I come from a culture where weddings have programs so that “the audience” will know what to expect. P comes from a culture where weddings follow certain rituals, and although highly formalized, they can (to a Western eye) seem informal and chaotic because people get up and move around, talk during the ceremony, take snack breaks, and there is no formal program that everyone attending has to follow what is happening.
I was pretty adamant from the beginning that I wanted a Nepali program, especially since the ceremony will be in Nepali/Sanskrit, and I feared the non-Nepali speaking guests wouldn’t know what was going on. In my international education mindset of—“Great! A teachable cultural moment!”—I always envisioned a booklet type program with extensive notes on what was happening each step of the way.
However I found this more challenging to put together than I initially thought. First of all, many of my Nepali friends don’t know what each ritual in a Nepali wedding is called, nor what all the significance is for each thing, or how to explain it. Secondly, weddings can vary greatly from family to family, so it is hard to know what exactly will happen. When I asked the Indian woman helping us organize the Nepali ceremony at the temple, she told me, a) “I could give you a write up” (she never did), b) “you can easily find things online” (we did to some extent), and c) “Americans don’t give us programs explaining every detail in their weddings, why do we always have to do that for ours?” (which I kind of disagree on, I’m sure she would get a program, even if it doesn’t explain all the cultural nuisances).
Eventually P and I met with the priest conducting the ceremony and I had P take notes about the order of how everything will happen. I’m a pretty detail oriented person, so it frustrates me when detail oriented conversations take place in Nepali, and I don’t understand. Yes, I’m a bit of a control freak.
The weekend before P’s parents arrived I asked him to design the programs (based on a similar design from our wedding invites), so he organized the priest’s notes and did some google searching to give a brief program/explanation of the rituals. The compromise is that the guests will have the program to keep everyone on the same general page, and a friend will act as an interpreter for certain parts of the wedding to help them follow along if they get a little lost.
P and I printed the program, hoping that we had the details right (and the order–we only had P’s notes to fall back on, based on a casual conversation we had with the elderly priest). The first weekend that P’s parents were here we took them to the temple to meet the priest, and he approved the information on the program, so I guess it is set. Before leaving the priest blessed me to have “many sons” (eek).
So I thought I’d post our program, so people in the future might have a place to start. I’m not saying that all Nepali wedding ceremonies follow this order, or only have these rituals (this is certainly a simplified version of what could constitute a marriage ceremony in Nepal), but at least it gives an idea. I guess the only potentially “odd” thing is that P couldn’t find the Nepali word for the ritual called “Madhuparka” (I guess it is more of an Indian term).