Everyone loves a wedding. All the cheer of being with family. All the anticipation leading up to the big day. All the inconspicuous beverages consumed at the reception. Is there anything not to love? Personally, I’m a wedding fanatic. I love weddings. I legitimately make an effort to attend as many weddings as possible because they’re just so much fun – the ones I’m invited to, that is. But, you know what makes a wedding ten times better? When it’s a Bollywood wedding!
My brother is heading off to India this weekend to attend a cousin’s wedding, and as my mother explained to him the myriad of facets of one of the most pompous and splendorous celebrations in the world, I had a realisation that maybe it was worth breaking it down for you too.
As much as the Bollywood wedding is a show of glamour and exuberance, they are founded in deeply rooted, spiritual practices. Regardless of the religious tradition the wedding follows, every occasion is underlined by a subtle respect for the rich tradition of the marriage ceremony. Our upcoming family wedding will be performed according to Hindu rituals and will therefore entail many hours of procedures being chanted in Sanskrit: a language unbeknownst to every attendee of the wedding, however, the practices themselves transcend language. It becomes universally clear, even with no knowledge of the context, that the happenings of the ceremony are forging a bond between two souls and two families. A bond that will last for eternity.
The Indian subcontinent boasts of some of the most intricate and elaborate, not to mention colourful, couture in the world. From silks to cotton, the textile industry is massive, owing to immense consumption by wedding-revellers. As far as the bride goes, she wears at least 3-5 different outfits on her wedding day itself (disregarding the days preceding and following the main ceremony). For some regions, the traditional colour of the bride’s costume is a deep maroon colour, whereas for others, it is off-white, ivory with maroon borders. The maroon garments take the form of a skirt, blouse, and veil while the ivory option is generally a silk sari paired with a blouse. Each of these is custom tailored and set with matching jewellery, including ornaments for the hair, wrists, ears, nose, neck, waist, ankles and toes. The groom’s clothing is slightly less flamboyant. Men generally wear a kurta-pyjama – a long tunic with pants – or a dhoti – 5 yards of fabric tied through the legs to resemble pants. Turbans are common in some traditions with pins and chains added as embellishments.
If you thought that you might come across the average butter chicken and naan at a Bollywood wedding, well you’re in for a shock. What kind of shock, I hear you ask? Wedding lunches or dinner require at least 20-30 different items: from various salads to sweets. Nowadays, meals are gastronomical fantasies hosted in large gardens with food stations located strategically around the area, each one serving a different cuisine. The stalls serve variations of chaat (street food), Chinese delicacies, exotic fruits, and sweets rich enough to give you instant cavities. One thing to look out for is a little treasure known as paan. These gems are little betel leaf parcels which contain areca nut and sometimes tobacco: indulging in which results in a psychoactive reaction. Paired with a couple of stiff whiskies, these are perfect for tearing it up on the dance floor.
If you’ve seen A Cinderella Story or Bride and Prejudice, you probably already have a preconceived idea about what a Bollywood wedding dance floor resembles. Take whatever you have in mind right now, fold it neatly, and dispose of it immediately. If there is one thing a Bollywood wedding nails more so than other traditions, it’s the constant singing and dancing. Some families host a sangeet night: a night purely for such frivolities where family members compete against one another in ultimate Bollywood dance-offs. Whether it be the henna night (the equivalent of a hen’s night where the bride applies henna art to her palms), the baraat (the buck’s night where the groom makes his way from his residence to the marriage venue), or the reception, if your feet are not hurting and your throat not hoarse by the end of the night, then you’ve failed. Forget about the pain for a moment: take another shot, have another bite of paan and your aches will become a distant memory!