Finally, the wedding day has arrived!
We left the hotel in our regular, everyday clothes with plans to change into our saris and suits at the wedding venue. We got to the wedding venue around 6:00 pm, thinking we had an hour to get ready. Unfortunately, we read the invitation wrong, and instead of arriving an hour early, we were there two hours early. Oops.
Instead of waiting around, Rupak and I decided to try and crash the other wedding that was taking place at the same venue. However, we stumbled into something entirely different. We have no idea what was happening, but we did get to see this Indian/American classic rock mash-up that was pretty epic:
After that, we walked around and took some photos of the wedding venue… and lots of pictures of ourselves!!
Soon, a few guests arrived. It was at that time that we learned the true nature of a Punjabi wedding. The other guests informed us that the groom wouldn’t be arriving until much later that evening because of the baraat – a northern India wedding tradition where the groom actually rides a horse to the wedding venue, surrounded by giant lamps, fireworks, a band, and of dancing family members. Finally, around 10:00pm, we heard the commotion and went outside to watch the groom arrive. It took them nearly thirty minutes to walk from the parking lot to the entrance of the building – roughly the length of a football field! No wonder it took so long for them to arrive!
Every time the band began to wrap up, family members would throw cash at them to entice them to keep playing.
After standing back and watching for quite a while, one of the family members grabbed me and pulled me into the center of the group. I had no idea what I was doing, but it didn’t seem to matter. It was amazing!
Finally, Parveen dismounted from his horse and a garland of cash was placed around his neck.
Before going inside the wedding venue, he was blessed and given food and water by the bride’s family (including my dear mother-in-law who was quick to inform him that we had been waiting a long time for him to arrive!)
By this time, the waitstaff had begun serving some rather spicy (yet delicious) hors d’oeuvres. After a little while, it was time for Joyeeta to make her entrance. Dressed in red and covered in jewels, she walked in under a canopy of flowers. Absolutely stunning.
Another thing that Westerners will find quite different from American weddings is the paparazzi-like chaos from the family. Everyone and anyone was front and center, clamoring for a prime spot to take pictures or videos, or just to get a better glimpse of the bride and groom.
Joyeeta joined Parveen on the stage, where they exchanged flower garlands. There was a sweet moment when she tried to put the garland around his neck, but couldn’t quite get it over his head because he was being lifted up by another family member. She attempted to toss it over his head, which elicited a bit of laughter from the crowd, before he finally knelt down in front of her so she could place the garland around his neck.
Following the garland exchange, there was plenty of dancing and food while the bride changed into a new outfit for the second wedding ceremony. Since the bride and groom came from different cultures (Punjabi and Bengali), two ceremonies were held.
The Bengali wedding is a long ceremony and includes many rituals and traditions. First, the bride covers her face with leaves and is carried to the ceremony on a piri (a wooden stool) by male family members. Once she reaches the groom, they circle him seven times while she continues to cover her face. Afterwards, the bride and groom are both covered with a sheet while she reveals her face (called subho dristi). Finally, the flower garlands are exchanged three times (called mala badal) and the bride steps off the piri and joins the groom for the rest of the ceremony.
Rupak was honored to be one of the family members asked to carry Joyeeta.
Quite some time is spent reciting mantras, signifying the seven vows the couple makes to one another. The bride and groom repeat the mantras after the priest while seated in front of a small fire called the havan kund. Agni, the fire god, is the divine witness of the marriage. Vows made in the presence of the agni are considered unbreakable. This ritual is called yagna. An offering (called anjali) to the fire god is made when the bride and groom throw puffed rice (called khoi) into the fire together.
The bride and groom are then tied together with a piece of fabric, and touch seven leaves with their toes before proceeding around the fire seven times.
This is called saptapadi and is the most important rite of the marriage ceremony. On the final circle, the groom leads the bride away from her own family and with the final step, she becomes part of her husband’s family.
After all the rituals are done, the groom applies sindoor on the bride’s hair parting. This marks the completion of their marriage rituals. After this, the bride covers her head with a ghomta, a new saree gifted to her by her in-laws.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for all of the ceremony and ended up saying our goodbyes around 3 am. (We later found out that the wedding didn’t officially end until around 8 am!) It was a beautiful wedding, and we were all so happy to be a part of it.
Congratulations Joyeeta and Parveen! We wish you the best in your marriage!