Luckily enough, I got to attend a wedding this week! Before I left the US, friends had told me that Indian weddings are colorful, and ceremonious, and spectacular. I had a bit of a tiny far-fetched hope of seeing a wedding while here because of that, but I did not truly expect to be a guest to one.
It is kind of funny, but I did not know the bride or groom before this week. Though both Sarath and Lakshmi live in the US, both of their families are in India. The groom is my roommate’s mother’s co-worker, who extended an invitation to my roommate plus two of her friends. I happened to be in the right place at the right time, as it goes, to be one of those two friends.
We traveled to Guntur in the neighbor state of Andhra Pradesh for the wedding. I stay in the state Telangana, which only separated from Andhra Pradesh in the last few years. On Tuesday afternoon, we took the hour-long flight and hour-long car ride to our hotel, then had the rest of the evening to ourselves. Fiona and I walked around to see shop lights and food stalls, also hoping to catch any residual holiday celebrations. Tuesday was August 15th, India’s 71st Independence Day (or 70th anniversary of Independence); Monday was Krishna Janmashtami, the god Krishna’s birthday. We did not find much by that time, but night walks are sweet on their own anyhow.
On Wednesday morning, we went over to Sarath’s family home. A band was prepping in the hallway while family members calmly went about making other preparations. Everyone was so considerate of us. We ate breakfast talking with Sarath’s grandparents, even though we speak exactly no Telugu. I just generally think grandparents are the best, so that was a treat. We witnessed pre-wedding rituals on the groom’s part, including smearing different pastes on him and walking down the road for a blessing ceremony. Sarath’s brother and sister-in-law were especially friendly to us because his sister-in-law is also American, kindly explaining the events and contexts.
The main wedding ceremony took place Wednesday night. I think there were hundreds of guests, but it did not feel too crowded. It is normal to not stay until the end; some chosen auspicious times are kind of inconvenient, though this one (8:27 pm) was fine. The ceremony had many parts and rituals, in its entirety spanning several hours. While the bride and groom were on stage nearly the whole time, guests could freely go out for a chat or downstairs for a meal.
A couple times, guests filed onto the (very pretty, colorful, flower-decorated) stage to bless the pair by sprinkling fragrant rice on their heads. We participated, as well – taking off our shoes, adding to the piles of rice on their heads, and handing over our gift envelopes. I appreciated so much how welcoming family members were and how visible the couple’s joy was at times. I do thank them, wish them well, and hope to meet them again in the US.
Before the wedding, figuring out appropriate gifts and outfits had been a minor source of stress and scramble. Not that we doubted so, but it was worthwhile. We stayed until about the end of the day’s ceremony, but we had to leave for the airport at 6:00 the next morning. I made it back on campus just in time for my class at 11:00, the beginning of a regular Thursday.