An Indian Wedding

Jennie Maydew is a junior Art major and is spending one semester in Hyderabad, India.

[Originally posted October 31]
To see more from Jenny, check out her blog directly here

Before coming to India, I had many ideas about Indian weddings. From what I heard, I assumed they were the most extravagant, decorative, and festive ceremonies around. I didn’t want to leave India without attending one, so was pleased when I was able to attend a wedding with four girls from my program. It was a friend’s friend’s friend’s sister’s wedding, but we were invited as if we were the closest of family (I mentioned family is all-encompassing word, right?)

My first Indian wedding! Here’s how we were invited: my peer tutor Pooh is friends with the man four from the left, who is friends with the woman on the far right, who is the bride’s sister! (That’s how we “knew” the couple)

My first Indian wedding! Here’s how we were invited: my peer tutor Pooh is friends with the man four from the left, who is friends with the woman on the far right, who is the bride’s sister! (That’s how we “knew” the couple)

Indian marriages typically come in two styles: arranged marriage and love marriage. Arranged marriages occur when the bride’s and groom’s respective families seek out a potential spouse, and match the couple themselves. The couple meets, then gets married soon after. Arranged marriages, though controversial and becoming less popular, are still common. Love marriages, on the other hand, take place when the couple-to-be seeks each other out. It’s the method most similar to that of American marriages, but usually still involves compatibility between families and parental approval. This particular marriage was a love marriage.

The part of the ceremony where guests threw flowers on the heads of the bride and groom

The part of the ceremony where guests threw flowers on the heads of the bride and groom

The ceremony consisted of traditional Hindu rituals and was led by a priest reciting ancient verses. In the hour-and-a-half-long ceremony, the couple did all sorts of actions: pouring things into fire, circumambulating the stage, receiving showers of rice and flowers. In total, though, it was less elaborate than I thought it would be. It was a small wedding with fewer attendees than most. A few nights ago, we passed a dancing wedding party on the road that was sending up fireworks as the bride paraded on a golden chariot (my expectation of Indian weddings).

My and Rhia’s henna, done especially for the event

My and Rhia’s henna, done especially for the event

I have to thank my host family for helping me get dressed for this event. My host mom and sister adorned me with their entire collection of gold jewelry and tied my sari up ‘Gujarati style,’ a different draping method from Gujarat, India. My host mom put a black dot below my ear to ward off penetrating gazes, which is a tradition for brides—who get the dot on their cheek—and for babies as well. My host mom’s mother-in-law also blessed me and Rhia with a prayer to create similar protection. I’m lucky to have such loving friends and family who invite me to weddings and help me wear Indian clothes, all while selflessly keeping my best interest in mind. As I’ve said before, Indians are so eager to share their culture and don’t mind—and rather appreciate—when we as Americans adopt it. This generosity continues to emanate, and as I approach the final month of my stay in India, I realize this spirit of sharing is one of the values I appreciate most about Indian culture—and one of the things I just might miss a lot upon my return home.