My A La Carte Hindu Wedding
Faced with the task of creating a traditional Hindu ceremony in a Western context, I chose two rituals most meaningful to me.
I never had visions of a dream wedding, like some women do. There was no fairytale dress in my mind’s eye, and no candy confection fantasies of a wedding cake. Nor did I have a wedding planning book, outlining how the day was supposed to unfold. The few ideas I did have centered on the Hindu wedding rituals specific to my Pahari background. (The Paharis belong to the recently established Uttaranchal state in India, originating from the mountainous areas such as Almora, Ranikhet, and Nainital.)
And in the end, I was, in some sense, able to have my perfect wedding.
I’d met my husband at a club, and we dated for five years before we decided to tie the proverbial knot. Our discussions around marriage had focused more on where we would live (at my husband’s request, I decided to give living with my in-laws a go), how we would raise our children (apparently I will end up being the stricter parent), and how we did not want a large, splashy Indian wedding, something that's become stereotypically common.
We didn’t put too much importance on the day itself, realizing it’s mainly a symbolic event and a festive occasion for family and friends. The actual marriage entails two people making a life together.
My absolute dream wedding would have taken place in India. I grew up there, and I couldn’t even comprehend getting married in Toronto, where we live now. How would most of my family--who are in India--attend? Where would I go shopping? Where would I find a good mehendi artist?
The wedding ended up happening in Toronto for various logistical reasons. My husband and I insisted on a small, but meaningful ceremony.
Hindus from different parts of India have their own regional interpretations of a wedding ceremony, making them fairly distinct from each other. Usually, when Hindus from two different backgrounds marry, they incorporate all the regional variations. In our case, I took care of the wedding ceremony, while my husband planned the reception.
My husband’s family is Punjabi, and aren’t aware of all the religious rituals during the wedding. “We just follow what the pundit (priest) tells us,” one of my husband’s aunts told me. They focus more on the revelry –dancing, singing, applying turmeric paste on the groom as a beautification rite, and tying the ceremonial pagri (headgear).