Over the last 4 years I have had the intriguing experience of witnessing many of my close friends entering marital bliss. These unique moments have been captured, documented and stir fond memories of some wonderful stories.
Love v/s arranged marriages
In India, traditionally weddings are "arranged": families first meet to ensure compatibility of both the girl and the boy across many levels — religion, caste, lifestyles, horoscopes, age and so on. Only after this, the couple gets to meet each other and take things forward. I remember a time when alliances belonging to categories outside the arranged system, were not entirely welcomed. A phenomenon that has recently caught my attention was the kind of wedding that materialized from both love and arranged beliefs. I would like to call it "The Mélange." Most communities in India are deeply rooted within a large and connected family setting. For a “Mélange” to see the light of day would ideally involve both families finding a middle path between most aspects of love and arranged beliefs. The result is a spectacular event – an assortment of relatives, friends and random important people from both families crossing over to reach a similar plane of thought; resulting in a kind of intoxicating synergy in the air that I've had the good fortune of experiencing.
The herd, as the term suggests, is a fun congregation of people from across the world who come together to give their blessings. Long lost cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and neighbors become one in their interest in not just the bride and groom but also naïve, unsuspecting friends such as me. Very strategically they pop the elusive question "When are you giving us the good news?" — always the most common conversation starter. The buck doesn’t stop there! They express interest in what I do for a living. I still haven't found the apt way of explaining what I do as an interaction designer to them. A lot of them still think I make clothes. In rare cases where I'm almost successful in communicating what I do for a living, it somehow ends up with me designing logos! In most cases, I find it interesting to meet people in the herd, some whom I haven't met in a long time, and at times, I make new friends.
Indian weddings have quite the variety when it comes to ceremonies. They are unique across different regions and religions within India. An interesting aspect I've noticed in some, were the fact that the ceremonies were mixed quite gracefully – especially with North and South Indian weddings. In recent times, ceremonies that are popular in the North are also seen in traditional South Indian weddings, for example, the Sangeet.
Here are photos from some Hindu weddings.
Sangeet, from Madhumita and Aditya's Wedding
The Sangeet is a Punjabi ceremony that takes place a few days before the wedding. The event is filled with music, dance and followed by a banquet dinner.
Baraat, from Manasvi and Gaurav's Wedding
The Baraat is the procession of the groom's arrival to the wedding venue, on a white mare. The groom's family accompanies him through the journey, usually with a band of musicians and dancers.
Maalai, from Madhumita and Aditya's Wedding
The South Indian, more specifically, the Tamil version of the garlanding ceremony is called the Maalai Mathal, which signifies the unification of the bride and the groom. Their maternal uncles lift them on their shoulders during this event.
Oonjal, from Madhumita and Aditya's Wedding
The couple sit on a swing decorated with flowers, while elderly women pray, sing, and offer them milk, sugar and fruit. It is said that the chains of the swing signify a link to the heavens.
Saptapadi, from Manasvi and Gaurav's Wedding
Phera, from Divya and Vilok's Wedding
Saptapathi/Saptapadi, Phera, or seven steps, is one of the most important rituals of Hindu marriages. The bride and the groom walk around the sacred fire seven times reciting mantras, signifying their bond.
Arundhathi, from Anisha and Balu's Wedding
Arundhathi is a star of the Saptha Rishi (or the Great Bear) constellation. The groom shows the bride the star as symbolized by whole hearted devotion and purity.
Nalangu, from Akila and Ram's Wedding
Nalangu is a fun event filled with games on the evening of the wedding day.
Here's my favorite part. In every wedding I've been to, I try my level best to try out every single dish, sample every single drink and enjoy the grand and lavish menus. Being a vegetarian, I've often heard my friends say I miss out on some of the most amazing non-vegetarian stuff. Well, maybe one day. Here's a 19 item menu card from one of the days of a three-day wedding. I still dream about that banana leaf served meal!
I thank all the couples for letting me use their photographs in this post; and to Shiba, Hannah, and my parents for their support.