I was in Bangalore for a Hindu wedding between Yathin and Wendy, a friend from Berkeley. The bride was born and raised on a sheep farm in Wyoming, and Yeti was raised on farm 2 hrs outside of Bangalore. The grooms family all still follow the tradition of arranged marriages, so Yeti is the first from his village to marry outside of this days-old custom. While Wendy wasn’t ‘the chosen one,’ they seemed proud to have their son marry another farmer, and a doctor (she holds a Phd already), with the floral-written wedding banner reading “Yathin weds Dr. Wendy”. Seemingly worlds apart, it turns out they’re not so different, and it was inspiring to see love overcome all the cultural and societal differences each had.
They had their first wedding in Wyoming, a typical Christian-like ceremony, and in India they were modest in only holding a 2 day wedding ceremony – many Indian weddings last 3 or more days. The first day involved a 1000 guest reception, where the bride wore traditional Indian wear and the groom dressed in a western suit – ironic, I thought. They stood on stage for almost 6 hrs greeting a procession line of important ministers, friends of his father, the few westerners that came from Berkeley, distant family, and some people they admitted they weren’t quite sure who they were. The wedding was in a lavishly decorated event hall, complete with photographers, camera men, a lights and sound tech guy, a few flat screen tv screens fading between camera shots, and a large, camera crane sweeping over the crowd for aerial shots. It was quite the production, to say the least, and I only wished it had subtitles so I could understand a bit better what was going on.
The morning of that day, the groom and bride, one at a time, were totally covered in turmeric by members of the family (only married women or men, I believe), and explained this was something about washing all the evil away. I got to slab a face full of soggy turmeric powder on both her cheeks, feet, and hands, and it was fun. Many of the women got their hands fully covered, inside their palms and on top, with beautiful, intricate henna tattoos.
For lunch that afternoon, we were fed a delicious, typical southern-Indian Thali meal on banana leaves. The servers came by with buckets, serving us one by one in order to eventually plate a 10 course meal in the matter of a minute or two. It was extremely efficient, as was the clean up that just involved them rolling the paper laid under the banana leaves into a small pile of organic waste.
For dinner, the buffet included a selection of Northern and Southern Indian cuisine, a fruit stand, a snack stand, and an icecream booth. It was extremely crowded, everyone standing, eating and chatting. By this point I had to master eating only with my right hand since the left is considered unclean, so standing and eating became a bit easier since I had to use my left hand to hold the plate of food.
The actual wedding ceremony was a quieter event, with only close family and friends attending. This time, they were covered in coconut milk, rice grains covered in turmeric, and again in tumerc, a LOT of turmeric. All the members of the family are somehow involved, partaking in different parts of the ceremony. There was a lot of stuff going on, all ‘in-the-know’ by the Indian family, but I couldn’t really figure out the meanings or importance of one practice from the next. When I asked questions about their Indian wedding traditions, they groom said they’ve gone on for so long that the significance of certain ceremonial procedures has become completely unexplicable, one just knows you have to do it. One thing he did explain was the strange wedding gift of a coconut, 2 green leaves and crushed beetle nuts – the coconut represents God (which one, I don’t know), and the leaves and nuts are some sort of offering of respect to him. Every guest from the reception and the wedding got one, so some 1200-1500 coconut gift bags were prepared.
While a clout of confusion covered my experience, it was all very charming, and watching the bride take it all in stride even though she probably also had no idea what was going on half the time was perhaps the most entertaining. After being covered in turmeric and hennah, jewels and jewelry, she actually started to fit in just fine, and becamse the mediator between her now Indian family and our oblivious western ignorance.