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The Big Fat Indian Wedding

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As you walk through the entrance of a big, lavish farmhouse you see grand tents pitched with vibrant colors, manicured gardens, bright-color coordinated flower arrangements, pretty diyas (little lamps) lighting every corner, roses centered on every table with soft, rhythmic shehnai (an instrument like oboe) playing in the background and sweet sugary syrup laden sweets kept in silverware. Indian weddings are by far the most majestic events. They are almost celebrated like a festival. They are an epitome of glam known for grandeur and a fun atmosphere. Generally, wedding celebrations only last for three to four days, while preparations begin five to six months in advance. Each function has its own significance and set of traditions that it follows. In India, a marriage is not only between the groom and bride but also between their families. The roka ceremony, which occurs months before the wedding, is the official announcement of the wedding and the first celebration. It is usually a small informal event in the bride’s house with about 20-30 close family members. Families get together for the first time and exchange dry fruits and sweets. A prayer is recited in the presence of a priest and the elders bless the couple.

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After the roka, preparations for the wedding begin. Both families sit and decide the venues for the following functions. Often, families choose a big farmhouse or a hotel banquet to host their main functions. Many times, they jostle to hire the most expensive hotels for destination weddings in Indian cities Udaipur or Goa or even destinations in Thailand. Subsequently, they decide on the guest list which includes between five to seven hundred people. From deciding which cards to distribute, which photographer and caterer to hire or which color scheme to choose during each event, to the theme of every tent they have to pitch, the number of tables and sofas and the decoration pieces they have to display, families considerable amount of time preparing for the grand day. Sometimes, they hire a wedding planner to manage everything.

Another important task is deciding the Indian wedding clothes. Bridal dresses are of many varieties and change according to the region, culture and preference of the bride. Traditionally, the bride chooses to wear a vibrant colored lehenga, usually red or pink. It is adorned and embroidered with gold or silver thread- work, broad lacy patterns on the border and semi-precious stones. A lehenga is a full ankle-length, pleated skirt usually made from silk, crepe and chiffon materials, worn along with a choli (a crop-top blouse) which has a lot of embroidered work as well.

As the big day approaches, invitations along with mithai “sweets” are sent out to everyone. All the cousins and friends of the bride and the groom prepare speeches and choreograph dances using the latest Bollywood tunes for the bride and groom. The groom’s side gifts small gold and diamond rings to the bride’s sisters as a souvenir. These rings signify that the groom is now like a brother to the sisters and will protect them always. The Bhajan commemorates the weddings celebrations. It’s a puja (a prayer meeting) with artists who sing devotional songs worshipping lord Ganesh or Goddess Durga.

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