An Affair to Remember


Indian weddings, especially Hindu weddings, are generally a week long affair, and this week we were invited to an Indian wedding by friends who we met on the Bombay expat list serve. This wedding was a 4 day affair and we only attended 2 days and I will never forget how beautiful and magical everything was.

This is a young couple where the groom is a Sindhi (from the province of Sindh which is in Pakistan) and the bride is from Shiraz, Iran. A handsome couple, these two have only met us a couple of times and still welcomed us to their wedding, something that my husband and I were really touched by. If there is one quality about Mumbaikers, and Indians in general, it is their willingness to bring you and welcome you into their fold, even if they do not know you from Adam. So, we were very honored to witness this couple’s ceremonies and participated in the festivities which occurred in the suburbs of Mumbai.

January 17th marked the Hindu ceremony which took place at this esoteric and stunning cottage by the sea called Kino Cottage. I will leave details for that later, but want to share a rather amusing experience right now. The  pheras ( a feature that is constant in all Hindu weddings; it is the tradition of taking pheras (rounds) around the sacred fire and can be akin to taking sacred marital vows) were supposed to start at 6:30 pm, followed by cocktails and dinner at 8:30 pm, as indicated on the invitation card. 17th was a working day and by the time we got dressed and after sitting through 1.5 hours in traffic to get to Versova, we finally reached Kino Cottage at 8 pm. I thought to myself, “Well, at least we will participate in the last 30 minutes of the pheras and it will be nice to witness this sacred ceremony. We got there and I saw only one other couple sitting by the table. I was shocked and bummed that the ceremony may have all gotten over. But no, that was not the case, and I was relieved that I did not get to the cottage at 6:30 pm (as I wanted to) because otherwise, I would have been waiting for 3 hours until the ceremony began. The couple only arrived at 9 pm and the ceremony commenced at 9:30 pm! Of course, in anticipation of these very expected and normal delays, guests were treated to a “snack station” where there were chefs preparing a ton of snack foods to whet the appetite and perhaps, to pacify those people who got tired of waiting.

However, all of this waiting was compensated by the serenity and magnificence of the cottage that was nestled on the beach of the Arabian sea: waves crashing on the shore, the mandap (special dome or square like structure with 4 pillars in which the ceremony is conducted) was stunning, tall coconut trees dotting the cottage skyline, tikis that were placed all around the front and back of the cottage, as well as the Indian musicians, all made for a dramatic effect that kept the guest occupied and enthralled even while playing the long waiting game.

Here are some of the pictures that hopefully capture what I am trying to describe above:

Entrance to Kino Cottage (with the security gaurd)

Entrance to Kino Cottage (with the security guard)

The flower arrangements at the entrance itself were exquisite and so tastefully done. When we entered this high profile cottage (were incidentally a lot of celebrities host parties), I could not believe I was in Mumbai. Just could not believe that I was in the heart of a crowded, over polluted, chaotic city. And hopefully, you will see why.

As you enter the cottage, with a little bar behind you (the bar was stocked with premium, top of the mark stuff!)

Main interior of the cottage which was used as the dance floor

Main interior of the cottage which was used as the dance floor

Another lounge section of the cottage

Another lounge section of the cottage

As we got into the backyard of the cottage, which hosted the mandap, we were equally amazed by the manicured lawns and the exteriors which were so magical and surreal.

The swimming pool.

The swimming pool.

We were also greeted by musicians who played Indian classical music as the guests arrived and post ceremony. Due to bad lighting, I could not get a very good picture, but here it is anyhow:

The tabla and sitar players

The tabla and sitar players

The following pictures are those of the mandap itself that was constructed in a dome like structure and adorned with carnations, roses, lillies, candles, and other vibrant accessories that made me feel as if I was on another planet:

The wedding mandup with the two seats for the bride and groom.

The wedding mandup with the two seats for the bride and groom.

The Hindu priests preparing for the rituals

The Hindu priests preparing for the rituals

What complemented the whole evening was the array and shades of different colors and fabrics that the women were wearing, right from chiffon, to silk, to georgette, and crepe and the colors were mesmerizing because there was virtually ever shade of a blue, purple, red, orange, yellows and browns. It has been a long long time since I saw so many colors under one roof, and was appreciative of the richness and diversity in colors, fabrics, and designs in India.

Close up of the top half of the mandup

Close up of the top half of the mandup

Bride and groom with their respective families

Bride and groom with their respective families

After the ceremony, which eventually ended by 10:30 pm, guests were treated to a grand feast with food, cocktails, and desert that were fit for a royal family. Of course, the party and dancing went on till 4 am, or that’s what i was told, but after all the waiting and eating, we were off to get some much needed rest for the Persian ceremony that was to follow the next day.

Come January 18th and I continue to be excited at what treats I can expect at the Persian wedding, an event I had never witnessed. This time, the wedding and reception were hosted at the Champagne Ballroom of the Novotel Hotel in Juhu. Again, as with the previous day, we rushed to the ceremony, which was supposed to start at 9 pm, and only got to the ballroom by 10:15 pm. Thanks to traffic, even so late in the evening, we were delayed and I was convinced that we had missed the ceremony. When we got to the place, people were drinking and mingling about. But, I should have known that, in Indian Standard Time (IST) or as the locals says, Indian Stretchable Time, the ceremony would start much later than expected. It started at 11:30 pm.

Here are some pictures of the area that was decorated for the Persian ceremony. Don’t miss the white satin, candles. roses and lilies that sparkled and glittered through out the evening:

White satin, candles, and white flowers

The area highlighted for the Persian Ceremony

 

Bride and Groom seated for the ceremony to begin

Bride and Groom seated for the ceremony to begin

As with the Hindu ceremony, this time, in addition to the array of colors and fabrics, I noticed an array of jewellery and stones, some of which I could not believe or get my eyes off. Never before I have seen so many stones and so many sizes, ranging from 2 to 3 carats, and you name it: sapphires, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, topaz, the list is endless. Every woman had at least 2-3 precious stones on her body and some women even had 4-5 big stones on their fingers. It was quite ostentatious and there were many times in the night where I was almost blinded by the sparkles of these jewels.

I have been to many a weddings in the USA and all of them pale in comparison to one single wedding in India. I do recognize that this wedding was of a family from a different social status, but I am also aware that people in India really dress up and there is a big glamor factor which, for most part, makes the wedding and ceremony feel very special and an occasion for immense celebration. This wedding catered to 250 guests and it was a joy to be a part of such a celebration!

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