Monday, February 18, 2008

Here Comes the Bride!

Mr and Mrs. Raj Seelam

The Happy Groom

The Mehndi

The Beautiful Bride

The MMR Garden

Ready to get married

Bling !

Braiding the hair


Real flowers were braided in Melissa's hair

The proud parents of the bride

In the United States there are a variety of traditions and customs surrounding weddings. We have bridal showers, bachelor parties, engagement parties and of course, the shopping for gowns, photographers, dj's, function halls, florists and wedding cakes. Religious ceremonies differ but usually the marriage vows are sealed with a kiss. There are traditional dances such as when the groom dances with his mom, the bride dances with her dad, the newlyweds dance and then my favorite ~ the electric slide. Toasts are proposed to the newlyweds, cake is eaten, bouquets are thrown, garters are removed and glasses clink as the guests celebrate with the newly married couple.

In India, there are many customs and traditions surrounding the weddings. Since I have only attended one, I am no expert but I can tell you that there are many differences and few similarities with the US weddings I have attended. On Friday before the wedding, many family members arrived at Raj's parent's home to attend the ceremonies which took place over the next four days. Many of the people were from rural villages and spoke little or no English - and many had had very little or no interaction with Americans. They found us to be very interesting. One lady told Raj's mom that my daughter could not be American because she was not blond! They found our freckles and moles interesting ~ they thought they were odd bug bites and were surprised that they were 'natural'. I woke up early one morning to knocking at my door. I opened it to find a group of villagers standing outside, just staring at me. There I stood in my pj's, hair looking quite attractive, wondering what they wanted. They smiled, I smiled. They stared, I stared. I waved good-bye and shut the door. I have no idea how long they stood there but when I finally left my room, they were no longer in sight. Later on , they found me and followed me around for the most part of the day. It was unnerving at times.

Back on track ~ the ceremonies on Friday and Saturday centered around preparing the bride and groom for marriage. They each attended separate ceremonies in which they had to shower and change outfits numerous times over the two days. Kumkum powder, which is red, was placed on their foreheads and turmeric was rubbed on their cheeks to celebrate this auspicious occasion. As the mother of the bride I was an active participant during these ceremonies as I placed kumkum on both of their foreheads and on the foreheads of many of the elders. I presented Melissa with her bridal sari and much rice was sprinkled on both of their heads. A mehndi party was held on Friday afternoon for many of the females. Mehndi is when henna is applied to the hands and feet. The designs are very intricate and is truly an art form. Lemon oil is rubbed on the henna to help it set - and the darkness of the henna is determined by body heat.

The wedding itself was on Sunday, February 10th at MMR Gardens which was an outdoor venue. The vows began at 8:35 PM which was the auspicious date and time chosen by the priest. February is a very busy wedding month - with weddings occuring 7 days a week, at all times of the day and night. Raj's aunt and uncle were invited to twenty weddings this month. The wedding invitation welcomes you to bring your family and friends to the wedding with you - and there isn't any type of RSVP involved. I don't know how they plan the amount of food to be prepared. There were 800 people at the wedding of Melissa and Raj. One if Raj's cousins is getting married next month and they have invited close to 7,000 people to their wedding ~ I can't imagine it. Skip and I were invited to two weddings while in India.

Melissa and Raj walked into the garden and walked onto the stage together and to be quite honest I wasn't even aware that the ceremony had begun since the guests were all chatting and I couldn't begin to understand the three priests who were speaking in Sanskrit. I began to get teary as I watched my beautiful daughter, dressed in incredible silk and jewels, walk onto the stage. All I could think of was the day she was born, almost 29 years ago. I watched her with love and pride as she stood on the stage about to embark on an incredible adventure.

The couple stepped on each other's foot as it was placed on a log, they poured rice on each other's head, more kumkum was placed on their foreheads, the priests chanted sanskrit, and at some point it was official ~ Melissa and Raj were married. There was no kissing, dancing, cake eating or toasting. But there were the traditions and customs of the Indian people which I had the honor of observing and participating in. I didn't understand all that was going on but it was clear that all of us who were present wished the couple only the best as they entered this new chapter in their life.


Anonymous said...

Melissa looks so happy, and you certainly look like the proud parents. I enjoyed reading about your experience. Nice job Debbie.

Pam said...

Melissa is gorgeous and Raj very handsome - very festive looking, the art work amazing. I'm very happy for all of you! Your writings gave me the chills - I can't wait to hear all details.

DebTech said...

Thank you for taking the time to share this with us. I have been waiting to see pictures of the lovely bride. This is a real treat. Best wishes to all.


Cheryl Oakes said...

Thank you so much for sharing your photos and your experiences. What a treasure!

Anonymous said...

Great looking couple.Melissa and Raj's happiness is very evident and joyful to view. Sounds like a fun place to be- weddings and parties all around! You and Skip look like you fit right in. I know you'll bring some of it home and spread it around. Thanks for sharing all this, Deb. It is wonderful.
Deb C

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