It’s Saturday and I’m getting ready for the wedding. My face is all made up. I must admit that it looks good. Now, I just have to put on my outfit. It’s a deep red sari. Rhia helped me to pick it out at an Indian bazaar. “When it comes to Indian weddings you can wear anything color but white. In South Asia, white is associated with funerals,” she told me. “And we avoid black.”
After getting dressed, I put on the bangles Rhia lent me. I check my manicured figners and toes. They are polished perfection. I examine myself in the mirror and satisfied, I took up my bright purse and went into the living-room minutes before the doorbell rang.
Heart racing, I rush to answer the door. Reyesh is standing there, looking very handsome in his outfit. I see his eyes travel slowly over me and when they return to my face, his has a curious expression on it. “You look amazing,” he remarks.
I beam up at him. “Thank you. And you look amazing too.”
“Are you all set?”
“Yes.” I close and lock the door. As we walk to the elevator, I can feel his eyes on me. It pleases me that he obviously likes what he sees. I wanted to look good for him. Excitement and nervousness fill me as we get into his car and head to the venue everyone has been anxiously looking forward to.
It’s a beautiful day–perfect for a wedding. On the drive over to the, Reyesh gives me a complete rundown of the different parts of the ceremony. It sounds so elaborate and interesting. I can’t wait to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to seeing the bride and groom. Last night, I googled Hindu weddings to get an idea of what to expect and the brides all looked beautiful in their colorful dresses and jewelry and the grooms looked very dashing. Everything was so colorful, so festive. I know I’m going to have a great time.
“Thanks for inviting me to your brother’s wedding,” I say to Reyesh.
“I should be grateful to you for coming. It was short notice when I asked you.”
“It has been a long time since I’ve been to a wedding. And this is my first cultural wedding. From what I’ve seen it looks like a lot of fun.”
“It is. You will get a taste of my culture, meet my family and enjoy some really good food.”
“I love Indian food and I love dancing at weddings.”
He smiled. “I hope you’re wearing comfortable shoes. You’ll need them for dancing.”
I smiled in return. I am looking forward to dancing with him.
We arrive at the venue and I feel like I have stepped into a fairy-tale. All around me are bright colors, flowers and people. Excitement and anticipation hang in the air. I stick close to Reyesh while my eyes wander eagerly about me. I feel like Alice in Wonderland.
I can’t wait for the ceremony to begin. I made sure I brought my camera. I want to capture as many moments as possible. Not only because this is my first Indian wedding but it’s my first date with Reyesh. Even if we don’t hook up after this, I will have the photos and the memories.
Everyone is waiting for the Kanya Aagaman – the Arrival of the Bride. It’s her first appearance at the wedding. She is escorted to the Mandap by her maternal uncle and aunt, signifying the acceptance of the union from the maternal side of the Bride’s family. She and the groom are separated by a white cloth and not allowed to see one another yet. She is carried by her male relatives down the aisle on a small carriage, Doli to the Mandap. I took pictures of the Mandap, the altar for Indian weddings. It was beautifully dorned with floral decorations and bells.
When the bride reaches the Mandap, the ritual of Varmala begins. This is the first time she and the groom meet before starting the wedding ceremony. Bride is the first to try exchanging the garland while fighting off the groom’s side of the family. I laughed at Reyesh as he playfully hinder her from placing the garland around Neel’s neck. Reyesh told me that everyone looks forward to this moment because it was fun teasing the couple. Once the groom successfully exchanges his garland the couple takes their seats at the Mandap to start the ceremony.
It is such a beautiful ceremony. After the groom ties the Mangalsutra, a necklace around the bride’s neck the newlywed couple will take seven steps around the holy fire, called Saptapadi. Reyesh explained to me that, “These steps represent the first seven steps you take together as husband and wife.” I watch as he spread out seven stones in a straight line and the couple move from stone to stone, touching each with their toes, as the pandit reads the seven verses. After the seventh step, the couple legally become husband and wife.
I was crying when they did the Vidaai. It’s when the parents send their daughter to a new beginning and the daughter in return, thanks them for taking care of her for all these years. The Vidaai marks the end of the ceremony. Now it is time for the reception which is being held at the Royal Pavilion at Addington Palace. It is here that I meet Reyesh’s family. They are all so warm and friendly. I feel welcome and like I’m a part of the family. The food is to die for. I have eaten so much that I am happy to dance it off. I am having such a great time that I don’t want this night to end.
“I had such a great time, Reyesh. I loved every minute of it. I have a question, though.”
“Before they went down the aisle which was covered with red rose petals, how come the newlyweds didn’t kiss?”
“They don’t typically kiss at the end of the ceremony because kissing is a very personal thing. And any such show of affection might offend the elders.”
“Oh. I’ve been to weddings when the bride and groom kiss soon after their are pronounced married and some of seem to forget that they aren’t alone. It can be very embarrassing sometimes.”
“Would you like to be kissed at your wedding?”
“Yes. Wouldn’t you?”
We are stopped at a traffic light and he is looking at me. “Yes,” he says softly and then, he’s kissing me. I can’t believe it and am stunned for a few minutes. Then, I kiss him back. We are so busy kissing that we don’t notice that the light has changed twice. Thankfully, there is hardly any traffic on the street.
My heart is racing and my legs are trembling when he walks me to my door. We stand outside, facing each other. “Thanks for a wonderful time, Reyesh,” I say, my lips still tingling from our first kiss.
“Call me Rey,” he says before he leans over and kisses me again. My head is tilted far back under the onslaught of his lips. I cling to his sleeves. After a while, he raises his head. “I’ll call you later.”
I nod, dazed and disoriented. I turn and fumbling, somehow manage to unlock my door. I turn and face him again. “Alavida, Rey.”
“Alavida, Keeya.” He touches my face before turning and walking away.
I wait until he’s gone before I let myself into my flat. What a perfect end to a perfect day.