My Big Fat Indian Wedding

Growing up, I watched a lot of Bollywood movies, most of which ended with an extravagant celebration of marriage. Despite being from India, I never had the chance to attend an Indian wedding, since we always visited India in December during the Kamurta, an inauspicious time for a wedding. Luckily, my uncle ensured the dates of my cousin’s recent wedding matched up with ISL’s Spring Break, so I finally got to attend my first Indian wedding!

We spent two whole days in Ahmedabad shopping for four different sets of clothes, jewelry, and footwear which the rest of my family had two full months to do. We’d try on 3-4 heavy Indian outfits for each occasion, and putting them on took forever; it was quite the ordeal… We would then drop the bomb of “we need these outfits altered by tomorrow” on the poor tailor. For reference, it takes several months to tailor an outfit during the wedding season. 

Soon, we were on our way to Morbi, where my cousin’s wedding was set to take place. We arrived during the Mehndi ceremony, where I excitedly rushed to greet all my relatives that I hadn’t seen in years. I then sat down with my cousins to get my mehndi (henna) done. Everyone gets mehndi on their hands, while the bride also gets it on her feet. The second ceremony was the Lagan Lakhya, for which we reluctantly woke up at 5 am the next morning. In the Lagan Lakhya, the priest blesses the union of the two families by blessing the Kankotri (the wedding invitation). Both ceremonies are traditionally performed separately by the bride and groom’s families in their respective homes. 

Later that afternoon, we drove to the resort in Rajkot, where the remainder of the pre-wedding ceremonies were held. These were much more intimate and therefore attended by direct family members. The celebrations began with a floral-themed pool party where we all sang, danced, played games in teams representing bride vs. groom, and threw each other into the pool! 

The next morning, we participated in the Haldi ceremony, where friends and family paint the bride and groom’s faces with turmeric paste. It was set up beautifully with yellow fabrics, red seats, floral decorations, and rose petals leading the path to a small stage. All the attendees wore yellow, while the bride and groom wore lavender. After the priest performed some rituals with the groom, bride, and their parents, we could finally lather the bride and groom’s faces with the haldi paste! I, along with a few other family members, performed a group choreography with Bhavisha, the bride, which ended with us showering the couple with rose petals.

Soon after the Haldi, we rushed to get changed for the Mandvo, where we all wore matching Bandhani patterned outfits. The families had arranged for makeup and hair artists from a local salon to help all of us look our best! We then attended the Mandvo, which, thankfully, was indoors in an air-conditioned hall (for reference, it was 45°C outside). The purpose of the Mandvo is to prepare the stage for the marriage and to invite the gods to be present, so that they can bless the marriage and the couple.

We then had time to rest before my FAVOURITE event: Bollywood night! The venue was an outdoor space with a lit-up dance floor, a stage, speakers, lights, and lots of cameramen. Being an established foodie, the main thing I cared about was the huge buffet where I ate far more than I could handle. Then came the magical entry of the couple, where they walked onto the stage to start the night with a romantic dance. For the rest of the night, my family members and I performed songs and dances they put together and the night ended with Garba, a traditional Gujarati dance. 

The next morning we left the resort to go back to Morbi for the grand finale: the marriage ceremony. Because it was the most important evening, we spent the entire day getting ready. The venue was a huge grassy garden with thousands of chairs for guests, a stage in the middle (mandap) for the rituals, a small photoshoot area, and many decorations. The marriage went from 7pm until 12am and I was unaware of how many things I would be helping out with as the cousin of the bride. Some of the tasks were almost impossible in my 5-inch heels and ridiculously heavy chaniya choli. Finally, at about 1am when everything was done, we went to the family buffet area and ate dinner before going back home to sleep after a chaotic but very fun week. 

I always thought marriages would be about shopping, food, or stunning outfits, but those are just a fraction of the marriage experience. The best part is how all the family members come together from around the world for the celebration. The memories we made are what I will remember over any of the outfits or sets of jewellery I bought. Although no Indian marriages are the same, they all share the element of uniting families, which is just a magical feeling.