How to marry like an Indian
Dancing every night? Colorful outfits? Henna? Delicious food? Obviously, I’m describing an Indian wedding. Anyone who has ever been to an Indian wedding knows how unique and crazy it can be. There is endless excitement and festivities that will keep you busy the whole weekend.
Indian weddings often last three days and feature a plethora of food and dancing. Typically, the first night is a ceremony, called Ganesh Pooja, performed at home with the couple, bridal party and close relatives. On the second day, there is the mehndi ceremony, which consists of mehndi or henna drawn on your hands and/or feet. Afterwards, the real action begins with the sangeet. During the sangeet, there’s food and dancing. The last day is the reception, which involves the bride and groom walking around a fire seven times (yes, I’m serious.) Then, vermillion, or red powder, is applied to the bride’s forehead a mangalsutra, a black beaded necklace that symbolizes marriage, is placed on the bride’s neck. After the reception is the cocktail hour, which is pretty much what it sounds like: yummy food and tempting drinks. Luckily, I was able to experience this craziness last weekend.
My cousin got married last weekend in Atlanta. The ceremony was a mix of an American and Indian wedding: a representation of the couple themselves. Instead of a typical three-day wedding, the couple opted for a two-day wedding, skipping the Ganesh Pooja.
The trip itself was pretty hectic, as I traveled alone for the first time on a plane. I was also pretty dead after taking an exam and staying up late to finish a 30-page essay. My driver was 25 minutes late to pick me up, as I worriedly munched on a bagel. Luckily, I made it on time for my flight and landed in Atlanta 10 minutes early. Sadly, another driver failed me and dropped me off at the wrong location, but I eventually walked to the right spot.
When I finally arrived at the venue, I quickly changed into an Indian outfit in the bathroom with the sangeet in full swing. The groom’s and bride’s side performed dance numbers in colorful Indian outfits and some interesting dance moves that they choreographed that morning. I joined in on the dancing later, of course. I got some mehndi on my one hand done so I could still eat with my other hand. There was lots of Indian food; lucky for me, most of it was vegetarian. From paneer, cubes of ricotta cheese in sauce, to kofta, vegetable balls in sauce, my stomach was satisfied. However, the main attraction was the fresh jalebi, a sweet fried dessert, which was made in front of us and could be accompanied by kulfi and Indian ice cream.
The next day was the main event, so I had to come dressed to impress in a lehenga, a formal Indian gown that consists of a blouse and a heavy skirt, and even got my hair done. The reception featured an exchanging of rings but omitted the walking around a fire. They wrote their own vows, but cried through much of it. After the ceremony itself, there were more tears as emotional speeches were given to the happy couple (even I got a bit teary-eyed.) Then, we chowed down on some Southern comfort food, my personal favorite being mac and cheese, and then attempted to dance with full stomachs to festive dance songs.
The weekend was a blast, although a bit tiring after all the dancing and food. However, it’s hard to beat the thrill and excitement of an Indian wedding. Just be prepared for sore feet and heavy stomachs.