The wedding is the biggest and most important event for the wealthy. It is typically as extravagant as the bride’s family can afford. It is an opportunity to display the family’s wealth and status.
The parents and family arrange about 95% of the marriages in India. Critical decisions such as education, social status, color of skin and appearance are important in the selection process. For the most part, the decision is made by the parents of the couple and is seldom made on the basis of love or mutual attraction.
The marriage is a gift in which the father of the bride gives his daughter to the groom’s family. The wedding process is a ritualized affair and follows procedures handed down through the generations. Typically, the event is attended by hundreds of guests who are seated in a large auditorium. As the bride, the groom, and their many attendants go through the prescribed steps, nearly all of these guests are talking among themselves. Few can hear the words of the priest. It is also difficult to see much of the details of the proceedings.
Generally, there are 4 to 7 cycles in the ceremony. The priest and the close family members recite vows concerning their future responsibility. In addition, … to help emphasize the importance of the commitment, … money is always exchanged. Each of the cycles involve different close family members … the parents of the bride and the groom, aunts and uncles, or siblings.
The bride is elaborately adorned in a beautiful dress, intricate head covering, and glittering jewelry. Her makeup, painted hands and forearms have been skillfully applied. From all appearances, she is a beautiful bride but not a radiant bride. As an Indian bride, she seldom smiles and appears to be looking at the floor most of the time. On the other hand, the handsome groom is also dressed for the occasion but displays more emotion. From his smiling demeanor, he seems to be pleased about the prospects of living the rest of his life with his pretty wife.
The wedding begins with the bride and groom sitting together with their right hands clasped and wrapped with a special scarf. They never look at each other nor do they speak. The priest carefully choreographs the event for the camera. Each time around the sacred fire, the response is the same. The only difference is the particular family members and the accompanying attendants. It is after the final round and rose petals shower the couple … when the ceremony is complete … that the bride and groom switch places. After sitting down, hands are once again separate. Several people offer prayers to their gods. The young man and woman are finally married. This is the last the guests will see of them.
The guests are all ushered down to a banquet hall and treated to an elaborate meal. Food of all varieties is served. It is a time for visiting with family and friends … a time to speculate on whom among the guests will be married next … a time for children to dress up and display the proper etiquette and behavior for this occasion.
Meanwhile, the bride and groom are whisked away at last in their well-decorated limousine. They can now look to their future. A future that … because they are among the elite of Mumbai … is as wide open as the sea.
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