Today is the first post of a serie entitled « Weddings of the world ». A few years ago, I was very lucky to meet an incredible bunch of people from all over the world. We attended the same international program in the US and became friends for life. As life goes on, I am now invited everywhere on the planet to attend weddings. Needless to say that it’s a great excuse to go explore new horizons and to discover a new culture through the eyes of some true locals. Cherry on top of the cake, it gives us the opportunity to reunite and have a lot of fun… As I said, I am very lucky.
To kick off this serie, I am taking you to an Indian wedding, which I attended in November 2011 in New Delhi.
One wedding, five receptions !
That’s right ! You read well : FIVE receptions !!! I wanted to experience an Indian wedding and my friend – the bride – clearly delivered ! One particularity of Indian wedding is that the bride and the groom party separately until the actual wedding ceremony. I was part of « Team Bride » and therefore participated in the first three events with her family and friends.
First, there was a welcome reception. My friend G – the Bride – had organized this little get-together for her friends coming from abroad. I must say that we all really appreciated this opportunity to have our friend just to ourselves before the big day. The place was great too : a very nice restaurant with a tree in the middle of it, a buffet with more food than anyone can wish for and an open-bar + DJ. You can imagine what a fun reunion it was !
The following day, G had planned a casual dinner at her parents’ for her closest family members and friends. The place was crowded but their sense of hospitality was quite exceptional. G’s mom and cousins made us feel so welcome and special. The home-cooked meal was exquisite. The night ended very late as we started dancing in the middle of the living room. A good way to rehearse some Bollywood moves before the big day.
Then came the “Mehendi & Choodah” ceremony, the day before the wedding. Picture this : open-bar by the pool, some dancing, all the girls getting henna on their hands, more dancing, the blessing of the bride by all the guests and of course even more dancing. Fun anecdote : as my skin is very very white, the lady who was putting henna on my hands decided to put some lemon juices on them to speed to darkening process. Of course I was forbidden from washing my hands so I had to go around with sticky hands all afternoon. Not my best memory.
The traditional wedding ceremony took place the following day in the garden of the Hyatt Regency in Delhi. According to tradition, the bride’s family waits outside of the wedding venue to welcome the groom and its entourage. Picture the groom – dressed like a maharaja – on a horse (sometimes even an elephant) surrounded by his family, his friends and a marching band. Of course, everyone danced. Except that while they were expressing their joy, we were standing still and had to wait for them to finish. They danced outside for over an hour while we were watching patiently in the sun in our saris … Inside, the bride was also waiting and was super pissed. Why ? Because religious rules prohibited a wedding outdoor beyond a certain time. And as you may guess, when the groom finally reached the hotel lobby, it was too late for a ceremony outside. Goodbye beautiful floral arrangements, pool side and pretty chairs. We had to move to party inside, in a gloomy room. What a shame ! Fortunately, the ceremony did not last too long. Within a half hour we were back outside for the cocktail.
The wedding reception took place the following day. It was a nice reception, occidental style with tuxedos and cocktail dresses.
What I loved in this wedding
From the moment we set foot in India until the moment we left, we felt taken care of. The bride and groom went beyond their ways to make us feel included. I had flown from thousands of miles away to see my friend and saw her almost everyday. I really appreciated that. Especially because I can only imagine how nerve wracking it must have been for her to plan this massive 5 days long event.
This brings me to the main takeaway. When you organize a big wedding, with guests coming from abroad etc…, plan for more than just one day. Why ? That way, you have time to actually enjoy the presence of your guests and they get to enjoy your hometown/country more thanks to your events and tips.
My friend made a lot of efforts to please all of her guests. And yes, when you have people flying from everywhere in the world, it can be tricky. Yet, she managed to provide different food options to accommodate dietary restrictions. Same thing for the music, there was a little bit of everything for everyone.
We had soooo much fun ! Indians really know how to party and their energy on the dance floor is communicative. We had an incredible time
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A very brief snapshot at New Delhi and Taj Mahal
We were very busy all week with the wedding events. However, we managed to find some time to walk around old and “new” Delhi and even to drive to Taj Mahal for the day.
Welcome to Delhi …
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The Red Fort
After a very chaotic ride, welcome to Agra …
It is customary to make a wish …
We stayed at Hotel Sage. It was affordable, clean (which is not always a given in India) and rather comfortable. But it was several years ago so don’t take my word for it and check more recent recommendations.