Once they're both together there comes the time of the picture taking and gift giving... and that MUST be soooo terribly tedious, since they take pictures with everyone that has come to the wedding, whether they know them or not, and in 300 people, you're bound to NOT know a bunch of people (do you think 300 people is a lot? well, I was told this was a very small event, Dee & Ravi's wedding had more than 700 people, yeah, right, that is so NOT for me!).
While they take pictures the rest of the people is either dancing or eating at the buffet, and we were keeping an eye for Gaurav's parents so we could play our lil trick on them, we'd pretend I was a friend of Ravi's niece, and it worked! Gaurav's mom did a double-take and was soooo surprised to see me so changed! And so was Gaurav's dad. Both agreed that I was looking gorgeous and very Indian!
After the photo taking, dinner-eating and dancing, came the time to attend the proper ceremony, but we didn't stay through it all, cause it was nearing 2 am, and the next day we were leaving for the Sariska preserve to see big kitties!
My opinion on Indian weddings? They're gorgeous to look at, just as long as it's not my own!