Wedding Weekend Post VI: Temple Set Up, Sari Wearing, and “Where are the Brown People?”

“…The Bride Just Sits and Everyone Else Does the Work!”

I woke up on Saturday morning to sunshine (Friday rained itself out), and thought, “Today I’m getting married, or at least half married.” If there was a common theme as to how I felt, it was probably disbelief. Like, “Wow, it’s finally here. It’s actually happening. Only a few hours left. I can’t believe it. How am I supposed to feel?” What kept me going (considering Friday I was too busy to eat most of the day, and by the rehearsal dinner I didn’t really feel hungry anymore, and the red wedding day P and I were supposed to fast until after the ceremony) were all the tasks (checklists) that had to be completed before the ceremony began, at least it kept my mind distracted.

I packed my bags (I wasn’t returning home until the morning after the white wedding—so as not to see the groom the morning of the white wedding and be cursed with any other bad luck juju), and gathered any last minute red and white wedding paraphernalia.

P and I had recruited friends to meet us at the Nepali temple around 10 in the morning. We had about 130 people coming for the ceremony that afternoon and we had to set up chairs, find places for the tables and organize a “room switch over plan” between the ceremony and the Nepali dinner since there wasn’t enough space in the room for chairs and tables to be set up at the same time. We organized the plates, cups and silverware (brought from VA from my mom), the sagun bags and programs, dropped off the gallons and gallons of mango juice, milk and tea leaves, and water we had for the reception drinks, and worked with one of the temple coordinators to set up the sound system.

S-di, in between teasing P and I about not having goat served at the reception (“What kind of Nepali wedding doesn’t have goat?”) said, “C you are a hard working buhari. In Nepal the bride just sits and everyone else does the work!”

With the temple arranged and ready, P drove me to the hotel where I was staying with my mom and sisters for the night (my first night as a half married woman, how romantic) and I dropped off my stuff and grabbed my box of saris to take to S-di’s house.

“This Definitely Feels Like a Wedding House!”

P dropped me off at S-di/M-dai’s, and that was the last I was going to see him before the Red Wedding. I had previously arranged for women who wanted to wear saris but might not be as familiar with how to wear them, to meet up at S-di’s house so that S-di, her daughters, R, and AS could help people get ready. I had promised a few of my saris to people to wear and had brought a box with me, along with colorful bindis from P’s mom.

I had also sent the newbie sari wearers this Youtube video to help them get an idea of what was involved in the wrapping:

While people started slowly getting ready AS, R and I went to a local Vietnamese beauty parlor to get my hair done. AS had gone to the same woman last year for her wedding, and the hair dresser remembered us. R suggested that I get a “poof” in front (“I guess it is a Nepali thing.” R said, “The poof adds to the look.”) and I put myself at the mercy of the girls’ suggestions on what would “look good.” The final result was great—the small “Nepali poof” in front, a curled bun in back with a dori hair decoration tied around the bun and pinned to the side of my head.

By the time we got back to S-di’s the house was buzzing with people—my two cousins, my two sisters, my mother, and several friends were in various stages of sari wrapping. Make-up bags and hair curlers were out, women were walking around in petticoats and blouses, bangles tinkled.

“S-di, this definitely feels like a wedding house!” I said, while she pinned and tucked pleats for my cousin.

R helped me get into my sari, and I piled on my bangles, and posed for a few pictures under the red shiny veil. And then all of a sudden, it was time to go.

Getting ready-- friends, sisters, S-di in black in picture 1 helping people wrap up.

Arriving at the Temple

AS, R and S-di/family were still getting ready when my mom, sisters and friend left to head to the temple a little before 3:15. Because we had been running so late the previous day, P had told me earlier to be ready and there “at least by 3:30” for the 4pm wedding. The tentative plan was that P’s people (the groom side) would congregate outside the temple and maybe janthi in together, while the bride’s family was already settled inside. For all the pre-planning I tried to accomplish, I should have just realized that some things just happen (foreshadow).

I arrived at the temple just as members of my dad’s family started pulling into the parking lot. I jumped out of the car and walked over to greet them, fully dressed in my red bridal attire, forgetting that this was the first time they had seen me in a sari. My Great Aunt said, “C, I hardly even recognized you before you walked over! You look so different!”

Inside many of our other American wedding guests were already finding seats. P was inside milling about talking to guests, so I started to mingle as well. It’s exciting and a little overwhelming to see nearly everyone you are close to in one place, and they are all coming up to chat with you. I tried to explain to some of my family members that Nepali weddings are not as formal as American ones in that people can get up and move around, that we had pakora and tea in the back of the room if people wanted snacks, and they could move around and take pictures if they wanted. I sat to talk to one American college friend who said, “I’ve never been to a wedding before where the bride hangs out with everyone right before the ceremony.”

The time started ticking down—4 o’clock came and went, and it was still mostly “white Americans” in the temple. P asked me “Where is everyone?” (“The one time I want them to be here on time, they [our “brown friends”] are nowhere to be seen!”) and the Americans—who in American fashion arrived half an hour early—started to get antsy. I didn’t have a clue what was supposed to happen next to kick of the ceremony, and by 4:15, we figured we had to get the show on the road. I asked P’s dad what to do, and he suggested that P and I walk to the front near the mandap and wait for instruction from the pundit-ji.

Little did we know that several of our friends were waiting outside for the janthi, including P’s brother, and they missed part of the beginning of the ceremony because they didn’t think to come inside the temple.

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2 responses to “Wedding Weekend Post VI: Temple Set Up, Sari Wearing, and “Where are the Brown People?”

  1. Wow, it’s so hard to coordinate everything. I was predicting the end of the story was that the Nepali guests showed up fashionably late just as the Americans arrived too early. So everyone was just standing outside the temple?

    Everyone’s sari looks lovely and nicely pleated.

  2. americanepali

    I think it was a little of that for sure– there were “fashionably late” South Asians, and “much too early” Westerners. However I should also mention that several of our South Asian friends were probably late because of delegated tasks. Like S, R and AS who spent a lot of time wrapping saris, and didn’t have a lot of time to get themselves ready, or D who decided to take our car and decorate it (although he *could* have done that earlier), or friends who ran out to get extra drinks (again, could have been done earlier, but…)

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