(Image courtesy – Incredible Decors, Pondicherry)
I love every aspect of entertaining – the fun with people, cooking the food, decking the house….for many of our family celebrations I used to be the unofficial party decorator. I still remember how I decked up the place for my grandfather’s 80th birthday celebrations. I was just recovering from a minor surgery and was being generally petted and feted by all. So as part of the family’s efforts to cheer me up (though I didn’t need any cheering up being quite happy with the streams of delicious food and piles of awesome books coming my way) they got me everything on my long, much-needed list of craft supplies. So with streamers n piles and piles of velvet paper and shiny paper (craft terms and items only to be found in India) I set out to make the place sparkle n glow.
I made loads of silver n green n red paper flowers and strung them all over the house with the streamers at vantage points…Someday I guess I’ll even scan images from our old photo album and put them up….And boy was I peacock-proud n pleased when people asked my grandparents if they had got some professional to do-up the place for them. And even as I head towards my 30s I still get enormously excited at the thought of how a little bit of flowers, streamers, balloons and oodles of creativity can transform your-everyday space into that magical world of celebrations.
In India there isn’t too much of that mingling with the crowd and visiting each table to talk with the guests. Most Indian weddings are quite formal affairs with the reception stage being the central focal point. Guests often have to line-up for nearly an hour or so as they wait their turn to greet the happy couple. Of course guests might also prefer to feast first (given that the average Indian wedding has a minimum of 30-50 different dishes – who wouldn’t want to?) before greeting anyone – but still eventually they will have to head back to the stage if they have to have that one customary photo shoot with the couple and the gifts. So the make-shift stage has to be quite large n sturdy (can’t have guests crashing through the woodwork) and as grand as possible as it reflects on the financial success of the parents and the social ambitions of their kids.
The weding reception also has to be quite grand for another reason. In India most weddings are held in the morning or afternoon so that they meet with the approval of the family pundit’s idea of an auspicious time. Now given the normal run of work, kids’ school, traffic, etc, the average Indian householder would never be able to attend or celebrate any wedding. Attendance at the real wedding is quite low (given the ungodly, sleepy-sleepy hours they are held in) as the only people who can be forced at gun-point to attend such ceremonies are the super-close near n dear ones. So to accommodate the schedules of all the others – who come under the category of friends, relatives, colleagues, acquaintances, the neighbourhood “Jones,” creditors, plug-uglies, etc – wedding receptions are held in the evening.
Most-people give the wedding a miss – the wedding sometimes being held in an inexpensive mandapam or in the nearest, available temple – with not too much thought being given for decor or flowers other than providing the groom n the bride with their respective bouquets and garlands. But the evening reception decor is a different world all-together – it has to be the biggest; it has to be the grandest; it has to be the best.
In the case of Indian Christian weddings, attendance is almost as good as the follow-on reception as they are mostly held in the evening, say 4-5.30-ish. At Christian weddings (given that most Indian Christians are not too bothered about checking horoscopes or an auspicious time) most friends n colleagues get that often-needed, one-hour permission from work and manage to crash at the wedding by the time the bride decides to walk down the aisle with the man of her choice or her parents’ (as the case largely might be) to the tunes of the “Bridal March.” Once people have attended the wedding they don’t feel too bad about hitting the food trough before going n greeting the couple standing on their grand-wedding-reception stage…also it gives one such a sense of virtuous superiority to be able to tell the other not-so-punctilious wedding guests what the bride was wearing and how nice the church was decked up.
A funny aspect of Indian weddings is that sometimes the wedding reception is held the night before the wedding. So basically you meet a whole host of people who “Wish you happy married life” and for all intents and purposes you stand next to a guy who everyone greets as your husband – but he’s not quite…at least not till the passage of a few more hours. And you even have nice lovey-dovey shots which the photographer insists on – Sexy man!