And if someone had told Gurpreet Bajaj, a devout Sikh, that she would be marrying someone outside her religion, she would not have believed it either. "I never thought I'd ever marry a non-Sikh at all. It would be just too complicated," says Gurpreet.But Steven and Gurpreet fell in love, and the unbelievable and the complicated became part of their lives. Steven comes from a family of conservative Catholics. Gurpreet, who had never ever been inside a church, went to one for the first time with Steven's mother. She recalls, "It raised a lot of doubts in my mind. I'm a very religious Sikh person-deep down, I like to pray, I like to go to the gurudwara [Sikh house of worship]."For Steven, too, entering into an alien world was not easy. "When I used to talk about the upcoming wedding ceremony in India, it used to freak him out totally," says Gurpreet. "He couldn't understand why he had to remove his shoes to go inside the temple. I told him, 'We can't have a wedding if you can't remove your shoes, if you can't sit on the floor, and if you can't cover your head.'"Steven, however, turned out to be a quick learner. He and his family flew to New Delhi for the traditional Sikh wedding at the gurudwara and five days of accompanying celebration. His entire family dressed in Punjabi clothes for the wedding, with all the men in turbans. Steven, like any good Indian son-in-law, touched the feet of all Gurpreet's elder relatives and calmly walked around the Holy Book (the Guru Granth Sahib) in the traditional 'pheras' [circling] that solemnize a couple's union.Recalls Gurpreet, "He did the pheras better than an Indian would. Even the priest said, 'I have never seen anybody walk so beautifully, with so much dignity, without any rehearsals."
Many couples are able to reconcile their different faiths and make their weddings a multifaith celebration of love. When Sacha Shivdasani, who is Hindu, married Scott Freemon, who is Jewish, the couple embraced many religions under one roof. At their wedding in a country club in Westchester, New York, the Hindu wedding mandap with its floral canopy served also as the Jewish chuppah. A rabbi and a Hindu priest conducted the wedding vows. The bride wore a sparkling white Indian outfit, and all her bridesmaids were swathed in multicolored silk saris. The Jewish wedding started with the Song of Songs, and the men of both families wore yarmulkes on their heads for the ceremony. After the Jewish wedding, Marina Alam, a singer, sang a Sufi devotional, a Hindu bhajan, and a chant from the Guru Granth Sahib. Then the two families once again came to the stage for the Hindu ceremony, this time with the men wearing bright turbans. A red veil was draped around the couple's necks for the prayer ceremonies. The joyful reception combined everything from Hava Nagila to conga lines to bhangra, while dancers performed a modern dance celebrating all faiths - Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu. Says Aroon, the mother of the bride, "Our guests were from every religion and we wanted them all to feel part of the celebrations and to show that every faith is welcome." Neeli and Todd's Hindu-Christian Wedding
When New York physicians Nitin and Leena Doshi were organizing the wedding of their daughter Neeli to Todd Cather, they flew their guests to a resort in Amelia Island off the coast of Jacksonville in Florida. They set up stalls with Indian clothes and jewelry, like a bazaar, and the 100 American guests were invited to dress themselves for the evening in Indian outfits. While chefs at the resort provided the western cuisine, Indian chefs were flown in from New York to create the Indian wedding feast. The wedding, a vibrant mix of West and East, included a complete Hindu ceremony with the bride being carried in a palanquin on the shoulders of her brothers and cousins, and a rousing reception where guests danced the Garba, a Gujarati folk dance. The non-denominational Christian wedding ceremony was held on the beach, with everyone dressed in casual Western clothes, and the bride in a white wedding gown.