A few weeks ago, my good friend from middle school got married. True to Indian culture, her nuptials included a variety of events over a four-day period to celebrate the marriage and union of two families. Being an old friend, I got the privilege of participating in these events. Over the course of the four days, there was:
* Mehndi Party. At the mehndi party, which was held on Thursday before the wedding, all of the women, including the bride to be, get an application of henna in interesting, intricate designs. My friend took two days to get her arms and feet decorated. I got both palms and the top of my left hand. See pictures below.
* Garba dance. On the Friday before the wedding, a celebratory dance occurs to honor the Goddess Durga. At the event, a number of traditional dances occur, where even the men are enthusiastically dancing. There’s a great Wikipedia entry describing in more detail the meaning and importance of the Garba. The slower dance wasn’t too difficult to join; it’s done with everyone circling an alter in a really large circle. Smaller circles break out and either do the same dance or a different variation. This goes on for some time, and picks up speed with the music.
The Garba also featured food of Indian fare. Unfortunately, the spicy nature of Indian food, and the fact that I wasn’t quite sure what was in it (or more aptly, if gluten was in it), I wasn’t able to eat much. I did have a little, but not a lot.
* Wedding ceremony. The wedding reception was a very traditional Indian ceremony held on Saturday. My friend was carried down the aisle on lounger, while the groom was shielded by a curtain so he couldn’t see her. Most of the ceremony I didn’t understand, but it was very interesting and beautiful. During the ceremony, ice cream was served! Unfortunately, I wasn’t feel much like eating ice cream. One thing I noticed was the audience would frequently get up and leave or talk to their neighbor. I guess that’s just normal. Another was when my friend’s family handed her a phone. I can only assume it was a call from India, which makes the “interruption” totally make sense. Lastly, the ceremony didn’t seem to have an obvious ending other than people getting up and lining up for lunch.
* Wedding reception. The wedding reception was held the evening of the wedding. Despite the luncheon after the nuptials, the reception included appetizers and drinks, plus a food buffet spread. The banquet hall was beautiful, with a black backdrop of twinkling lights to look like a starry night. The centerpieces on each table featured gorgeous flowers. My friend also had signature drinks. The reception featured the typical speeches, but also featured some traditional dances. Later, after everyone ate, the dance floor opened up for some more American fun.
During my four days of celebrating, I got to wear a variety of outfits, experience a new culture and revel in lasting friendships.
Fashion & Style
Each event required a different outfit, which was for this fashionista, an exciting part of the experience. For the Mendhi Party, I wore this yellow tunic I found at Forever 21 with my khakis. I finished the outfit with gold jewelry: some white/gold circle earrings, gold bangles and a pearl and gold necklace.
For the Garba, we all rented traditional outfits. They included a cutoff tank, full-length skirt and a wrapping scarf. When we arrived, some very nice ladies helped pin our wraps, as we clearly didn’t know what we were doing. I wore long dangling teal earrings, a gold necklace and bangles. Here I am with the bride, who looked amazing!
For both the Mendhi and Garba, I wore these gold beaded sandals that I found at TJ Maxx.
For the wedding, we also rented saris. I found this mint/teal one that was perfect, and one of my favorite shades. I wore a dozen bangles, rhinestone earrings and necklace, an intricate ring and rhinestones in my hair. My shoes were beaded Steve Madden pumps (not pictured).
For the reception, I decided to change into a Western dress for my fourth outfit. Although the sari was beautiful, it was very heavy and I am not used to wearing it. I dug out this red dress that the bride assured me would be appropriate. I wore a long dangling necklace I wrapped around twice, a rhinestone ring and a simple bracelet. My shoes were some black strappy pumps. Here I am again with the bride, also in her fourth outfit.
The entire wedding was a wonderful blend of traditional and modern. The ceremonial traditions were honored, yet the reception was more like American receptions. I know my friend spent months and months, with the help of family and friends, to set the right scene. Here’s our table’s centerpiece.
As I mentioned, I got three henna designs. Here’s the top of my left hand.
the palm of my left hand
palm of right hand
I have known the bride and this core group of friends since middle school. Not all of us were able to make it, but four of us did. It was great to see that we can still get together after all of these years.
In a way, it was like nothing has changed, and at the same time, like we were older too. We have grown up, into individuals, but from the same starting place. It’s amazing and surreal, and a reminder of the timelessness of friendship. I hope that in another 10 years, we’ll still be getting together and sharing in each others’ lives.