The morning of the wedding I was unbelievably excited. Thankfully my landlady and one of her friends who is a saree draping pro came over and helped me. A little pleating here and tucking in there and I was ready to go! (See my post on saree shopping to get an idea of how difficult it was choosing one!)
I met up with Pooja, my internship coordinator, and we took a car to the location which was on the opposite side of the train tracks in the part of town I live in. Walking up to the entrance was exciting. I didn’t know what to expect.
When I walked inside the event space I noticed a ton of seating all surrounding a raised platform where a circle of people were sitting. All around them were draped fabrics dripping with flower garlands.
According to Pooja, this was a Marwadi wedding which are known to be really extravagant. One of the reasons is that the bride’s family is made to pay for the entire wedding and if the husband’s family doesn’t get a demand for the wedding met, they can call it off at any time. Say what?! I for one am glad I am not from a Marwadi family and I’m sure my parents, who have two daughters, are probably thankful for that fact too!
For the wedding itself and getting it officiated, there are usually seven vows that the bride and groom each take that are accompanied with seven circles made under upheld swords. The vows signify the promises each one makes to the other as well as the family. One thing that was nice about the wedding is that it involved a lot with family and the vows specifically addressed family needs such as respect for siblings and taking care of inlays like they are your own. This is another reason weddings are so huge in India, it isn’t just a union of two people but the uniting of two big families and there is a lot of emphasis on this fact. The circling under the swords, which is shortened to four times in order to save time, represents the vows. Why under the swords and what are those yellow things at the ends of them you ask? The swords are meant as a protective barrier against evil and negative energy. As long as the bride and groom stay within the circle they are safe. The yellow things at the end are not so everybody is safe from getting their eyes poked out (that’s what I first thought at least until I asked Pooja) but also serve as protection from negativity and evil.
The really great thing that I loved about the wedding was the roles that the friends and family played. As the family, they were there to represent the seriousness of the situation and although they were happy they were very traditional and focused on the service. Friends, on the other hand, were the life of the party! All throughout the service they would chant, sing songs, start flower wars, and enjoy hors d’oeuvres. They helped break up a long service and also provided a lot of energy and gaiety to what would have other wise been a serious affair.
Speaking of the appetizers, the food was absolutely top notch. Seriously, if you ever get the chance to go to an Indian wedding don’t eat before hand. You may be hungry, but you will be so glad you left room for all the foods offered. As someone who loves Indian food, I was in paradise. I tried so many different dishes and I loved them all.
During the end of my meal I noticed that there were some strange figures arguing with security. I asked Pooja about them and learned that they are referred to as “sixers.” Apparently they are transgender/crossdressers who come to weddings and ask for money. If they receive money from the families, the wedding is blessed and the marriage is a success but if they are turned away, the marriage is cursed and doomed to fail. I was really interesting to see that along with all the other traditions of an Indian wedding because they are so completely different from what I consider a normal wedding.
Overall I am really thankful I got to attend a wedding. It was one of my dreams to go while I was here and it did not disappoint. That being said, it is important if you are participating in an abroad or travel program to do your research. I went through so many websites before I found some right for my trip. I am really happy that I ended up with World Internships and Edulab because they are able to give me so many experiences outside of what I normally would get to participate in as an individual. So shout out to the people at World Internships and Edulab, thanks guys! 🙂