Day 3, December 8th,
Morning of The Wedding
Walking down the steps to meet David and Nick at the lobby, half holding up my dress trying not to topple over; half missing my footing at the first glimpse. First thing that came to mind; linen curtains. David and Nick were wearing Dhooti’s, very kindly fitted by the hotel receptionist who saw them struggling for around half an hour, despite the YouTube tutorial that they were so desperately trying to follow.
Luckily enough, my outfit was perfect for the occasion; the fitting experience; much smoother. My outfit was bought from Arya Design; an Indian Wedding clothes company which I had shipped from India and tailored in Manchester- back-street and dirt cheap.
We arrived at the ceremony; a big venue of around 500 people, an isle in the middle, a stage in front, a band sat near. The music; I’m really not sure how to describe. Ok Google ‘Indian musical instruments’…Sitar, Sarangi, Flute, Shahnai, Harmonium’ … no idea. Not too surprisingly, I had never heard (forget seen) any of the instruments. The closest resemblance; a string instrument called a ‘Dilruba’ – quintessentially Bollywood in every way.
With guests arriving at the dozen, this was my chance to look at all of the outfits yet again! Bold colours were in. Orange, yellow, blue, green. Red was forbidden- that was for the bride. The more the better; the bigger the better. My favourite part of the dress code was the Matha Patti- a head chain- usually gold studded- which sits beautiful across the forehead.
So.. What exactly was the ceremony going to entail? Ok Google. So there are various steps of a Hindu wedding ritual; Kanyadaan, Paanigrahan, Vivaah Homa, Laja Homa and Agni Pradakchina, and Saptapadi. A ceremony without each step wouldn’t be considered as complete. Traditionally, the bride’s family host the cerermony and the groom are the guests arriving to ‘Mandap.’ The general idea is that it depicts the couples’ first encounter; the brides parents giving her away, the couple promising themselves to each other in front of the ‘fire’ followed by 7 vows of commitment. This was going to be full-on and attention to detail was going to be needed to keep up.
The ceremony started with the usual- greeting both the bride and groom outside. This again happened on two separate occasions with family and friends walking closely behind. Nam wore a traditional red dress; a symbol for many things. Ok Google… Red is the most dominant colour and a running theme throughout all Indian Weddings. According to astrology, the red planet Mars is in charge of marriages, and so its tradition for the bride to wear red as a symbol of fertility and all things ‘auspicious’ ( Yep I had to Google this one too). Also, with red being a universal symbol of love and passion, this is the preferred colour to go for. Nam was also wearing layers of jewellery; on her wrist- around her neck; along with a garland, flowers and gems in her hair; a very long pony-tail extension which was, yet another typical Indian wedding accessory.
Back on the ceremony itself. Well… as expected. It was very hard to follow and there was a lot going on. Yes.. We watched the recitation of 7 vows also consisting of (I expect) 7 different rituals marking 7 different aspects of commitment to each other. To describe the setting; family were gathered on the stage, the bride and groom sat on the floor, a priest reciting vows, with everyone (even audience members) taking part; from washing elders’ feet, placing garlands over each others shoulders, to throwing flowers in the ‘fire.’ It was very interesting to take part in the ceremony itself. It was so different.
The wedding was also structured into two parts; during which we had lunch whilst the bride and groom changed. Lunch was, yet again, (no negative overtone intended) an Indian style buffet. Honestly, I realised soon enough that I would be hitting the gym the moment I landed home.
With Nam and Sid changed and ready for the next part; it was safe to say that we really didn’t understand what the heck was going on but it was great to throw ourselves into it all. The second part of the ceremony entailed going up on stage and having pictures taken with the Bride and Groom; now husband and Wife. Nam and Sid must have taken around 1,000 pictures and tbh I was really impressed at how they managed to smile for so long. All in all, the ceremony last for around 4 hours.
End of the ceremony and time to chill. We headed back to our hotel, switched hotels and napped for a while before heading out to find some essentials. The roads were chaotic and the air was humid and heavy. Walking home, we saw three large LED lights pop up from the middle of nowhere; Three of the best letters combined any student could ever wish for- ‘BAR’. With Nam saying how hard it was to get alcohol in the local town, we made it our mission to show her our achievement; success against all odds. And so we had a sat down beer (or few) in a dingey/ club type bar, feeling proud of our accomplishment; hitting the nail on the head as far as ‘finding alcohol in places you least expect to’ goes.
Feeling much more relaxed than anticipated, we packed our belongings and headed to the coach station to catch a night bus to Kerela- It was now 2am.