An Indian wedding – day three …

The reception on the final day was the most Western event of the whole wedding, and Western dress was the order of the day, so there were no more anxious moments, anticipating unravelling saris.

We started with what is usually called ‘pre-drinks’ – and which I thought would be the only drinks at a dry weddding – but how wrong I was! We gathered in a hotel bedroom for Champagne, gin, beer, rum, whisky … basically everything we’d bought at the state liquor shop, and which now had to be finished before we left the next day.

Then, when it was time to go, a whole host of sneaky drink- holders appeared; wine was poured into water flasks, whisky into hip flasks, gin into water bottles … there was even Bristol Cream sherry being secreted away for a surreptitious swig during the evening.

At the hotel, we enjoyed the sunset in a beautiful courtyard –

The bride and groom had a sumptuous sofa on a dais –

but there was no time for them to sit and enjoy it as there was a very long receiving line, and endless photos for them to get through –

Hundreds of waiters circulated with delicious nibbles – I particularly liked the tandoori paneer – and a selection of mini mocktails … although they weren’t ‘mock’ for very long once the hipflasks came out.

The food and beverage manager was very keen to give us a tour of his kitchen, where he can feed 5,000 people a day, he told us proudly. That’s a mind-boggling number for someone like me, who has to plan ahead to cook for any more than four people. He gave us a demonstration of how to cook a naan in a tandoori oven

And then showed us the wedding cake, just having the final touches applied … macarons, my favourite!

After dinner, Sam gave a brilliant Best Man’s speech –

and there was rapturous applause and a few moist eyes by the end.

After the groom’s speech, it was time for the choreographed dance routines. There was one by the bride’s family, the groom’s family, the bride and groom, the British Asian friends, and finally a surprise dance by the non-Asian friends, who had been practising in secret for several days –

Luckily friends’ parents were exempt from this … luckily for us, and luckily for the audience.

Then the dancing proper started – wild and loud and involving a lot of leaping and waving your arms in the air. I could manage the arm waving, but my leaping was more like prancing; sprightly but definitely not wild.

And instead of dancing around our handbags, we danced around the photographers, who were still in the thick of it, right up to the bitter end, snapping away. Their stamina and dedication were truly impressive.

And that was it … three days of celebrations were over, and I’d worn five outfits, eaten my body weight in paneer, learnt several new dances, and above all, had a fantastic time.

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An Indian wedding – day two …

Day two was actually straight after day one – but due to travelling and intermittent Wifi, this post has been languishing in my notebook for a while.

Day two started for us with a ceremony for the groom, attended by his family and friends, to ask Ganesh to bless the marriage.

Hursh, the groom, sat on a dais with his family and the priest and they performed a set of rituals involving pouring petalled water onto flowers on a tray, spooning yogurt onto a statue of Ganesh and then cleaning it off, while the priest chanted and tapped a metal spoon on a tray.

There were only 3 photographers at this event, so I assume the bride must have been holding a similar ceremony, with the other 5 or 6 photographers in attendance. Even so, each one had an assistant to move the lights and hand over different lenses, so it was still a lot of people running around in front of the action.

Next came a gift giving ceremony, where the groom’s mother’s brothers handed out gifts to the groom’s extended family. There was a viewing table set up beforehand where we could all go and peruse the gifts – rather like eyeing up the raffle prizes before you decide whether or not to buy a ticket –

The final ceremony of the morning was the turmeric smearing. Everyone in the groom’s party lined up to smear turmeric paste on him. Some just daintily dabbed a little on his face, while others lifted up his shirt and rubbed it all over his body or plastered his hair with it. I tried to imagine a similar ritual in England where the groom was ceremoniously coated in Worcestershire sauce and took it all in good part, laughing heartily throughout – but I’m afraid my imagination failed me.

The most exciting part of the ceremony for me was having my sari professionally tied and pleated – I had been a little concerned that if I did it myself I might unravel at a vital point in the proceedings and create an embarrassing incident.

Two sari ladies were on hand and we all had appointments to be professionally draped, pinned and tied.

They gave us a variety of different styles – and I ended up with the Indian-old-lady-flab style, which I feel I carried off with aplomb –

The men all had turbans tied by a local chap who was so overcome at tying so many western men into traditional Gujarati turbans, that he asked for a photo –

Sam, as Best Man, had a particularly magnificent turban –

I now know that a turban can be tied in approximately two minutes … as long as you know what you’re doing, of course –

And they should – of course – only be worn by men …

The groom set off for the wedding in a golden coach. He was clutching a decorated coconut, which made it rather difficult for him to negotiate the steep steps, but he clambered aboard along with his family and the Best Man, and we followed along much more mundanely in a fleet of taxis.

We all gathered a few hundred metres from the wedding venue along with a troop of drummers, and then danced along the road, to be met by the bride’s family – also dancing – who invited us in.

The bride and groom, both looking resplendent, exchanged garlands and were showered with rose petals – no hay fever in India, it would appear.

Then they sat on a pillared and garlanded dais for the wedding ceremony.

The ceremony itself lasted over 3 hours and was all in Gujarati, so it was rather difficult to follow – and also difficult to see due to the full contingent of 8 photographers and their assistants all standing between the wedding party and the guests.

But it transpired that nobody is expected to sit and watch it all – people sit and chat to their friends, or go off and have dinner – as the food was available all evening.

Finally the bride and groom got up to leave and the bride became hysterical. She was crying so much that she had to be supported by her father and sister, who were also crying. The Western guests were shocked, but Indian guests assured us that it’s traditional to sob heartbrokenly and she wasn’t really being dragged off against her will.

And then it was the end – no real finale, just the tears and then they disappeared in a car, before reappearing for dinner ten minutes later – even the bride and groom have to wait until all the guests have been served before they’re allowed to eat.

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