In some sectors of Nepali and Indian culture there is a wedding tradition where the sisters of the bride–and this could be immediate biological sisters, or cousin-sisters, or female friends, etc–steal the shoes of the groom.
The set up for this works well because during the ceremony the bride and groom have to remove their shoes since the mandap becomes a small Hindu temple, and in all Hindu temples one must remove their shoes. I believe it is the same with mosques, so I wouldn’t be surprised if shoe stealing happens at South Asian Muslim weddings as well–readers can weigh in.
The groom’s friends or male cousins/brothers are supposed to guard the shoes, and I’ve even heard about “decoy” shoes to throw the sisters off.
Once the sisters steal the shoes the groom has to pay a bribe to get them back at the end of the ceremony. Depending on the parties involved, negotiations can be pretty tough.
When my sister heard about this, she loved the idea, and stole P’s shoes at our wedding, but I gave her a limit on how much she could reasonably ask for. When she asked for $50, S said, “that’s too little!” and gave her a handful of money from his wallet. I think she made off with $100 and was pretty satisfied.
Over the weekend we went to an Indian/Nepali wedding in the DC area. It was the biggest wedding I had ever been too– about 600 people. The bride was a childhood/neighborhood friend of P and his brother, and she was marrying a Punjabi man. Both the bride and groom had 13 or 14 members in their wedding party–“bridesmaids” and “groomsmen,” so when the “bridesmaids” (sisters) demanded payment for the groom’s shoes, they meant business and had the numbers to back it up.
They started chanting, “$3,000! $3,000!”
The groom countered with, “It’s a recession! That’s too much for a pair of shoes!”
Sisters: “We want $3,000!”
Groom: “I’ll give you two-fifty each…”
Sister: “Two hundred and fifty dollars each?”
Groom: “No! Two dollars and fifty cents!”
Sisters: “Noooooooo! Boooo!”
Groom: “Be reasonable girls!”
Groom’s brother: “No more than $50 per sister, otherwise they are being greedy!”
Sisters (urged on by the bride): “No, we want $3,000!”
…Haggling back and forth for quite a while…
Groom: “Okay, how about I give you all the money in my wallet right now? Trust me, it’s a lot, you will be happy… and I’ll throw an awesome party!”
Sisters: “How much is in your wallet?”
Groom: “$800 and a gift card for $25, you can have that too!”
…Haggling some more…
Some of the brothers reluctantly open their wallets and sweeten the pot to make an even $1,000 plus the $25 gift card.
The sisters finally accept.
P’s cousin’s American husband leaned in and whispered to me, “Um, is this for real?”