7 Dec

Spending a week in Delhi with an Indian family in India means that not only do I have the perk of being shown around the city by people who know it best, but also that I get invited along to events that I probably would not have otherwise.  Toward the beginning of my week in Delhi, I mentioned to Kanika and her mom that the one thing I want to do while I am in India is attend an Indian wedding.  “Really?  My cousin is getting married next Saturday.  You should come with me,” Kanika says,without skipping a beat.  Giddiness ensues.  “SERIOUSLY?”


“Does this mean I need a sari?”

I think I may have been more excited about shopping for a sari than going to the wedding.  Kanika, her mom, her aunt, her cousin, and I all head over to a shop in North Delhi.  To say the experience is overwhelming is an understatement.  Floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall is nothing but folded saris.  The five of us take a seat on a velvet couch and a salesman starts pulling saris off the shelves and unfolding them in front of me–WHOOSH, WHOOSH, WHOOSH!

The colors and beading and threading flash and sparkle under the lights in the shop.  Some must weigh five pounds with all of the bead work.  After seeing about 20, I narrow down my choices and decide to try on five.  I am torn between two–a bright turquoise with heavy silver beading and a sheer purple with lots of gold details.  Then, while Kanika tries on one, I begin scanning the shelves.  That’s the problem with too many choices.  I am in like with the ones I tried on, but I am not in love.  I mean, I love the idea of wearing ANY sari, but I want that instant connection with one, that feeling people tell you that you will have when you try on the perfect wedding dress or you meet “the one.”

At this point, I know I have a short amount of time to do a lot of digging, since we have been there for a while.  So, I begin to scan the shelves for colors that catch my eye, since the saris are folded and I have no idea what they actually look like.  I rummage through the piles behind the salesman as he helps Kanika with her sari.  I had been eyeing this deep blue one with gold and silver threading since we first walked in.  The salesman unfolds it for me, and I just know I am going to take it home with me.  It’s much simpler than the ones I had tried on earlier, but it’s just what I want.

Because I have no desire or patience to learn how to fold a sari properly and make the perfect pleats, I decide to have it stitched so that I will only have to wrap it around me, hook it, and call it a day.  Kanika and I take our saris to a tailor to have the tops made.  We pick the designs we want–I go for a sweetheart neckline and short sleeves–and have our measurements taken.  I instantly regret the copious amounts of butter naan and butter chicken and dal makhani (butter dal) that I had consumed over the last week.  Ok, who are we kidding?  Since I arrived in India.


By the night of the wedding, I have bangles, a necklace, earrings, and shoes to complete the look.  I even had henna put on my hands and forearms.

We arrive at the wedding as the groom’s and his family makes their way down the road toward the venue.  Fireworks are going off all around, as there are several weddings takin

g place in the same area due to the auspicious date.  We enter the venue through a walkway of gold and red fabric into a large open space.  On three sides, food and drink stalls line the lawn.  In the front, is the stage, where the ceremony will take place and to the right, a dance floor and DJ, who is spinning India’s Top-20 tunes.

I don’t even feel like I’m at a wedding, but more like a holiday party.  No one is seated.  The 1,000+ guests are mingling, eating, and dancing.  There is no sense of anticipation.  After Kanika’s grandfather introduces us to his brothers, sisters, and friends, we head over to the food stalls.  There is no way I’m going to pass on Aloo Tikki.

I discovered Aloo Tikki earlier in the week at a street vendor near the tailor and made it a point to have some every time I could.  It’s a fried potato patty smothered with various masalas and topped with chopped radish.  It’s completely messy, and I just hoped that I could eat it gracefully enough to not get masala on my sari.

Groom's procession

About an hour later, we hear drums.  The groom, who rides in on a horse-drawn carriage, and his family enter the venue.  He takes a seat on the stage and waits for his bride.  It’s about another hour before she arrives.  In the meantime, he’s up there, chilling with his buddies, while waiters bring him food and drinks.

When the group of drummers arrive later, this time the bride and her brothers are coming in.  She is dressed in a beautiful red and gold sari (I can’t even imagine how much it weighs) and wears lots of bling.  She takes a seat next to the groom, a few minutes later they exchange garlands, and that’s it.  Then they take a seat and all of the wedding guests take turns going onto the stage to pose for pictures with the couple.  This lasts for hours.  I reluctantly join Kanika and her grandfather on stage to take a picture with the bride and groom.  I am sure they are thinking, “Who the hell is this white girl trying to be Indian?”  But, then again, when you have over a thousand guests at your wedding, you probably don’t know most of them.

And, my favorite part is that the whole time–even as the drummers play and garlands are exchanged–the DJ continues to play Top-20 hits. It’s comparable to having a Rihanna song playing while the bride and groom exchange vows during an American ceremony. 

We leave a little after midnight.  The couple and their families will be there all night, with one more ceremony taking place in the middle of the night.  The ceremonies themselves are all very anticlimactic and there is no need to stay through the night.  It’s just as Kanika’s grandfather told me on the way over, “Indian weddings are all about the production.”

T-12 days ’til I go to my next one!

Bride enters

picture time!

The venue


2 Responses to “StARI StARI Night”

  1. Jackie December 7, 2010 at 1:58 am #

    What an incredible experience! I want to see many more pics of this sari too! The one of you is wayyyy too little for my liking and I’m sure you took a zillion! :o)

  2. Mom December 7, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Loved this story! You look beautiful in your sari-great color choice!

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