Last December, my husband and I were invited to an Indian wedding in India. Yes, this was the real deal. Realizing that most of our close Indian friends are already married, we couldn’t say no to this opportunity. We bought our plane tickets to Delhi, not knowing what to expect. Little did we realize that those for four days would be the most fun, busy, charming and beautifully shocking experiences of our lives (so far).
On the first day, we went to a “casual” welcoming dinner. I realized then, that the “Western” definition of casual (a small group of people coming over for pizza in their jeans), is very different from the Indian definition of casual (a group of over 500 people with food from around the world, candle lit dinner, and high fashion saris). We ate, we drank…we attempted to dance…we drank…and we stumbled home.
On the second day, there was a ‘casual’ lunch and dinner, with more dancing, wonderful food, and enough yellow and orange flowers to make you believe you were staring directly at the sun. There was also a hand decorating party where my hands were beautifully covered in henna.
By the third day (the wedding day), I was getting used to this “casual” lifestyle. Arriving at the wedding, I realized that saris were a form of high fashion: the bright colours, the detailed stitches, the interesting patterns and of course, the gold. Everyone looked beautiful in their saris, and I certainly felt more beautiful when I had mine on. Being on the groom’s side, we had to show up about one kilometer from the wedding venue and wait for the groom to arrive.
When he arrived on his chariot (I am not kidding, he had two horses pulling him in a Cinderella carriage), a group of drummers provided us with a beat, and we were instructed to dance in front of the chariot, leading him to the bride. People threw money as we danced in the middle of the street, while cars honked their horns, and people chanted. I will never forget this experience.
My husband and I had 27 people at our wedding. When we saw over 600 people, it was a bit overwhelming. In fact, I don’t even think I know 600 people. When the bride appeared in her gold sari covered in diamonds, my jaw dropped. She was radiant and just full of joy. For the ceremony, we sat under an area when both men and women had to cover their hair. An hour after the ceremony, they were married and we were offered more food and drinks than one could eat in their lifetime. You name it, they had it (or they would get it for you).
Here are 5 things you need to know as a Westerner going to a traditional Indian wedding in India:
1. Forget about sleep. There is no time to sleep when you get back at 4 AM from the wedding and then have to get ready for the next day. Enjoy every minute of it.
2. Be on your best “healthy eating behaviour” the week before you leave. There is an abundance of flavourful food at Indian weddings; you really shouldn’t be splurging on treats before you leave. Save the extra calories for when you arrive, because the food in India is unbelievable. Be open to trying new foods.
3. Act cool when dancing. Most Indians can dance and they can dance well. Know that you are going to look hilarious when dancing next to them, but have fun with it. Let them guide you (it is guaranteed they will try to teach you some moves for your own embarrassment’s sake).
4. Wearing a sari is a MUST. It’s a once in a lifetime chance, so wear one. Get someone to help you choose material to make a stunning sari. They are high fashion, so have fun with it. You will also need someone to tie it when you get there as well. Try to have assistance pre-arranged (even if it is with your hotel).
5. Talk to people. Yes, there are lots of people at Indian weddings, but in my experience everyone I met was kind, humble, and happy that you made the trip. Not to mention, they are so helpful with explaining the cultural traditions throughout the day. Don’t be shy.