Multi Cultural Traditions
Today is the first day of spring and Holi, the Hindu Festival of Color just happened. This has gotten me thinking about Indian Weddings and some of the wonderful crossovers we have seen and all of the beautiful traditions.
When I was a little girl I was OBSESSED with Bollywood movies and loved watching them for the dancing and the music. They were often shown on Saturday afternoon on one of the local Washington DC stations. My sister Nicole and I would use bed sheets as sarees and pretend to be Indian princesses and dancers. It was one of the few times as a brunette child surrounded by blondies that I was proud of my dark curly hair. Indian weddings is a subject near and dear to my heart.
Holi is becoming very popular. It is traditionally celebrated in India and Nepal and is also known as the “festival of Colors” or the “festival of love”. It represents the victory of good over evil, the end of winter and the beginning of spring and a time to forgive, laugh and repair relationships. Big hugs to everyone. The celebration starts the night before Holi with Holika Dahan where people perform rituals before a bonfire and pray that their internal evil is destroyed. The next day on Holi people smear each other with colored powder and water balloons filled with color, sing and dance in the street and celebrate. Some of the traditional drinks are made with bhang aka cannabis. Note to self, plan a trip to India in the spring
Passover, a holiday of freedom from slavery, Easter, a holiday of transcendence, forgiveness and rebirth and Holi a holiday of forgiveness and spiritual cleansing all take place in the spring. Casting aside old demons and being a new person, blessed and reborn.
Chuppas and Mandaps
Multi Cultural Weddings
We have done quite a few multi cultural weddings and try to blend in the traditions that will be respectful to the parents, uncles and aunties, as well as celebrate the union of a couple using their unique voice.
One of my favorite combinations is Jewish/Hindi. The Mandap is very similar to a Chuppah and so many things can be done to combine the two and be respectful to both traditions. I have worked with a minister who specializes in multicultural ceremonies named Mary-Rose Engle. She explained to me that there is a blessing done on the marriage in both religions, the Jewish version uses wine, and the hindu, fire. Ceremonies that blend the two religions can be quite beautiful and poetic.
Hindu weddings take place over many days and there are many opportunities to connect. I love the tradition of having Mehndi parties before the wedding. There are whole pinterest boards with pictures of Mehndi designs. Be warned, click on this and you will go down a rabbit hole. This party is a pre-wedding event where intricate patterns are applied to the bride’s hands and feet using hennah, sometimes the grooms name is hidden in the patterns and he has to find it. How romantic.
The groom enters with a great procession called a Baraat. Customarily he travels on a white mare accompanied by family members and guests. This event can become a party all to itself, with bands, dancers, elaborate clothing and singing. In north Hindu weddings the groom is presented with garlands and aarti and are welcomed at the wedding venue with shehnais an instrument that is similar to an oboe and a sign of prosperity and success in many south asian cultures. The vehicle of choice is not limited to a white horse, often elephants, motorcycles and luxury vehicles are used. We are planning decor for a rickshaw, which I think is a nice, understated touch.
Types of Outfits for Indian Weddings
Highlight on Sabyashi Mukherjee
One of the best parts of Indian weddings are the outfits. Brides typically wear Lenghah which are long skirts with a matching top and shawls, Kalidaar Kurtas, which are fitted dresses with mid length flared skirts, and of course Sarees, which are dresses with a matching top and pants that are made of a single cloth, intricately tucked and wrapped and draped over the shoulder. The fabric is often beautifully embroidered and beaded and the entire ensemble is accessorized with elaborate earrings, bracelets, nose rings and hair orinimation. Sometimes the jewelry is made of flowers and blossoms.
One designer that every bride should keep an eye on is Sabyasachi Mukerjee from Kolkata
Is an Indian designer who does an excellent job of mixing ancient designs with contemporary sensibilities. His work is AMAZING. Even though it is considered couture, the prices are typically under $1000 and should be considered for any special event or gala and not just for weddings. He has a showroom on the West Coast that is definitely going to be on my list of places to visit soon.
He uses a lot of traditional techniques like Gota Work, Bandhani, Kantha and Block Printing and tries to incorporate ancient traditions into modern designs. My heart melts when I see his work.
At the Reception
Bhangra and the Sangeet
A great wedding site for modern Indian brides is Maharani Weddings. It is run by … who is a wonderful woman with a terrific sense of style and taste. She has managed to elevate American Indian weddings to a place of luxury and refinement.
The wedding reception is a blast. Tons of delicious food and a get down party often with Punjabi music and bhangra, a traditional Punjab folk dance. All of the dancing, singing and celebrations reminds me of the rowdy Irish side of my family minus all the beer and whiskey. There are also special performances like the the Sangeet which is choreographed dance done by female relatives and the bride. Don’t be shy if invited to an Indian wedding, you will have so much fun. If you don’t like spicy food, don’t be afraid, usually there is a buffet and there is something for everyone. also be prepared for lots of outfit changes and a guest list of 300 or more. It’s a big deal.