Indian Weddings are the Most Fun Parties Anyone Will Ever Attend
And Why it Takes 5 Business Days to Recover
Disclaimer: Photo credits to Krishna Paniker, Rhea Mathew, Aishwariya Ravi, and Shreya Sethia. Some photos may be blurry because they are screenshots of videos.
It is no secret that most Indian weddings are filled with pomp and splendour. The most common way a non-Indian would describe it is ‘Oh, my God, your weddings are so colourful and beautiful!’ — and they wouldn’t be wrong.
These are actual comments I got from an American friend:
‘Can I be in the dance recital at your wedding?’
‘Are all weddings like this?!’
The answer is yes to all of the above.
I spent the past weekend in a blur of rituals, traditions, customs, alcohol and music, and now I feel like I need a break from the extended partying session and just take a day to soak my feet in bath salts. Incidentally, this is also the advice I gave to the bride because she was rightly the most tired of us all, thanks to planning stress, COVID stress, and oh-my-God-I’m-getting-married stress.
And yet, with this hangover from the past three days, there is nothing but happiness for the bride and the groom we are taking back with us, and gratitude to the family for organising a COVID-free bubble so that we could party in peace.
And as I am me, I am also taking with me some observations that require a blog post to express to the world why Indian weddings trump weddings the world over.
Indian Weddings are a Collection of Parties
Every time I need some time off work to go to a wedding, I am met with questions about why I need to take four days off. Surely, a wedding is one day so you need a maximum of two days off?
No, actually, there’s a pre-party with the closest friends of the bride or the groom. Then there are a few pre-parties with everyone. Then it’s the wedding, and then a reception.
With the onset of COVID, weddings took a backseat everywhere. Couples that got engaged in 2019 regretted not getting married before March of 2020.
Some grew impatient and settled for a small wedding which included just the family members and signing of the papers to commemorate the union. Others insisted that they would wait for things to get better before tying the knot.
My friends did a bit of both. They had a small-ish wedding while ensuring that things were better for everyone. They ensured all guests were fully vaccinated and had negative PCR test results. The virus was not on the guest list and was certainly not going to be a wedding crasher.
Once the group was declared COVID-free, the parties started on Friday afternoon and didn’t end until two days later on Sunday afternoon.
These parties weren’t always parties, though. These are just older rituals and customs that have been transformed into a celebration, which we have converted into a party in the new age. Nobody minds though. Whoever heard of someone minding a party where people get together to celebrate the happy couple?
Indian weddings traditionally start with the Bridal Mehndi where the bride gets her hands and feet decked up with henna. Historically, the purpose was to use the cooling property of henna to help reduce the bride’s stress, but obviously, it also makes sense to tap into its utility as a beautification tool.
Following the Bridal Mehndi is the Guest Mehndi so that all the women and especially the Bridesmaids can get their hands henna-ed up too. Guests don’t usually stress, but they do like to look pretty. Like every good gathering, this too comes with a DJ and so the party continues.
Usually, on the same day, there will be a ceremony called ‘Sangeet’. In Punjabi weddings, this used to be a group of women singing traditional folk songs and the bride’s sisters, cousins, and friends dancing to festive tunes. Today it is a custom in almost all Indian weddings so we have another party with another DJ and a lot more dancing.
And finally it is the big day. The wedding. All the rituals, customs, and traditions boiling down to this — the final ceremony to celebrate ‘when two become one’ (bit o’ Spice Girls).
Friends and family stay with the bride and groom for a few days, celebrating in different ways with different rites and rituals, all out of love. For the partying too, but mostly out of love!
Indian Hospitality is Next Level
My Indian/Arab peers will be familiar with this, and perhaps non-Indians/Arabs who have ever been guests to an Indian/Arab family for a dinner party too, but nothing beats Indian/Arab hospitality.
If you are at a dinner party and your plate is empty, your host will make constant attempts to fill it up. And if it stays full, your host will argue that you aren’t eating anything because you don’t like the food. It’s a battle you just can’t win.
Of course, they mean well and just want to make sure you have a good time and go home well-fed, forget the fact that you might get indigestion later. However, no event highlights this hospitality more than a wedding.
You have a full breakfast, and then a three-course lunch, but of course you must have a high tea, too, and then you cannot miss the twenty-five live stations at dinner.
This wedding was also a chance for me to try out a South Indian traditional feast called Sadhya. This is usually served at a time of celebration, so festivals such as Vishu and Onam never go unaccompanied by Sadhya, and neither do South Indian weddings.
The meal consists of various vegetarian delicacies in moderate portions so you wouldn’t expect to feel ridiculously full after. It’s different with Punjabi meals. The custom is, eat rajma-chawal, drink lassi and take a nap. Or chhole-bhature and lassi — and then nap. Paronthe + Lassi → Nap
The common denominator was always lassi so I assumed that lassi was the main culprit for all the lightheadedness and that Punjabis just really enjoy that sensation and have taken to including drinking as part of our rich culture to magnify the lightheadedness.
Turns out, you don’t need just lassi to feel lightheaded. Sadhya does the trick too. My friends told me I’m just imagining things but I am still 100% sure that Sadhya is actually drugged. This is not conjecture, I saw people exiting the dining room, dripping with sweat and swaying from side-to-side.
I would do it again though if I’m allowed to nap after. Totally worth it.
Indian Time is a Concept I Am Not Happy With
Growing up, I was always taught the value of punctuality. It is simply rude to keep people waiting if you have a pre-confirmed time with someone. If you cannot make it in time, always do the courteous thing and give them a heads-up. It is called manners.
Somehow, punctuality doesn’t apply to wedding guests though and social convention dictates that they arrive a minimum of an hour late. When did unpunctuality become a trend? Why is arriving fashionably late appropriate? Why do the bride and groom even bother printing a card with the timings of every event if the guests aren’t going to follow it?
But this is a battle where I am apparently the only one on the opposing side so I am sure I will be defeated. Apologies, bride and groom. I tried.
(Punjabi + Old School) Music → Fun Times
No party is ever complete without music and nothing makes a party like old school music. The tunes have remained the same since I was a kid. Dil Luteya was the rage back in 2004 and now, seventeen years later, it is still played in every party and still gets the same reaction of ‘Oho!’ from the crowd.
We still raved to Mehbooba Mehbooba from the 2001 film ‘Ajnabee’. ‘Saajanji Ghar Aaye’ was still a part of the celebration. And, of course, my personal favourite, Bole Chudiyan was part of the mix too.
And while we’re at it, perhaps I am wrong (but I rarely am), but no party is ever complete without Punjabi bangers either. That would explain why the current Bollywood music scene is basically classic Punjabi tunes converted into Bollywood nonsense.
The original ‘Moorni (Balle Balle)’ by Panjabi MC was good enough. And we definitely didn’t need Neha Kakkar to chime in to sing ‘Yeah Baby’. But this is a rant for a different post.
It’s All in the Little Touches
Of course, this isn’t a uniquely ‘Indian wedding’ thing, but they do sure spring more to life with the little finishing touches. It’s in these personal touches that the bride and groom feel special and the guests lose their marbles and take pictures of everything
It’s in the detail of an actual logo with the bride and groom’s initials, in the flower detail where the room bursts with the freshness of the decor, in the arch that makes everything appear grander and picturesque, in the vibrant colours that turn ‘Event Room C’ into a hallway for Happily Ever After, and in the little fun rituals where the bride and groom get to have fun, tease each other and play games before embarking on a journey together.
Heels and Saris are Fun- Until You Have to Walk Around In Them All Day
The longevity of an Indian wedding means multiple outfit changes — which also means multiple occasions where women end up wearing heels. Of course no one pushes us to wear heels but they make us look pretty and we like to look pretty.
It’s all fun and games, though, until you combine heels with a sari and so you are now wound up taking care of your sari, trying to ensure it doesn’t unravel into a wardrobe malfunction, and also trying to walk gracefully in heels so you don’t trip and fall.
When Did We Get Old?
Unfortunately for me and my fellow bridesmaids, the wedding was also a reminder that we are no longer part of the Youth Movement and that the ageing process comes to us all.
We are a group of people who expect to be able to drink everything as if we are a group of freshers in Uni halls. When we prepare shots, we forget what a shot actually measures as and we prepare what can only be described as a triple Jager.
Nobody asks us to, but we down it anyway — along with a host of other drinks. And then we spend the next day either scrambling for paracetamol, drinking hot tea to recover our voices, or wearing shades so that the light doesn’t hit us right in the eyes, triggering a headache.
When we wake up the next morning, we are unsure why our thighs and the heels of our hands hurt — and then we remember that the night before we had decided Nora Fatehi and we are equals and that if she can dance to Saki Saki, so can we. So. Can. We.
We are a group of people who, after eating a Sadhya meal, cannot stand, so we look around for seats together. Maybe this isn’t age, maybe this is Sadhya. When we find seats, we are unhappy because they don’t have back support. When we do find seats with back support, we are filled with gratitude,
Weddings Are A Great Occasion to Take ‘Extra’ Pictures
Life usually gets in the way and on an ordinary night you won’t dress up and take candid pictures. But weddings aren’t ordinary nights at all. They are extraordinary occasions requiring multiple outfits and we shall all be damned if we didn’t use the occasion to take all sorts of pictures.
For the single ladies, it’s an opportunity to update your Shaadi.com or Bumble account. For the married ones, it’s an opportunity to remind your husbands that you are a hot piece and that they would require a bomb shelter if you whipped out the allure.
When the Wedding Ends, You Miss It
Yes, it caused a hangover. Yes, your feet hurt. Yes, you are sleep-deprived.
But you were with friends and you were celebrating, and everyone was happy. For your friends, you would do this all over again and happily, and for longer, and with more ceremonies, and maybe even with higher heels. Maybe not higher heels. But yes to everything else!