Let’s be honest.
It is hard not to love a wedding and the bride and groom who make the occasion possible. My children have reached the age where they, at least one of them, and many of their friends are taking the great marital plunge. I look forward to the festivities associated with each and every one of them and shed a tear or two at most. I even have outfits that I have come to think of as my cold weather wedding dress and my warm weather wedding dress.
One of those childhood friends of my children, a young man I have known since he first drew breath, married last month — not in North Carolina, not even in the United States — but in India.
And, as they say on television, I was there.
India is a wonderfully hospitable nation and a feast of sights and smells. Our bride is Indian and attended a branch of our internationally-respected University of North Carolina system. Our groom, a Fayetteville native, met his future wife in college, and because both have many American friends, our band of wedding goers was mostly American, with a couple of Canadians, Mexicans and several other nationalities adding diversity and spice. The bride’s parents made us feel extraordinarily welcome by requesting measurements for saris and other garments before some of us even had airline tickets. The wedding was in Changdigarh, a lovely city planned in the 1950s by the French architect Le Corbusier as the capital of the Punjab after independence was established. By Indian standards, it is a small city with about 1 million people.
I knew this was going to be fun when I learned that for the festivities the night before the wedding I should wear something suitable to ride a camel.
The occasion was described as a “cocktail party,” but I can tell you truthfully that I have attended many cocktail parties in my lifetime, and never have I had both a cocktail and a camel ride at the same event.
The party was held in a large outdoor venue, with dancers, music and astoundingly bountiful food, but my first priority was the camel ride which I can only describe as, well, undulating. Camels are not noted for their sunny dispositions, and mine was wearing a bag of sorts over his nose to deter both biting and spitting. I was a tad concerned about being too heavy for him, but, in fact, he was huge, and when he stood up, I gripped the saddle handle with all my strength not to be thrown into oblivion. I loved my ride, which afforded a view of the party from what had to be about 12 feet or more above the crowd; and when it was time to dismount my surly camel, the saddle handle again saved me from an embarrassing tumble.
I will remember that ride forever.
And then, the wedding! Every wedding, of course, is a significant occasion, with a man and a woman pledging themselves to go through life together, come what may. But traditions and ceremonies for doing so vary considerably.
Before my first big, fat Indian wedding, we American women had already hennaed on our hands and arms, but our decorations paled beside the intricate designs on the arms and legs of the bride. We Americans, both women and men, were thrilled with our fabulous traditional Indian clothes, mine a gorgeous magenta sari.
At the appointed hour, our groom appeared atop a white horse, both of them dressed to the nines. We marched, danced and generally cut up around him as he made his way to the bride for their marriage ceremony, a procession which reminded me of a Second Line Parade in New Orleans.
Never have I seen clothes like those of our bride and our groom, intricately and lovingly embroidered, both beautiful and heavy. One would have to work out daily to wear such garments on a regular basis.
This occasion was held at a large outdoor venue with much food and drink but no camels. The bride and groom sat on pillows beneath a tent surrounded by their families with friends seated on benches and chairs outside the tent. The vows were both solemn and practical, with the groom promising never to sleep outside the home without a good reason and the bride given dominion over the “eatables.” There were playful moments as well, as young friends of the bride and groom played a spirited running game of “hide the groom’s shoes” to prevent him from departing with his new bride. Our groom did keep his shoes, though, and the bride was carried to a waiting, flower-bedecked car in a flower-bedecked litter.
Off they went with the groom’s mother into the Indian night, the symbolic transfer of the bride to her groom and his family.
Our Indian trip was a unique treat, a shared experience with friends as well as a physical and cultural journey.
I am so glad I was there and so glad to be home in America.
Contact Margaret Dickson at email@example.com