So, here I am, still in shock and in awe of how amazingly beautiful, successful, and entertaining my sister’s wedding and reception were. I know that my opinion is a little biased (seeing that I am the bride’s brother) – but I am being as honest and forthright as possible – the wedding was bananas crazy and fun. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
The whole week pretty much started on Christmas Day when my sister and her now-husband arrived from California. A few aunts and uncles arrived from the Chi and H-Town later on that day also. I am so glad that my family from my mom’s side came in from out of town. If they hadn’t been there, things wouldn’t nearly have went as smooth and things wouldn’t have been anywhere close to as enjoyable.
My family from my mother’s side and I (they came in from the Chi, H-Town, and the armpit of NYC (Jersey))
The beginning of the wedding ceremonies/traditions began on Friday night when my sister invited over a few aunts and friends (all females) over to my apartment to have their Mehndi night. Now, Mehndi night is just when all the girls get Henna or, as we Gujaratis like to call it, Mehndi (Indian dye that is most often used to create temporary tattoos) on their hands and feet. The bride always has this on her hands throughout the weekend and the Mehndi night serves as a “girls night out” if you will.
My Sister’s Mehndi
So, on that evening,I must’ve received close to 50 phone calls from people who needed directions and/or needed to be buzzed in to the gate at my apartment. It was crazy hectic and unexpectedly fervent. So, soon as I felt as though I wasn’t needed anymore, I bounced out of there and let them have their girls night out. I then met up with the groom and a few of his close family and friends at a bar in the Virginia Highlands (aka guys night out).
I was so shocked by how cool his friends and family were. So many of them were laid-back, humble, and outgoing. It was great that we (people on the bride and groom’s side) all got to know each other and get comfortable with one another throughout the weekend. There wasn’t any uncomfortability or apprehension by the time the reception rolled around. So, we had a few more drinks at The Darkhorse Tavern and just chilled out there for the rest of the evening. It was good times – and I finally told my sister’s husband how much I appreciate him being a good dude and treating my sister with the love and respect she deserves. I figured it was finally the right time to have “the talk” with him. The dude is a really cool cat, a pure-hearted person who loves unconditionally and is a perfect complement to my sister. She got lucky – hopefully I can be just as fortunate.
Anyways, the very next morning, me and my cousin had to be up to go to a Grahshanti at my home in L’Ville. We probably got two hours sleep – tops, but regardless, we got up exhausted, and inebriated (at least I was) and headed over to the crib. The night before, there was a steady precipitation of alcohol, and needless to say, the next morning – I was a little under the weather. But that was quickly tempered and alleviated the next morning by a small coffee from QuikTrip. I guess it’s appropriate how successfully the adrenaline from the wedding combated the exhaustion, inebriation, and stress that was so prevalent throughout the week.
I’m not exactly sure what is the exact point of the Grahshanti, but my understanding is that a maharaj comes over and quotes a few holy sloques and blesses the bride and her family. The Grahshanti is for the bride’s side and the Murat is for the groom’s side. It was actually funny because my uncles from my mom’s side even got up and started banging on a silver thali (Indian plate made of steel used for dining) and started singing some traditional songs. They then welcomed my sister outside of the home. It was loud, crazy, and hectic as all hell – and I LOVED it. I just like when folks show emotion.
The Maharaj performing Hindu Wedding Rituals at the Grahshanti
Uncle Banging on a Thali while Aunts and Uncles perform some sort of traditional ritual (we got so MANY traditions!)
My mom feeding my sister at the Grahshanti
My daadi (grandma) is about as off the chain as possible
Anyways, we grabbed some grub after that and then the family ended up relaxing at the house until the late hours of the evening. At that point, me and my cousin went over to the hotel and went over last minute details of the wedding and reception. We then tucked in for a few hours of sleep and woke up again the next morning ready to do it all over again.
The wedding day itself was amazing. Everything seemed to go right – except that it rained. But I was told by someone that even that is good luck. Go figure.
Well, first things first, in the morning they have the Bhaarat ceremony where the groom’s family accompanies the groom to the hotel and introduces him to the bride’s family. They dance for a little while and celebrate his acceptance of a new woman into his family. Then, the bride’s side welcome him to the family by serenading him and dancing for him. It is a crazy time and you will see all sort of uncles and aunties dancing and acting a thorough fool. My pops, yes – my pops, even serenaded him – sort of. He got up in front of him and started dancing, twisting, and throwing his hands up like he had Saturday Night Fever. It was too damn funny.
The wedding hall was simply extravagant. There was nothing outlandish or exaggerated about the decoration of the hall, it was minimalistic and elegantly decorated. It was simple yet stunning. Rose petals were scattered throughout the hall and aligned along the corners of the center aisle and scattered along the stage of the Mandap.
The Mandap that was used for the wedding ceremony
Anyways, after that, the wedding procession began and we (my uncles and I) carried my sister into the wedding hall. She just sat on a small stool and we picked it up and brought her in. That was unexpected and absolutely cool – it was completely my uncles’ idea. That is a tradition that they have always done in India, so they kind of threw that idea out at the last minute and we ran with it. I cannot reiterate how glad I was to have my aunts and uncles come in from out of town. They brought to light some traditions that we may have overlooked and were as supportive and helpful as possible in making the entire wedding week go as seamlessly as possible. They were intuitively on point the entire week – from getting food for lunch at the Grahshanti to ensuring that no one got overwhelmed with responsibilities and obligations. I am humbly in debt to their gratitude and support throughout the weekend.
My Uncles and I carrying my sister into the ballroom at the beginning of the wedding
After that, the wedding proceeded and we went through all the customary traditions and rituals. I even had to grab the toe of the groom and refuse to let it go until we came to an agreement on how much his toe was worth to him for me to let it go. I think we settled it at like 21 bucks or something, but it got a little heated for a second. But, no worries, it was all in good fun.
Another thing that my sister and her groom chose to do was to recite vows. This is not normally tradition, but they wanted to do it anyways. Both of their vows were heartfelt and succinct – and I guess it was one of those “awwww” moments. It was really cool though to see them get up there and put into words that which is indescribable. The wedding itself lasted about 2 hours – which, from my experience, is relatively short in comparison to most Indian weddings.
This is a great picture – my sister giving her groom the disapproving look as he fraternizes with the ladies (all in good fun) – look at this man cheesing!
After that, we had lunch down the street at The Palace. It was a buffet style lunch that everyone seemed to enjoy – I mean, they even had a paani puri stand! Great stuff – you cannot make this up!
After a few hours, the real fun began. The reception was supposed to start at 7:30, but that was preceded by a 1 hour cocktail hour. I was hosting the event so I had to do some last minute preparations and adjustments before the actual reception started. So, I didn’t get to enjoy the cocktail hour as much with everyone, but I could tell that everyone had a great time mingling with the other guests and relatives. But, please believe, I indulged myself and downed a few Sweetwater 420s. Beer and wine were free flowing for the evening – and believe you me, folks took advantage of that.
The reception was so much fun! It was like one big party – exactly how my sister wanted it and exactly how I wanted it. I even said in my welcome speech that “there is not going to be any sadness tonight, no sorrow – just fun. Tonight is going to be a celebration, tonight is all about having fun”. I wanted to set the tone for the evening and make sure that everyone was as loose as possible and ready to have a good time. The crowd was WAY more entertaining and engaging than expected. I felt way more comfortable there in the center of the stage than I had anticipated. People were actually laughing at my jokes and I was even lolly gagging with the crowd a little. It was great. I think I held my own up there on stage, but regardless, I know that people had a good time – so, in my mind, mission accomplished.
Another great thing was that so many people went out of their way to recognize my birthday (it was on the same day as the wedding – December 30th). All of my sister’s friends from Cali blurted out “Happy Birthday” in unison as I finished my welcome speech. That was really cool of them – real cool. Then, my cousin had the DJ play “Happy Birthday To You” during a lull in the program which caught me off guard and left me blushing and embarrassed. My sister’s friends even got me chocolates and some cool shot glasses for my birthday. It just felt good to feel so loved the entire week. People seemed to give a significant shit about me, and that meant a lot. I didn’t want none of the attention, but I appreciated it. The fact that I didn’t even want to make a big deal out of my bday and people still made it a point to acknowledge it really left me speechless. I REALLY appreciated all the love that was shown my way the entire weekend.
My sister, her groom, and all of their friends (mostly from Cali – they showed my family and I a lot of love)
But the reception was not without any surprises. My sister and her groom surprised everyone by having a photo booth at the reception. I didn’t think that it was going to be that popular, but people flocked to it like brown folks to Taco Bell. It was crazy!!! More people were waiting in line to have their picture taken than to eat food – and the food was delicious! The photo booth was a HUGE success – everyone loved it. That was something that I’ve never seen done before – but it worked so well. My uncles were practically giddy over the photo booth – no joke. Kudos to my sister and her groom for thinking that idea up.
My Cousin Anjal and I so fresh and so clean in the photobooth
My cousins and I (the two little girls were the flower girls for the wedding)
Anyways, all the speeches were eloquent and on point and all the dances were well performed and crowd-pleasing. One of the groom’s friend made a toast that somehow entirely revolved around his and the groom’s mutual youthful love of Star Wars. The speech was very well done and I guess gave us an insight into how exactly the groom was as a kid (a SUPERNERD – I kid, I kid). It was funny because he ended the toast by telling the bride and groom – “May the force be with you”. Once again, I’m telling you, you CANNOT make this stuff up!
Afterwards, we opened the dance floor up to everyone and everyone got down – aunts, uncles, kids, friends, cousins – everyone. Oh yeah, there was a healthy portion of bhangra that was served with a side of hip-hop and Hindi film hits. It was a lot of fun – I was just glad to see everyone act a damn fool and embarrass the hell out of themselves. That’s when you know folks are having a good time.
The bride and groom getting down
So many people said that this was the most entertaining wedding they have ever been to – and I take that to heart. I take that as maybe the most genuine and pleasing compliment. Everyone had a great time and everyone will remember my sister’s wedding as that “great party”. My sister did it her way and things turned out exceedingly well. I think that is why I am in such a lull right now – I am still reminiscing about the wedding and the reception. It’s like I’m suffering from a minor case of postpartum depression. I don’t want to let it go. I don’t want those memories to fade into the background of my life – I don’t want them to flutter away into the past. Man, I pray that my wedding will be even half that much fun.