My First Big Fat Indian Wedding

Edited by Tasmiyah Randeree

Just as winter began to creep up on Canada, I was whisked away on a trip to India for my first Indian wedding (and actual wedding in general). I know, it’s strange. I have quite a few South Asian friends who seem to go to weddings every other weekend, but it only took me nineteen years to get to one. Nevertheless, I was excited.

After a short layover in Paris, my family was finally off to the motherland. We landed in Delhi in the dead of the night, and desperately searched for a place to sleep. There was something about this airport that made me feel instantly comfortable. It might have been because the colour scheme reminded me of my house or because I’d been there before. But it felt nice to feel comfortable even when I was thousands of miles away from Toronto. I thought that my trip was off to a good start.

Now something that is immediately evident when one lands in India, is the difference in air quality. As the plane descended, I could barely see anything because of the smog. The air felt heavier than what I was used to in Toronto, and as I peered through the windows of the airport, I could barely see anything in the distance. I began to think about the effects climate change has had on my motherland, and how anybody could deny it if they saw the state of the smog outside. This climate debacle continued in the airport when I saw something utterly ridiculous. There was an advertisement for cleaner air sponsored by ExxonMobil. The oil company that Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s former Secretary of State, had run prior to assuming his job in government. It is ridiculous and hypocritical of them to pretend they are concerned with helping a developing country’s climate when the oil and gas industry does nothing but make our environment worse. Anyway, I digress...

After ten hours in an airport lounge, my family was off to our final destination: Jaipur. After hugging my family hello, I was immediately confronted with bumper to bumper Indian traffic. Driving in India is truly unlike anything I have ever experienced. Traffic laws are thrown out of the window, and people drive on both lanes, honking constantly to alert people of their presence as they weave throughout traffic. Sometimes you might stop to let a cow pass by; one thing is for sure, the streets of India are never boring.

The next few days felt like a blur. We shopped for wedding attire. I was amazed by the countless outfits and fabrics, all in bright colours. My family and I played dress up and I fell in love with a gorgeous lehenga which was sadly very much out of my budget. A lehenga is a two-piece garment made up of a skirt and top. In the end, I settled on a less pricey duo which was just as beautiful. As I left the store, I made a mental note to buy more lottery tickets upon my arrival back to Canada, so I could buy as many lehengas as I wanted.

After a couple days of spending time with family, it was time to move to the marriage hall. The venue where my cousin was getting married at had lodgings attached for our family to stay in. The rooms reminded me of my dorm room at Morrison Hall, with bathrooms attached and the electricity activation triggered by keys in the key slot. That night we slept restlessly, in anticipation of what the next day would bring.

I learned something very quickly about Indian weddings; they’re all about functions, functions and more functions. The bride was from North India which meant that we had to infuse a lot of extra ceremonies, different from my Bengali family’s traditions. The first event was a short prayer ceremony for my cousin, Kenny, the groom. The young women in my family were asked to do “aartha” for him in front of the guests. I nervously practised the motions before going up on stage; “feet, knees, shoulders, forehead, forehead” I whispered to myself as I mimicked the movements, inducing laughter from my elders. Soon I was called up, and I found myself smiling throughout the process. It felt nice to partake in my culture.

The event ended and people went their own ways, either to nap or to get ready for the wedding which was due to start at 9pm but at 5pm, my aunt came around and told us that the wedding had been brought forward to start at 6:30 pm!  Panic ensued as my family quickly changed and got ready for the wedding. The bride’s North Indian culture dictated that the groom had to enter the venue on a white horse, so my mother and I trudged up the uneven road in five-inch heels to join the wedding party. I saw my cousin atop a bejewelled white horse that was moving at snail's pace. Family members banged drums and danced in front of him, shutting down traffic on a tiny road. Shopkeepers lined the windows to watch the procession. We danced in the Jaipur heat until I was greeted by strands of golden marigolds draped around my neck by the bride’s family. I sought refuge from the heat and my aching feet in the wedding hall, waiting for everybody else to file in. 

Members of our family waited on stage with my cousin, to greet the bride. Finally, I could hear drum beats so loud,it felt like the earth was shaking; the bride had arrived. Her family members carried her under a white canopy, and she was draped in an elaborate red sari. She was carried out and met my cousin on the stage for a short prayer ceremony. After the ceremony ended, I looked at my aunt and asked: “So, they’re married right?” She looked at me in disbelief, “No, they’re getting married at midnight.”

I blanched, it was already 10 pm! But my aunt explained that the pandit, Hindu priest, had determined that the most auspicious time for them to get married was at midnight and so we waited. In the meantime, dinner was served. I filled my plate up with different curries, sweets and snacks. I munched happily as I fought off jet lag and exhaustion. I was determined to make it to the wedding. After dinner, many people began to depart from the venue due to the hour, leaving only close family members to witness the actual wedding ceremony. We waited for the call to come. Finally, as midnight closed in, Kenny and Sakshi were married with both families on either side. In a flurry of congratulations and affection, both families were effectively united. It was a powerful event to witness. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.