Monday, July 23, 2007

May the earth be honey-sweet for them

Thursday night at the mehndi ceremony, Tejal had her hands and feet elaborately adorned with henna. The artist writes the husband's name somewhere in the design, and on the wedding night he's supposed to find it. Since traditionally husbands and wives didn't know each other at all beforehand, this was a sort of wedding night icebreaker.

It took a couple hours for the artist to complete the decorations. She squeezes the henna through what looks like a pastry tube, and in fact, the consistency is like frosting.

In order for the henna to really set into your skin, you want to keep it moist. So throughout the evening Tej had a mix of lemon juice and sugar applied to her hands. What this meant was that she couldn't do anything for herself. She had to be fed. She had to walk around with her hands outstretched, and her feet bare. She slept with plastic bags on her hands. The price of beauty.

Indian brides are highly adorned, often to the point where they can barely move because their sari is so heavy with decoration and they're wearing so much gold. Two of her aunts dressed her, while Tej stood patiently being wrapped and tucked and pinned and bejeweled. She wasn't bedecked to the point of not being able to move, but her sari was exquisitely embroidered and she had gorgeous jewelry, including, of course, a plethora of bangles on each wrist.

Tej truly looked like a princess. I mean, she's exquisitely beautiful anyway, but once she had on the sari, the jewels, the makeup, the veil, she completely took my breath away. I can't imagine a more stunning bride, honestly. And her father just walked around beaming. He was clearly so happy, and so very proud.

The bridesmaids were all in maroon and gold skirts and tops. Two of the six were Indian and they helped the rest tuck and pin and adjust. They all pulled off the outfits with ease and looked beautiful.

Traditional Indian wedding ceremonies can last hours. During that time, people will get up, get food, chat, mingle, and then sit back down to watch the ceremony. A little like watching television. For this wedding, though, they kept the ceremony relatively brief.

The priest performed the ceremony in Sanskrit, with English explanations for different prayers and blessings. Tej said at points in the ceremony they were encouraging the priest to glide through various bits to speed things along. This made me laugh out loud. Can you imagine asking a Catholic priest to hurry through parts of the Mass so it's not too long?

Earlier that morning Tej had opened the box of things the priest was going to use in the ceremony. As soon as she took the lid off, I had a Proustian moment, albeit with smell. The contents of that box just smelled like India to me - fragrant with spice.

I'd been surrounded since Thursday with the colors of India, but until those smells washed over me, I'd forgotten what a sensory experience India is. It made me homesick, which I realize sounds silly, because India isn't home for me. But it was for eight years of my life, and I spent the weekend reveling in the familiarity of the clothing, music, food, scents of India. I felt rich and lucky, so lucky to be invited to share in it.

For the reception Tej put on another outfit, also sequined and embroidered and just incredibly elegant. She'd toned down a little of the bling, but still, I had this vague and secret hope that a waterfall would appear out of nowhere and she would break into song and everything would get all Bollywood.

She and her husband Raj were all sparkly happy and grinning from ear to ear when they made their entrance. They gazed at each other through the entire first dance, and I suspect they momentarily forgot there was anyone else in the room. Or even the universe, maybe. So happy, so in love.

Tej lent me a sari and one of her aunts wrapped me in it when they were finished dressing her. Basically, you have a cotton petticoat with a drawstring, and you pull the drawstring as tight as you can possibly bear it. Ouch. And then a little tighter. And then the sari is wrapped around, pleated in the front, and all tucked in to the waist of the petticoat and pinned to keep it in place. One end is then draped over your shoulder and pinned to your top.

It's simultaneously simple and elaborate. I'd forgotten how incredibly elegant it feels. She also lent me all the bling. And we all got bindis to match our outfits.

They had a gorgeous wedding. They were surrounded by friends and four generations of family in attendance. The weather was perfect - sunny, warm, and absolutely no humidity. The ceremony was on the water and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

They are clearly a really happy couple, so in love and so very loved. You can't really ask for more than that.

Congratulations, Tejal and Raj!


  1. Gorgeous! I absolutely love wedding photographs, and stories of love.

  2. What a loving tribute to your friend. It sounds amazing.

  3. I can't thank you enough for being such an amazing friend! Smart, sweet, beautiful, and amazing - thank you!


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