Carrie and I have always dreamed of going to an Indian wedding in India.
These multi-day affairs are completely different from weddings back home and usually feature some combination of a parade, the bride and groom on thrones, endless amounts of food and, at times, an elephant.
Now, with both of us in India, we finally had our chance.
Inviting the Whole Class
It all started in February, when Sanjay – one of Carrie’s yoga training class teachers – invited all his students to his sister, Sarika’s, wedding.
By the time the happy day arrived, the class was long-over and a new one had begun. Only Carrie, Lauren, Tara and a few other stragglers from their group remained.
First, Carrie and Lauren got some beautiful henna in Rishikesh. Then, Ashish (our good buddy and childhood friend of Sanjay) saved us all the embarrassment of showing up in our backpacking attire and led us through the local market directly to the saris and kurtas that we needed.
Wedding Night 1: Henna, Dancing & Food
The first evening was attended only by those few members of Carrie’s class (plus a couple of significant others like myself who had arrived after training). Located at Sanjay’s home, we were promptly dropped off in Sarika’s room where she was sitting on a bed waiting for her henna to dry and taking photos with everyone who came in.
There we sat for a solid 2+ hours, chatting with those who spoke English and smiling at the rest of the guests who didn’t. Finally, Ashish summoned the guys out for a drink and to enjoy the main hall (aka, a long driveway that was covered in fabric, filled with chairs and home to the dance floor.) The whole scene was beautiful, even if the DJ did play Aqua’s Barbie Girl about 10 times.
Shortly after, Carrie and the rest of the gang joined us for dinner, dancing and merriment. I would say that pretty much every Indian guest tried to persuade each Westerner to dance. It usually worked!
Wedding Night 2: Watching the Setup and Feasting Like Kings
For the wedding night, all 50+ current students, as well as our group, dressed up in our best clothing and paraded across Rishikesh and the Ram Jhula bridgeto a bus waiting on the other side. I can only imagine what the locals though when seeing so many “white people” dressed up in Indian garb.
Our destination can best be described as a warehouse with a large open area out front and a few buildings off to the side. Though we arrived earlier than most guests and hours before the Kamal and Sarika, we had no problem entertaining ourselves by watching the staff set up and listening to the already-blasting music.
Dinner was served a few hours later and I was in absolute heaven devouring a buffet of scrumptious and varied Indian food that took up the entire back half of the warehouse. It was like a gigantic make-your-own-thali station
Outside, hired street food vendors served up a selection of fried treats, Asian noodles, water puri, ice cream and paan. We all happily stood around feasting, until the echo of fireworks in the distance signaled that the groom was approaching.
A Parade of Thrones
Married in a smaller ceremony earlier that day, Kamal was separated from his new bride shortly after to be paraded around town in a throne. Upon reaching the reception, a swarm of guests joined him in the street to dance, while Kamal sat above them watching and smiling. Finally, a group of men carried Kamal in their arms into the reception hall, where he took his seat in a different throne in front of the room.
Meanwhile, Sarika continued to wait in a back room of the reception area for Kamal to get fully settled before making her own grand entrance.
The walk from her room to the thrones in front of the hall was at most a few hundred feet, but it took nearly 30 minutes as she had to stop for photos every few seconds. My personal favorite was when she posed in front of a wall of wires and a fire extinguisher.
Here Comes the Bride.
..and the Groom.
…on a Rotating Platform…
Finally together, Kamal and Sarika next stepped up to a rotating circular stage. They stood there gazing at each other while confetti was sprayed from behind. At one point, they also placed ceremonial reefs around each other’s necks.
This went on for quite some time before the couple finally made their way to their thrones. The rest of our night was spent dancing and watching them take photos on their thrones with each group of guests: including us before we left.
According to Ashish, they continued to sit on the stage until 3am. At that point, all those still awake attended a multi-hour ceremonial wedding puja.
So to Kamal and Sarika, Ashish and Sanjay, we all send you a HUGE thanks for inviting us to share this blessed event with you. It is an experience that I will never forget and I can now happily say that I attended an Indian wedding in India!