January 25, 2012

alice in a sari, & 200 other indian wedding photos


good lord, you guys. indian weddings are INTENSE. this one was 3 days long, with more partying than i normally do over the course of three weekends. and every single bit of it was gorgeous (and most of what went on was completely new to me, so i found everything fascinating).

the first night was a reception on the beach. a giant tent, couches out under the stars, twinkly lights on all the trees, and an awesome live acoustic band. the waves were crashing softly on the beach 10 feet away. waiters were walking around with wine and beer, but ALSO with pre-poured glasses of whiskey & rum, carrying ice & mixers on the same tray so you could get a freshly mixed cocktail without ever having to visit one of the bars under the tent.
the bride & groom were welcomed into the party by a troupe of whirling, acrobatic traditional (to Sri Lanka) Kandyan dancers.
after drinking our faces off, gorging on an amazing indian food spread, spending some time trying to catch crabs in the surf, and then dancing to the band as a light rain started to fall.... we went inside. to really start the party.
so, i don't do shots. however, when the father of the bride leans backwards over the bar so the bartender can pour a shot directly into his mouth, then pulls you over to do the same? you take the shot.
the next morning was spent recovering. i did more than one of those bar shots, and also had about 2198357 whiskey & cokes thanks to those roaming bartenders.

the next night was the sangeet & mehendi, where everyone was encouraged to wear traditional garb, and the bride & groom's friends perform dances they've choreographed for the couple. almost all of us non-indian-lady-attendees managed to find/buy/borrow a sari for the evening... however, NONE of us knew how to actually get the darn things on. we had all youtubed the heck out of instructional videos, and all agreed there was still zero way we'd be able to do that to ourselves (or even to help put one on someone else). (we had all tried, and failed, in the safety of our own homes.) luckily, we found out we could PAY people at the hotel salon to do it for us!
DEFINITELY a better option. excellent use of $7.
(all 5 of us paid to have our saris wrapped for us. no shame.)

here is chris in his kurta, which is the traditional indian dude attire:
he was able to put this on without assistance. lucky man.

inside the (unbelievably gorgeous) party room, there were women available to draw henna on the ladies:

then the bride arrived! for any little girls who always envisioned themselves as princesses on their wedding day, might i suggest having an indian wedding? because just LOOK at her. she looks like a legit, real-life princess, no?
next there was a series of traditions around bringing the groom in, first in regular jeans & a tshirt so he could be inspected, approved of by a barber (..? i think?) then sent off to dress. the procession back in was impressive, led first by his female family members:
..then he was escorted in under a fancy fringed umbrella:
he was fed sweets by his new family to welcome him into the fold, and then was finally allowed to join his bride. next up was the dancing! since chris was one of the groom's best friends, he was called upon to participate in the first dance, symbolizing the groom's life before meeting his wife.
(he's the one in the grey tshirt up there.)

next up, the girls danced to represent the bride's wife pre-groom, and OH MY GOD HOW DID I GET ROPED INTO THIS?!
seriously, i'm still not sure how/why i ended up in there. the groom's sister in law grabbed a few of us by the arm our first day there and let us know we had dance practice in 2 hours. HAAAAAHAHAHA OH GOD. i was there as a plus one - a VERY WHITE plus one - and here i was doing bollywood-style dancing in front of the entire 200-person wedding. ::dies::

(the best part of the night was much later, when one of the indian aunts came up to me and said, "that was the best indian dancing i've ever seen by a while girl!" i'm pretty sure you could see me beaming from space.)

luckily, it turns out they gave us the bollywood-lite version of dancing, because then the REAL choreography started up.
very glad i did not have to try and keep up with that.

(there were more open bars & roaming bartenders through all of this as well, of course. the drinking was pretty much a constant the whole weekend.)

after the choreographed dancing was finished, and another sumptuous indian meal consumed, the dance party picked back up right where it left off the night before. this next picture isn't much composition-wise, but it was an attempt to capture how unbelievably awesome the view was that night anywhere you turned, with everyone draped in such beautiful, vibrant, sparkly, saturated colors. it was like living inside a kaleidescope.
by day three, i was running pretty much on fumes. we all got up bright and early for the actual marriage part of the wedding to start, first off with a traditional ceremony in a scottish church. (a scottish church in colombo, sri lanka. who knew?)

the bride wore white, but it was a beautifully intricate sari rather than a western style dress:later that day was the hindu wedding ceremony. it started with the friends of the bride & groom gathering separately for ceremonial preparations. i couldn't quite follow what was happening with the groom (it involved some string tied in his hair? and being fed more sweets?) but after he was blessed by the hindu priest, an intricate necklace of sorts with his name & his brides name emblazoned in hearts was draped over his shoulders, and a fancy turban was placed atop his head by the priest. we were now ready to go fetch the bride!
one of the Kandyan drummers returned and accompanied us, all hooting & hollering as loudly as we could, through the halls of the hotel, into the lobby, around the hotel's christmas tree, and eventually across the courtyard and to the door of the room where the bride was waiting with her friends & family to let him in.

(it was right about now that everyone agreed that we all planned to have indian weddings when we got married.)

during an initial hindu ceremony, the bride & groom's hands were bound together symbolically with string (and then the bride's friends stole the groom's shoes - as per tradition apparently - and the groom had to haggle with them on a price to get them back).
next it was out to the rooftop terrace for the main hindu ceremony, which was like 2.5 hrs long. IN SANSKRIT.
this was the view off the balcony, by the way.
it took a while (UNDERSTATEMENT) but eventually the hindu ceremony completed. the bride and groom kept getting more & more various ceremonial bits piled onto them throughout all of these ceremonies, until by the end you could barely see what they had originally been wearing.
after that, it was time for reception #3!! my body sort of gave up on me at this point, so i have only 1 picture of the entire reception, when the newleyweds were welcomed into the hall by a troupe of dancers holding flower wreaths with candles & incense.
i left the reception "early" (at 12:30! after midnight!) to catch my flight home. by that point i was actually thinking to myself, "man, that 15 hour flight will be so nice - 15 straight hours of sitting and watching movies!" (whenever you start looking FORWARD to 15 hour flights, it's pretty much a given you're not in good shape.)

it was the most interesting and exhausting wedding i've ever attended, for sure. i don't know how people manage to go to several of these in one year! but man, am i ever grateful i got to experience this one.


  1. Holy wow wow wow. That is so beautiful and amazing. Thank you for sharing your photos. The saris are to die for.


    Is this type of wedding common for everyone of all classes? Are your friends considered very upper class? Middle class? The ceremonies seem so elaborate and... expensive.

    How does the Scottish church fit into it?

    Is there any audience participation for the long Hindu ceremony? or were you sort of inside your head for 2 1/2 hours? Does everyone remain seated and respectful? Were there children there? I can't imagine a ceremony that long - and to be one ceremony of many WOW.

  2. As Amanda said... wow, wow, wow, wow.... and wow again. These are SOOO beautiful.

  3. Amanda - i have no clue about the socioeconomic implications, like if this is "normal" or seriously elaborate or what (it sure SEEMED seriously elaborate, compared to every other wedding i've been to!! ...but not sure if it's more elaborate than other INDIAN weddings). i do know one of the reasons they chose sri lanka over india was because it was hella cheaper there :)

    i think the scottish church was because one family is hindu & the other is... christian of some sort, so the scottish church was just a lovely place for the christian ceremony? maybe? (it was quite lovely.)

    NO AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION. it was... long. and boring. :) everyone just sits quietly (or comes up with reasons to take breaks, like "go to the bathroom" or "go put on bug spray" for chances to stretch your legs). verrrry few kids attended at all, and i don't think they were there for the long hindu ceremony.

  4. Wow this is unreal! I thought the Indian wedding I went to was intense but it only lasted about 7 hours, NOT 3 days. Beautiful pictures though. Looks like the experience of a lifetime.

  5. So, so, so cool!!! Indian culture is fascinating to me, and I love all the bright colors! And DANCING!

    A friend of mine has a Bangra dancing workout video, and holy hell that stuff is HARD to do.

  6. What a gorgeous wedding. And you & Chris look incredible!

  7. What a stunning couple! & the bride and groom weren't bad either!!

    You're so lucky to have gotten to partake of such an extraordinary event. So interesting to see/experience other traditions.

  8. Oooh fun fun fun FUN. I've never been to an Indian wedding IN India. I didn't used to be much of a partier, but now? Post-kids? That looks FUN. Except for the painfully long and boring ceremony part.

  9. Oh, man, that looks gorgeous and fabulous and exhausting!

  10. So now you know how to put on a sari right???

  11. Marie - HAHAHAHAHA yeah no. apparently the salon folks didn't even do it the "traditional" way, it was some fancypants way the indians all assured me was totally not right. also, he used about 85 safety pins to keep it on me, which looked difficult to recreate.

  12. OMG! So jealous! I'd love to be able to go to one of these weddings! The colors are so beautiful and it just looks like SO much fun!! Too bad all my friends are celtic - so lots of drinking but that's about it!

  13. You are really working that sari. Gorgeous photos!

  14. What an awesome opportunity! Your photos are beautiful, and I can only imagine how much more incredible it was being there in person. :)

  15. WOW WOW WOW.

    this is amazing, i'm obsessed, what an awesome event(s)!

  16. The bride looks like an Indian Gwen Stefani, especially on the second night. In other words, she's beautiful. So, the wedding was fitting - beautiful bride, beautiful wedding. =)

  17. Alice, this entire post (and series of posts) is freakin' fantabulous! The photos! The colors! A 3-day party! Multiple ceremonies! It's overwhelming and beautiful.
    Gosh, it's exhausting (in a good way) to even read about, it must have been incredible beyond belief to be there.

    I'm now going to try to erase some of this from my mind, because when my oldest son gets married in 6 months (Good Lord, it's only 6 months from today!) it will be NOTHING, NOTHING like this. And that makes me the teeniest bit envious.

  18. So beautiful! The colors are so amazing. You guys looked wonderful!

  19. I am SO JEALOUS. I have not been to a Hindu wedding or to Sri Lanka. I have been to India and would return in a HEARTBEAT. Love.