10 tips on how to survive a traditional Indian wedding

It is assumed that her wedding is the happiest day in a girl’s life. I mean, it should be, right? A boy and his family have agreed to marry you and now you will be “settled” and you’ve taken a burden off your parents shoulders. Now you’ve been given away, you are somebody else’s headache I mean wealth I mean are you a thing or a person, I mean that is irrelevant, but yay! Now make a baby, fast.

Now, I’m a hardcore romantic and I absolutely love the idea of spending my whole life with the one person I’ll love more than I love peanut butter even. I love commitment, I love trust, faith, loyalty, I love being able to rely on someone and being reliable for them. I love family, and kids, maybe two, maybe five, maybe pets and a cozy apartment where my love and I will make pancakes for breakfast together, and darlin’ I will be lovin’ you till we’re seventy. (Sorry I get carried away, but now you get the picture.)

BUT, but, but… I’ve not really been a fan of getting married. Like the internet pointed out,

 

“The person who invented marriage was creepy as hell like hey yo I love you so much I’m gonna get the government involved so you can’t leave”

 

However, I am also not a fan of conflict, so I was like, well, I do want to be with this person for good anyway, and if going through a couple of rituals and signing a few papers puts the family and the government at ease, let’s just roll with it, so here we are, with me being a wife and all, and I swear it’s pretty sweet.

In the whole process of getting married, though, I’ve had my ups and downs.

A typical wedding, where I come from, is built upon the foundations of patriarchy, made of materialism and topped generously with unquestionable irrationality. My family, my husband’s family — they’re all genuinely good people, who sincerely do the best they can for their kids, but it’s all also guided by traditions that us kids don’t quite believe in, or certain societal expectations that we don’t necessarily want to live up to.

But, well, here we are and this is where we belong, so, sometimes it goes without saying that we must take one for the team and do things the way they’re done. So, as a bride who, despite all her rational disagreement and tiredness and bleeding ears, was actually, truly happy on her wedding day, I believe I have a few tips to offer –

 

#10 Get to know the in-laws before the wedding

Having spent a lot of time with my new family ensured that I felt really comfortable during the wedding and in the first few days after. The elder ones don’t seem so intimidating once you get to know them — after all, they’re just like the elders in your own family! Instead, if you’ve spent time together, they look after you just as they would take care of their own kid. That said, nobody gets you like the rest of your generation, so to ease whatever anxiety you still have, or understand the things you still can’t say, your brothers and sisters-in-law will be there for you like the BFFs you never knew you needed.

 

#9 Stay as out of the wedding preps as your heart will let you

This priceless advice came a couple of months before the wedding from a brother-in-law, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

I would’ve most preferred to have an austere and intimate ceremony, but if we did decide to go all out, knowing me, I would’ve colour-coded the whole family in pastels for one of the events, I would’ve designed the photo-booths myself, would’ve written personal notes for the people who attended the wedding and had them all write wishes for us, I would’ve taken charge of dance practices at home and looked into little details like baggage tags for our guests and their individual dietary preferences. I would have wanted my wedding shot most beautifully with full control on all the photo and video shots taken. I would have the car decorated with gazanias and chrysanthemums and daffodils instead of the usual orchids and roses. Or perhaps I would have no flowers whatsoever, and opt for a beautiful vintage car instead, with a crafty and cute “just married” placard at the back.

…and that’s not even a hundredth of all the things I’ve dreamt of.

While I still believe that you get married — ideally — just once, so you should have the wedding of your dreams, I even more firmly believe in the supreme importance of keeping your sanity. If you do get involved, just know that you’re basically adding event management to the general stress of being a bride and you’re going to go crazy.

 

#8 Be firm about the things you really do want done your way

I was really sure about what kind of a wedding outfit and jewellery I wanted, and I couldn’t be happier about getting exactly that. The Sangeet gown was quite the dream as well. I briefed my makeup dude at least seven times over on how I wanted my makeup done, and more importantly on what I would definitely wash off my face before stepping out. However, eventually, I hated the hair and makeup for the Sangeet — gave in to everybody else’s conviction in the last minute rush and still regret it. Learnt from that, and was super, duper, maybe even annoyingly particular about the wedding day — and it was worth it! I felt good about it then, and looking at the photos now, I am so glad I stuck with what I wanted even though everyone said “but this is too little makeup for a bride” and “this hairstyle is too basic, why don’t you put some jewels and flowers in there.”

 

#7 Gracefully accept all the reality checks you get, (and don’t feel bad about the cheques you don’t get) along the way

No, you don’t have to be a Sabyasachi bride.

I have to admit, I did have that aspiration to begin with, but I decided to let it go, and it felt just fine wearing an outfit without a label. The way certain brands are marketed, you’re bound to feel like oh my god, I can’t do without that, but trust me, you can. I would’ve probably wanted a destination wedding, but that would’ve been inconvenient for the families.

If you dream, you can dream of great things, and however much your dearest ones want to make all of them come true, you have to understand what’s feasible and what’s not — without being a grumpster about it.

I also have to admit that I’ve been lucky, and most of my wishes were taken care of, but the crux of the point is to be nice about accommodating your demands within your budget because your family is already doing the best they can and then a little more! Be grateful.

 

#6 Work out, and eat healthy and drink a lot of water — before but not during the events

In the weeks leading up to the wedding, I managed to maintain a pretty healthy diet. The one simple trick that worked for me was to replace my usual dinner with just a big bowl of mildly spiced mixed vegetables and pulses, regardless of what else I ate during the day. I was exercising for just about 15–20 minutes a day, at home, but that was enough to leave me feeling fitter and relatively more toned by the week of the wedding.

If you want a dramatic change in your body, though, I’d say work on it months before the wedding — the closer the day gets, the more everybody wants to pamper you, and given that pampering, here in India, equates feeding you, you’re bound to cheat on your workout and diet regimen towards the last few weeks.

Also, during the events, make sure you have someone around — a friend, a sibling, cousin, whoever — who knows exactly what and how much you want to eat and drink. I was happiest having easy to eat finger foods amidst the never-ending socializing, and drinking just a small sip of water every hour or so. Trust me, you really want to avoid having to pee while in that elaborate outfit.

Last, but not the least, in fact, the most important thing — SAY NO TO ALCOHOL. Good friends will try to force you, but the best ones will know that the hangover is not going to be pretty and you don’t want to feel like death on your wedding day, so really, just don’t drink.

 

#5 Wisdom will be imparted to you left, right and centre — just smile and say yes

Innumerable relatives will all have their 5,100 rupees envelopes plus two cents to offer. The 5,100, you can keep saying no, what’s the need, etc. for as long as you both have the patience to argue over it before finally accepting it, but the two cents you just quietly listen to and nod your head.

They may say things like “you are a girl, a girl always has to adjust, she has to suffer in silence” or, “men marry for only one thing”, or “your days of pursuing a career are over, now focus on your family” or, my favourite gem from all that I was told — “eat well, because now you will have to be active during the day as well as during the night.”

I could not help but retort sometimes, but by the end of it I got pretty used to just smiling at everyone no matter what they said. I figured that it is futile trying to explain gender equality to people who just don’t want to understand it. They’ll be happier thinking that you will be an unambitious and docile girl who will cook and clean like the chef and maid she should be once she’s married, and then your husband will give you an allowance to go shopping and even take you for a holiday once a year. If that’s their idea of perfect, let them live with it. Thank them for their tips, smile, and move along with your clenched feminist fist.

 

#4 The rituals may not mean anything to you — fake it till you make it

You don’t even want to get me started on how irrelevant most of the rituals are. I mean, they call it “kanya daan” — so, like, I just get donated away? Not my scene. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Through all the customs, you will find way too many things that don’t make sense to you at all.

The pandits were chatty and asked us before the ceremony if we agree to all the terms and conditions. Habitually (and maybe eagerly) we said yes before caring to know what they are. However, they proceeded to tell us anyway — the all-important “saat vachan.” (Spoiler: they’re really anti-climatic)

The seven vows our pandits made us take were basically about how he would work and earn and provide and I would support him like a good wife should by taking over all the responsibilities of the house and the children. They actually made me promise that I would cook for him!? Well, I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a lot more suitable for before you hire a chef. And bruh, I totally wouldn’t marry a person who didn’t believe in sharing parental responsibilities fairly.

Plus, the pandits recognized their audience — the Marwari community of businessMEN — and tweaked everything to make it a lot about money — like, he will earn, I will spend frugally and get the most value out of the money he earns. Though somehow I’m totally cool with that arrangement as long as my wardrobe full of shoes counts as value for money.

But basically, all the promises were about how he would do great things and I would look after the house to support him, and in my head I was like, “sure, of course I’ll support him, but, pandit ji, what if I want to do great things myself as well?” Apparently, there is no provision for that.

So, while we were both deeply, emotionally, maybe even spiritually into the whole getting married idea — in which we love and support each other forever — the traditional vows made very little sense to us. Our promises would’ve been more like “you must laugh at every joke I make, even if it’s not very funny,” and “you won’t keep the air-conditioner on for the whole night,” and “social media will not be our go-to for expressing love or passive-aggressive fighting,” and “we will travel like godforsaken nomads,” and “we will do our best to raise good kids together,” and “we will motivate each other to be at our best,” and “we’ll keep the love and gratitude alive for all our lives.”

However, we did have to keep saying yes to everything they said, otherwise they wouldn’t let us be married. It was hard to not be seething with rage because of how very patriarchal and unfair everything was. It was even more annoying because I really did want everything about the wedding to be meaningful to us, but for that time, well, you just have to sit there and play the part and get done with it.

 

#3 Avoid a formal reception if you can — we couldn’t

I swear I love people and I want to meet everyone, and I want to shake hands with all our friends and hug all the cousins and kiss the kids and touch the feet of the elder ones and seek their blessings — I truly do. Just maybe not 2000 at one time.

The reception just about killed us. Those two grand chairs they place on the stage? It’s a lie.

On one hand, it’s immensely awe-inspiring to see how much love and goodwill our parents have earned. I mean, the last time people queued up to see me, I was a one-day old displayed at the hospital nursery. And it was really nice to see how our friends and family took out the time and made the effort to come to our wedding in Mumbai from different cities, countries, and even from the suburbs! — but despite how blessed we felt, our bodies wouldn’t stop aching because of the accumulated tiredness from the previous wedding functions added to standing in one place for over two hours at the reception.

As a bride, you will be very happy about how heavy your outfit and jewellery are — until the wedding reception. It takes immense grit and determination to keep standing and meeting everyone when all you want to do is to sit down and take off your earrings.

These days, though, some people are taking a stand against all that standing, and it’s a refreshing new trend in which the bride and groom just walk around socializing and take photos at any of the numerous photo-booths placed around the venue. That might be a far better idea — I think it’s a lot more personal and it’s far more likely that you’ll be able to sneak in some sitting time as well.

 

#2 Talk to your partner

When they make you promise cooking, lean in and whisper “no way lol.” Tell him how your ears are killing you or what food you’re craving. Point out someone who’s looking really good. Talk about the weather even, it doesn’t matter, and if you get a cheeky one-liner in your head, say it! Candid photographers are crazy about these shots of the couple talking, and a giggle or two won’t hurt. Some people may talk about how the bride wasn’t shy enough, but woman, it’s your day! Do your thing! Be happy!

I didn’t realize then, but I think there would’ve been a lot more nervousness if my boyfriancesband didn’t keep talking to me about random things from time to time. My favourite conversation was the one right before we danced at the Sangeet, in which I told him, “Dude, I don’t remember shit” and he was like, “don’t worry, me neither.” ❤

 

#1 Try to marry a boy you really do want to be with for life

There is literally no substitute for the feeling of marrying a person you are genuinely excited to live with. My go-to calm-down thought through the whole process was “it’s ok, it’s ok, this wedding will be over, and what will remain is a lifetime in which people will let me live peacefully with this boy.” And it worked, and here we are.

As I write this, it’s been exactly one idyllic month since the wedding. I am the queen of nostalgic thoughts, so I think of the wedding days often, but, to be honest, not much more often than I think of other very nice days we’ve had together before that and since then. My thought always was — that I now know to be true — that while the wedding is important, what’s incomparably important-er is the marriage.

I’m totally in support of simple weddings, but it’s hard not to get enamoured by the lavish ones. I see people sharing stunning pre-wedding photo and video shoots, I see them having the most extravagant weddings at amazing locations, and I’m probably one of the few people who not only don’t get irritated by, but also genuinely love seeing wedding updates on their Facebook news feed, but somehow, there’s no feeling of wishing I had any of that. What was, was perfect — because everyone was happy!

I’ve shared some photos as well, and even got the only comment that we were both looking forward to, saying that we are a “sweet couple.” We’ve also heard back from the friends and family who attended the wedding saying that it was phenomenal, and we’re glad they had a great time.

The one thing I know now is that the wedding is for your parents, it’s for your families and friends, and everyone gets together and has a great time. It’s like a festival. You cannot rationalize everything, because there are way too many people’s beliefs, emotions and aspirations involved — and they love you, and you love them too.

I probably didn’t have half as many dreams about my wedding as my father had about it. I didn’t do a wedding countdown, but he was keeping track and getting emotional when there were only 73 days to go. I didn’t work half as hard for my wedding as my siblings did, and while I constantly felt like they shouldn’t be stressed, the thing you discover later is that they love doing it! They actually enjoy putting in all that effort and making sure everything is perfect, so the least you, as the bride or groom, can do, is your own little bit. Besides, it’s hard to be cynical, or even very rational when that much love and happiness is showered upon you.

And, the best thing in the world is that when you’re done with it, no matter what the wedding was like, your relationship, satisfactorily sanctioned as a marriage now, is all yours, and that’s pretty much the only thing that matters.

So, you survive your wedding by acknowledging that this isn’t about just two people. You survive it by seeing how very happy your families and friends are. You survive it by accepting that it gets ridiculously emotional from time to time. You survive it by choosing to be a good host to your guests even if everyone tries to treat you like you’re royalty. You survive it by celebrating with them, by dancing through it, by bringing to the table all the happiness you feel about marrying the person you’re marrying. And you survive it by totally living it up, you sweet, sweet couple. God bless u.

 

by Yamini Rameshh

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