An American’s Experience at an Indian Wedding

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Imagine the stimulation of every sense: vivid, luxurious clothing and decor, hundreds making pleasantries, the flavor of diverse curries on your tastebuds, the heaviness of traditional clothing against your skin, and floral scents wafting into your nose. This is a glimpse of an Indian wedding, an extravaganza of cultural magnificence that I recently had the pleasure of attending.

To begin, the bride spent over seven hours having intricate henna put on her hands, lowers arms, feet, and lower legs. This process was only preparation for the calm chaos to arrive.

This jamboree started with a prayer titled Ganesh Pooja, in which the bride, her family, and a chanting priest circled a coconut. This ritual was enacted before a velvet swing, with poles of barbour leaves and a frame of fresh marigolds.

Lavishly dressed guests enjoyed consuming delicacies over conversation until the late evening. Unlike American weddings, many of the rites went unobserved.

Later that evening, a royal blue light cascaded over baby pink and white flowers, surrounded by cameras for documentation. This was set for the Sangeet, a collection of dances performed for the couple, integrated with comedic, witty remarks about them. Bollywood’s influence on India shines clearly within this, as all family and friends present classic moves to popular songs.

The following morning began with an amusing ceremony, intended to beautify the bride. Her family members would individually take two grass-like plants, dip them in various rejuvenating substances, and apply them all over her . Afterward, her sisters, brothers, and cousins smothered her with an herbal paste.

Similarly to the previous day, this continued with socialization and various minor ceremonies leading up to the final event, which began with a grand procession.

The thumping sound of two drums playing traditional Indian beats filled the air as an enormous crowd of people danced exuberantly through the streets. As the incredible amount of attendees from the groom’s side of the wedding gleefully hopped to the live music, they accepted token gifts from the bride’s guests. This Barat, as it’s named, signifies the arrival of the groom, accompanied by his relatives.

Contrary to the above, the bride arrived in an elegant stroll, as she glided, along with her sisters, under a delicate tarp of fragrant jasmine, which was supported by her brothers. Ornately decorated, she wore a rich red lehenga and heavy golden jewelry that included bangles, earrings, an oversized nose ring, a necklace, and anklets. Once guided to the groom, they began the ceremony by exchanging garlands of roses and were ushered to the canopy under which rituals would continue.

Two chairs rested under the golden canopy bordered with fresh pink and yellow flowers, draped with shimmering strings. The wedding ceremony included the priest, couple, and parents sitting around a fire. As the priest chants, numerous rites are carried out, most notably the couple taking seven sacred vows while circling the fire. However, although there were approximately 1,100 people attending the wedding, only a handful had any interest in spectating this ceremony. Most everyone wandered around, eating and chatting.

Hours later, with touching goodbyes to the bride, the wonderful madness concluded. These three days were an astounding culture shock, though a normality for locals. A foreigner can only contemplate its extravagance.