Indian weddings are world-famous for being huge and fancy. 2000 guests? Not unusual in India. Families exchanging cars, apartments or a half kilo pure gold? Yes, for sure. Many Hindu families start saving money when a daughter is born, just to be able to pay her dowry when she is getting married.
Sis borrowed me a beautiful fancy dress: a shiny one in pink colour with matching gold details, and off we went.
The was a South Indian Muslim wedding, and unlike anything I’ve seen before. It was like a mix of Indian and Arabic culture. Parts of the service was in Arabic, and it made me feel like home. (It is not so strange as there is a lot of Arabic speakers where I live in Sweden.)
In the Indo-Muslim traditions a weddings are usually going on in two different places, in two different halls. Men in one and women in another. This is so that men and women can be totally separated, and the bridal couple will not even see each other as they do the rituals. In this wedding they had made it slightly different and only put up a partition between the female and male guests.
The bride and the bridegroom were placed on two stages in a way they could not see each other. Me and sis sat down in the lady’s side and we were lucky to find seats.
By coincidence a big group state level politicians were there. One of the big names was the son of a previous chief minister of Tamil Nadu, and apparently a friend of the bride’s family. His name is Stalin, but he is not that Stalin.
(He is the man holding a mic to the right) Next time we saw him was in a TV debate. And in the coming weeks his face appeared more and more often on political advertisements, news channels and live casts from political meetings.
The groom is the young man in black suit and black hat, in the picture above.
The far most beautiful person in the room was of course the bride herself. She was dressed in a bright yellow saree and richly decorated in gold: multiple bracelets, heavy earrings, a big tikka on her forehead and a thick layer of bangles on her wrists.
The same moment as the ceremony was over, a side-door in front of us opened and a man came in. First I took him for a lost male relative trying to make a move into the ladies area, but he was not. He must have been a part of the staff. He gave up a shout with a loud voice, using one of the few expressions in Tamil I could understand: It is time to eat!
Immediately all the aunties around us got on their feet and suddenly the plastic chairs were hurried to the sides, and everywhere people around us squeezed themselves out as quickly as they could. “Really?” Was all I could think. “All they can think of is how to get down to the food?” We decided to do things properly and queued to go up to the bride and give her our greetings.
In India wedding celebrations seems abundant. Instead of only going to weddings hosted by close relatives or friends, as common in my culture, a person living in India will be invited to tons of weddings. Your uncles colleagues daughter is getting married? Don’t be surprised if they suddenly remember to invite you!
As the ceremonies might be just as thrilling as exhausting, boring, or simply just inconvenient, the bridal couple is not really the big reason people are there. It seems like some of the guests were coming just to enjoy a good dinner.
During Indian celebrations the food will not be served on plates, but instead on big pieces of banana leaves. The first time A told me about this I was laughing so hard and almost didn’t believe him. Seeing this on the wedding reception was yet another thing I could cross on my in-India bucket list.
On the left side of the leave you can see Chicken Tikka Masala. It tasted surprisingly similar to the one you can find pre-marinated on almost any food store in Sweden. The difference was just that here it is called Chicken 65 and is much spicier.
Next to it I got a big chunk of steamed rice flour called Idiyappam, topped with what I think was the creamy cashew nut sauce Korma. Next is a fried bread called Paratha. In the very right upper corner they put some Raita, flavored yogurt with raw onions. We also got some pieces of mutton and an extremely sweet desert which tasted like a mash-up of the Indian dessert Kesari and the Arabic sweet Baklava.
Can you see that there is a huge empty space on the right side of the leave? As soon as we started eating a server came and placed and pile of the special rice dish Biriyani. I can’t really explain what Biriyani is, without making it sound like a spicy, slow cooked kind of meat risotto. You sort of have to eat it to understand.
One of the downs with eating on the banana leaves is that you have to use your hands. Luckily I had already gotten a lot of practice with that already and I had no issues shuffling the food into my mouth (this time). I did not get used to the spices yet. And – oh – it was burning. The yogurt sauce wasn’t really relieving as it had onions in it. But the sweet kesari did help.
When we were done eating we got out immediately and to my big luck I found that they were handing out ice-creams too. It was not until I had finished the whole ice-cream the chilli stopped bothering my mouth.
If you are not so much into eating you can also consider attending a wedding to meet your long lost second-cousins, gossip about people’s dresses, finding suitable unmarried youngsters to present your grandchildren to, or strengthen relationships with your most valid costumers.
In Indian weddings…
- If you are invited you might bring your family as well. The more the merrier!
- You should wear all the gold, glitter and colours you can find.
- Attending the ceremonies is not so important. Just make sure you are there in time for the reception.
- During a reception you are supposed to first give greetings to the couple and eat after that. But if you make a shortcut and eat first you will not be the only one.
- Make sure to be in a group photo with the couple. How are they otherwise supposed to remember you were there?
- Eating time is for eating. Shuffle all the food you can in and enjoy the taste, but don’t wast time for talking. If you sit too long someone else will get impatient waiting for an empty seat.
- When you are done eating you can immediately go home and enjoy feeling overly full.
Did I forget something important? Do you have anything to share about Indian weddings? Please leave a note below!