Category Archives: P and C’s Wedding

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.

Weekend Wedding Post V: Nepali Wedding Paraphernalia

I’ve mentioned a few things in passing that some of you might be familiar with, and some of you might not. So I thought I’d do a brief post to explain some of the Nepali wedding paraphernalia.

It goes without saying that Nepal, although a small country geographically, is very ethnically, socially and religiously diverse. Thus the things that I mention are not necessarily universal for all Nepali weddings, but happen to be used for our wedding that included mainly Chetri and a few Newari cultural elements (such as the sagun bags).

While some elements of the wedding—such as the use of sindoor– are similar to some Indian customs, other elements might be different, or have a different twist.

Sindoor pot with my wedding sindoor

One such twist is that Nepali weddings don’t necessarily use a mangalsutra, but instead give a different type of necklace called a tilhari made out of small pote beads and a gold pendant. The tilhari is worn for your wedding, and on the festival of teej, and pote necklaces (without the gold tilhari pendant) are generally worn on a regular basis as a symbol of marriage (much like a western wedding ring). Sometimes the potes are thicker multi-strand necklaces, and sometimes they are long single strand necklaces.

My wedding tilhari

The other Nepali culture twist is the dubo ko malla. I’m not sure if there are groups in India who use this type of malla (garland), but in the three major Nepali weddings I’ve been to the bride and groom have each had one. The mallas are made out of grass, and seem to be an important part of the ceremony, although I’m not fully clear on the significance behind them. For AS and N’s wedding AS’s mother sent the mallas through an acquaintance travelling to the US for a visit, and we kept them in our refrigerator wrapped in wet towels for two weeks before the wedding. In our case, P’s parents did the same, smuggling them in their checked luggage, and refrigerating them wrapped in wet towels for a week and a half before the wedding.

Pic 1: N and AS wearing their dubo ko malla; Pic 2: S and R wearing their dubo ko malla

I tie on P's dubo ko malla

Our dubo ko malla post-party. Now they are dried out and hanging on our wall at home.

A Nepali groom’s traditional wedding outfit is also different than what you might see when you think of an Indian wedding. Instead of a kurta outfit, the groom wears a specially woven outfit made out of dhaka fabric called a daura suruwal. Several of our male Nepali red wedding guests also wore white, tan or gray shaded daura suruwals.

P prepping for the ceremony in his daura suruwal, helped out by his mom and N

P and I waiting for the ceremony to start. P in his full outfit. Note the khukuri knife sticking out of his side.

To show the difference between a wedding daura suruwal (P) and the regular traditional daura suruwal (U standing left and Daddy standing right) which are often worn with blazers/jackets

Lastly I was going to point out the Nepali khukuri knife. Again I don’t really understand the significance of the knife as part of the groom’s wedding attire, perhaps a symbol of “manhood”—but in a “white” wedding you don’t necessarily see the groom “packing” a weapon for the ceremony. This bit of khukuri history is from Wikipedia: “The khkuri is a curved Nepalese knife used as both a tool and as a weapon… The cutting edge is inwardly curved in shape and is the icon of Nepal. It was, and in many cases still is, the basic and traditional utility knife of the Nepalese people. Very effective when used as a weapon, it is a symbolic weapon of the Nepalese Army, and of all Gurkha regiments throughout the world, signifying the courage and valor of the bearer in the battlefield.”

P shows off his weapon

The unsheathed khukuri

Wedding Weekend Post IV: Rehearsal

(Friday Part I)

Again we were running late. We were supposed to be at the white wedding venue for the rehearsal by 3pm (there was a wedding at the venue that evening so we had to get there early), and our entourage didn’t fully arrive until 3:45. I tried calling my dad, but he wasn’t picking up his cell phone (I later learned he accidentally left it in Vermont. Of all weekends to forget your cell phone!), and I hadn’t had time to check my email to get the phone number for the woman who was officiating our ceremony. As my mom and sisters drove up, both my dad and the officiant were standing at the gazebo waiting for us. Thunder was cracking in the background, threatening to start the rain up again before we had a chance to finish the rehearsal.

I met with the wedding venue coordinator to give her the final seating arrangements, place cards, ribbon for the cake, check for the food, etc. She stood by as we did a run through of the ceremony—who was walking in with who, who was standing where, where the table for the “earth mixing” and “unity candle” had to go, who would walk out with who, and where we needed to go after the ceremony.

The cake was beautiful--good thing I left that red ribbon-- AND tasty ;)

Then we were all there, standing at the gazebo/altar practicing the readings, and pretend-lighting candles. Those last few weeks went by so fast, it didn’t really feel like a wedding rehearsal. It felt like we were all little kids playing make believe.

One thing we didn’t practice was “the kiss” because P was embarrassed. He already felt awkward knowing he had to do the kiss in front of his family for the actual white wedding, he didn’t really want to do more in front of them if he didn’t have to. Then we all walked out—me and P, my maid of honor K, M and S, R and D, AS and RH, my parents, P’s parents, and U stayed behind to play “All You Need is Love” on his guitar as we walked out.

I think P’s family was a bit relieved to have a rehearsal for the white wedding, so they would know what to expect, having never been to a white wedding before. I’ve heard a few Nepali friends joke that they thought it was funny that white weddings need to be “rehearsed” (“Why do you need to rehearse getting married?”), and I thought—it’s kind of true, the whole process is pretty smooth sailing, doing a rehearsal almost does feel like too much.

But my parents were nervous. There was no such rehearsal custom for the red wedding, and they didn’t have a clue what to expect. I gave them a program, and encouraged them to talk to P’s parents to learn more about what to expect, but unless you’ve sat through a wedding, or watched one in a movie, it’s kind of hard to visualize. I think for P’s parents, because they were so used to red weddings, and already had a glimpse at what to expect for the white wedding, they had a hard time imagining how nerve wracking it was not to know what will happen at the red ceremony. They kept telling my parents, “Don’t worry. There isn’t much. You will be fine. The pundit-ji will tell you what to do when you need to do it.”

Next was the American tradition of the rehearsal dinner. I had decided a few months back that it would be nice to have the dinner at an Irish restaurant (a nod to my Irish-American heritage) considering that the rehearsal was a white wedding event. It gave people the opportunity to go back and forth between their comfort zones. Friday-western, Saturday-eastern, Sunday-western. At least it guaranteed each set of parents would have at least one meal they liked—my dad ate well on Fri and Sun, but didn’t eat anything on Sat. P’s mom barely touched her food on Fri and probably Sun, but had a nice large meal on Sat.

The whole crew took up a private room in the restaurant. We ordered food and drinks. P and I gave our bridal party presents—pearl necklace and earring sets for the bridesmaids, matching red ties and personalized tea/coffee mugs for the guys. I gave my dad his tie, and ceremoniously gave him his “special Nepali hat” (dhaka topi) I’d been promising. I had to measure my dad’s big head and have it specially tailored in Nepal to make sure it fit. As I placed it on his head, everyone clapped.

Dad receives his dhaka topi. Gotta love the cheeky smirk.

Dad and sisters (K and M) at the rehearsal dinner

My dad, as per family tradition, gave P and I toasting glasses for the white wedding reception. He said he tried to “encapsulate the red and white theme” which he did nicely with red stained glass goblets with clear steams.

Picture 1: toasting glasses at the reception, Picture 2: P and I put the toasting glasses to good use

Then the speeches started… my sister M stood up and gave a sweet speech about how P “joined our family” when she was just a seventh grader, so he has been with us for most of her life. How he is a brother she never had biologically. She said that having an older sister with such a wide world view inspired her to challenge herself more and learn more about other people, and travel and see the world. It was very touching. Next U got up, and spoke about meeting me for the first time, and how he feels at home with us, knowing that P and I have been there to look out for him. It was also sweet.

With the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner out of the way, it both started to hit home that the weddings were on their way, and weirdly at the same time was hard to believe the weekend was upon us. We departed the restaurant, and R, my sisters and I worked on flower arrangements—making the flower garlands, boutonnieres, bouquets and corsages until at least 1 in the morning. The boys took P out for a last minute drink/I don’t know what, don’t ask don’t tell. And it was off to bed for our last night as a non-married couple.

Flower malla that R and I made, on top of the dubo ko mala (grass garland) brought from Nepal

Wedding Weekend Post III: A Bit of Rain, A Bit of Henna, and A Bit of Relaxation Admist a Whole Lotta Rushin’

Friday morning I woke up to a torrential downpour. No—what’s the next level above torrential downpour? Because it was coming down in buckets.

I had been afraid to check the weather most of the week, because I knew weather was out of my control, and if I didn’t like what I was going to see, I almost didn’t want to know. With all my bad luck in the previous few weeks I thought for sure it would rain for our weddings. About ten days before Weather.com said that there would be rain on Weds, Thurs, and Friday before our wedding weekend, but it would be partly cloudy and dry on Sat and Sun; however as the days dwindled down, the rain didn’t materialize, eventually the reports said rain on Friday and Saturday. I rationalized that the red wedding was mostly inside, so if it was going to rain one day I’d rather it on Saturday, but waking up to the gray dismal sky I couldn’t help but be a little worried for the whole weekend.

I got up, and ready. My plan was to sneak out of the house early because I had set up an appointment to get my feet hennaed at a pallor I discovered recently at a city-wide Asian festival. I didn’t want to tell anyone about my little indulgence because I thought my mother would get mad that I “ruined my feet for the American wedding” and I thought P’s mother would find it odd since “it isn’t part of our Nepali culture.”

When I got up I noticed P’s parents weren’t around. They had taken advantage of a brief lull in the rain to take their morning walk, so I went down with my sister K to walk our dogs, and to run to the local Dunkin Donuts to get my mom a coffee. Before I left P said that he thought his parents had already walked to the Dunkin Donuts, but I thought he was kidding.

Lo and behold, as I drove up to the DDs I saw P’s parents carrying a box of donuts under an umbrella. I pulled over to the side of the road and offered to drive them back, but they waved me off. They must have felt that they were “hosting” my mom and sisters and wanted to bring back breakfast, which was sweet (although they brought back a bunch of plain donuts instead of chocolate, glaze and other more colorful flavors). I got the coffee, drove back, and by the time I grabbed my wallet to run to the henna place the sky had opened up again. In the few feet from our apartment door to the car I was nearly soaked through.

So I went in search of my soon-to-be in-laws, imagining them drenched carrying a soggy cardboard box of donuts. I drove up and down the street three times, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I even ran into the Vietnamese grocery store looking for them (becoming even more wet in the process) to no avail. I called P and told him how bad the rain was (“I can barely see through the windshield with the wipers on full blast!”), and that he might want to take a car out looking for them, because I was getting late for my appointment.

I arrived at the beauty pallor about fifteen minutes late. I was already starting to regret making the appointment. I thought it was probably frivolous to get my feet hennaed, and that maybe people would be upset with me, that it would take too long, that it would look ridiculous. The woman who was doing the henna reassured me it was fine, and we looked through the books of designs. I picked something that was a medium level of intricacy, not all the way up the leg, but a small design on the ankles, with peacocks on the inner tops of my feet and fans around the edges.

Believe it or not, I didn't think to take a picture of my feet until about a week after the wedding, so the henna doesn't look as nice any more (too faded), but it gives you an idea...

By the time the shop officially opened and the two other employees arrived, one foot was complete. One of the workers was Nepali. She had just arrived from KTM six months before, and was excited to sit with me and talk. I had started the conversation with “Nepali ho?” as she walked by and she was eager to talk to a westerner getting married to a Nepali man. She had a lot of questions—had I been to Nepal? Had I seen a Nepali wedding before? Did I know about tilhari? About sindoor?

I told her about the dubo ko mala P’s parents had brought from Kathmandu and that we were keeping in our refrigerator covered in wet towels to keep them fresh for the wedding. She told me that she was Gurung but her husband was Chetri (a love marriage), so their wedding customs were very different (“In my culture we don’t have red tikka, we have white tikka. We are not Hindu we are Buddhist.”) I explained to her that my soon-to-be MIL is also Buddhist (Newari) but married a Chetri so she follows many Hindu customs as well. As we spoke the Nepali woman grew more excited, and started calling me “Bhauju” (sister-in-law). She offered to thread my eyebrows to make me “beautiful for the wedding.” When she started asking for details about when and where the wedding was taking place, I half expected her to show up the following day, but she didn’t.

The torrential downpour had started to subside, and even though my feet were not completely dry, I was running late to meet my bridesmaids (my sisters K and M and friends AS and R) who had planned a pre-wedding spa appointment as a mini bachelorette party. We were supposed to have lunch (which we missed due to my feet taking longer than expected—the Indian woman originally told me “it will take only half an hour,” but then I ran fifteen minutes late looking for my inlaws in the rain, and the feet took an hour and a half). We hoped that skipping lunch would help get us in and out of the spa quicker, but the spa still took a long time.

At the spa I had my nails done, and a massage to help relax. The massage was nice because it forced me to sit quietly for a little while and collect my thoughts (I was mentally making checklists—go home and grab this, this, and that, etc). Everything seemed to be happening really quickly. As soon as I was done with the massage, I told the girls I had to run home and change and grab some stuff for the white wedding rehearsal, and that I would send R’s husband S to pick them up and bring them to the white wedding venue. I got home to find the rest of the family ready and on their way out the door. I jumped into my rehearsal dress, grabbed the bridesmaids gifts, my dad’s tie and dhaka topi, the seating chart for the dinner tables, extra programs, extra copies of the readings, etc., and shooed S out the door to pick up the girls.

At the spa R and AS had complemented my feet. In retrospect I was glad that I took the time to do henna, even though it made the entire day run late. It’s now pretty faded, but when I look down at my feet it reminds me of the wedding, and makes me smile. It was also like a nice little secret, throughout the wedding weekend I could lift my skirt a few inches to show off my feet like a surprise detail, but they were mostly covered so people only saw them if I wanted to show them off.

A glimpse of henna on my feet during the red wedding

(Friday Part II)

Wedding Weekend Post II: A Birthday Dinner, Another Cop, And Last Minute Prep

I decided to call this series “Wedding Weekend” since it went with the theme of our wedding save the date magnets designed by my younger sister:

I realize that I have to start writing about our wedding eventually because more stuff that I want to write about keeps happening, and now I have a big blog backlog. I can’t keep bogging myself down with figuring out where to start, so I should just jump right (write) in.

The last pre-wedding post I did was July 6 (Wednesday). July 7th was P’s brother’s birthday. It was also the last day I worked in my office before the wedding. P and I got a lot done before his parents arrived on June 29th, but there were still last minute things to do—planting all my centerpiece pots, making the white wedding programs, stuffing the sagun bags, making the placecards, creating the flower arrangements. And of course I’m a control freak that was giving too much attention to every detail, so I was bad at delegating tasks.

The white wedding centerpieces that I made. I have a thing for funky looking succulent/cacti so I figured it would be fun to make dish gardens people could take home and enjoy rather than flowers that would die right after the ceremony. The table numbers were red construction paper pinwheels with "Happiness" written in different languages. Above is the "Nepali" table and the "Thai" table

White wedding place cards (can you tell the photographer sent us photo proofs?)

The white wedding program "fans" for the outdoor wedding on a hot sunny day.

Sagun bags, on display at the red wedding

Homemade flower arrangements-- red for the bride, white for the bridesmaids

While I was at work all day, P and his brother were “working from home” with their parents. I felt that it was tough to sneak out once I got home from work because I was gone all day, and the parents expected to spend time with all of us in the evening. I spent many of my lunch breaks racing around the city doing last minute errands, and I would occasionally leave work early but tell P I was working late, so I could have an extra hour to get things done. I kept thinking that a lot of bride’s feel stressed as the “big day” approaches, but they have so much more freedom of movement! What made me feel a bit stressed was not being able to freely run around and do crazy-pre-wedding stuff when I needed to. Although most things were in place by U’s birthday, I still couldn’t 100% relax until I knew that all the pieces for the two ceremonies were in order.

My mother and sisters arrived that Thursday afternoon, and I left work a little early with them so that I could help facilitate the C family and P family hanging out together at home.

A few years ago I was in the wedding party of a friend who got married on my 25th birthday, so I know what it is like to have a birthday when people are running here and there for their wedding stuff, and how special it was when they remembered, amidst all their organizing and planning, and gave me a cake and sang “Happy Birthday.” So we decided to take U out for a birthday dinner with a few local friends and our two families to give him time to celebrate.

Of course, as per my “bad luck” (telephone pole incident, tire exploding incident), as I was driving with my mother and sisters behind P (who was driving with his parents and brother) I passed a crosswalk, and then a cop on the side of the road motioned for me to pull over. I didn’t have a clue why he was pulling me to the side, thinking maybe my sister’s car’s registration had expired or something.

He came to the window and said, “Ma’am, do you see that man crossing the pedestrian crosswalk behind us in the blue shirt and jean shorts?”

“Yes?”

“Well, he is an undercover cop and we are conducting a sting operation,” (he actually said that, “a sting operation” as if I was on a tv crime show!), “and we are ticketing people who do not stop for pedestrians as they cross the crosswalk. License and registration please.” (This is a state law in Massachusetts BUT when I had passed the crosswalk the man was still on the other side of the four laned road and had just stepped off the sidewalk. Had I been a few seconds later, and he further towards the middle of the road, I could understand a ticket, but this seemed ridiculous!)

“Sir, please! I’m getting married this weekend and we are just on our way…” I nearly wailed.

“You say you are getting married this weekend?” The officer asked.

“Yes!”

“Alright ma’am, enjoy the weekend…” and he let me go. Thank god. But who gets stopped in a “sting operation” for pedestrians crossing the road??? I’ve never even heard of that! And of course, P’s family saw me get pulled over by the cops again. They must think I’m the worst driver on the planet, and that their poor son takes his life in his hands every time he drives with me! I promise I’m not. I may not be the best driver, but my driving certainly doesn’t warrant so many cop interventions in the past two weeks!

We had dinner (without any more police officer issues, although I was teased that I shouldn’t be allowed to drive anymore), then went home to have birthday cake. Since P’s mom is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat eggs I had earlier gone searching for an eggless Vegan birthday cake. We sang happy birthday to U, and D and I ceremoniously smushed the birthday cake into U’s face.

P said he had "photographic proof" of my cake smushing debauchery... but I wasn't alone, D also helped :)

See… I’m a cake smusher, through and through. I’ve had cakes smushed on me, and I’ve smushed cake on others. P knows this, and he was worried that I would smush our wedding cake into his mouth as well. He’d been warning (begging?) me for months not to, and because I love him, I had decided not to, but had to get the cake smushing out of my system at least once that weekend.

That Thursday the C family and P family spent the night together—My mom, sisters and I in my bedroom (on an air mattress, and on our bed), P and U were in the living room, and P’s parents were in the guest room.

At the close of the night, only one day remained until we had our first wedding.

Wedding Weekend Post I: “Crazy,” “Fun,” “Fast,” and “Exhausting”

Sorry for the prolonged silence. I’ve needed a day or two to recover from the festivities. The weekend was such a whirlwind. People say that your wedding goes by so quickly you hardly have time to get your head around it. It’s true, and it’s only now as I sort through pictures our friends and family have been posting on facebook that I am really getting a sense of what it looked like and what I want to say.

I have to admit that there were many times throughout the weekend where I thought, “I need to write this in my blog!” so I will break my story into several posts so as not to get too long winded at one time.

But now I’m left with the dilemma of where to start. I don’t think I have many words in me today, but I thought I’d share with you a few of the pictures that our friends took. We had a professional photographer there, but we won’t see his pictures for several weeks, so I will share those later.

If I could sum the weekend up in four words I would say “Crazy,” “Fun,” “Fast,” and “Exhausting”– Crazy because after years of being together, years of engagement, and a full year of planning, it was finally here and it felt so surreal; fun because we did have a lot of fun–dancing, talking to friends and family, singing, enjoying; fast because the weekend seem to be over in a blink of an eye, and exhausting because even though it went fast, we still had many long days, late nights, and lots of activity.

As I mentioned before, the weekend before the 4th of July P and I were doing as much wedding prep as possible before his parents’ arrival. My new in-laws arrived a week and a half before our wedding, which made it a bit challenging to sneak out of the house to get wedding stuff done, so I’m glad I did most of it ahead of time. P’s brother came July 1st and stayed with us until the 12th, my mother and sisters came on the 7th. The rest of the time went like this:

7th- last day at work before wedding, mother/sisters arrived, P’s brother’s birthday–took him out to dinner with friends

8th- final wedding prep day, white wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, up until 2am making flower arrangements

9th-Nepali wedding day! temple set up, red wedding, red wedding “after party” (did I mention Nepalis know how to party?) until 2am

10th-American wedding day! last minute wedding prep, white wedding, and formal reception

11th-Get to know P’s extended relatives day and “welcoming the buhari” rituals  (until midnight!)

12th-Crashed like a train wreck

13th-Back to work!

Red Wedding:

Wedding sari pre-ceremony. Many of the sari wearing women got ready at S-di's house where S-di, her daughters, AS and R helped people who are not accustomed to saris get wrapped and folded accordingly

Me sitting under the mandap during the ceremony wearing the "dubo ko mala" (Nepali grass garland), flower mala, and veil

P and I with AS (left) and R (right) helping with the rituals under the mandap. I can't thank these two beautiful friends enough for all their help, we would have been lost without them!

P and I under the mandap walking around the fire

With P's family after the ceremony-- left to right: P's brother U, P, me, Mamu and Daddy

With both our immediate families: left to right: P's dad in traditional Nepali daura suruwal, my dad wearing a Nepali dhaka topi, P, me, my sister K in a sari, my youngest sister M in a sari and mom in a sari, and P's mom

One of my favorite pics of the day (taken by U)-- P and I walking out after the ceremony to find our car decorated with red streamers and bows. The back of the car says "P weds C" and the sides of the car say "P2 + C2" (referencing that both our last names and first names start with the same letter). A childhood friend of P's chauffeured us to the hotel I was staying at so we could freshen up.

P and I after the red wedding but before the red wedding "after party"... wedding round 1 complete!

P, U and I at the red wedding "after party"-- yep-- that's me in my bridal sari with tilhari at a local bar, dancing it up (in front of my new in-laws and extended Nepali family... I guess I'm not the run-of-the-mill buhari, luckily it didn't seem to make a bad impression... I even danced with some of them!)

White Wedding:

White wedding ceremony

I have to put this picture in, because P was so embarrassed to kiss in front of his family. He wouldn't even let me tag him on facebook!

The groomsmen fooling around during the cocktail hour

Father/Daughter dance at the white wedding

International House college friends at the white wedding: 1st KS, 3rd D, 4th me, 5th P, 6th and 7th our American/Bulgarian friends (we are going to their wedding at the end of the month), and AD

More to follow soon!

Red Wedding Program

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).

Making Sagun Bags

My first “real” Nepali wedding experience was at R and S’s week long ceremony in 2009. I stored away different ideas that I saw as possibilities for our own wedding down the road. However they are both Newari, and what I didn’t realize at the time was that various rituals and traditions that I was taking note of were often specific to the Newari community in Nepal–and that even within the Newari community there were various “takes” on different traditions (as was evident when R and S would debate their own family’s particular wedding traditions).

P’s mom is Newari, but P’s dad is Chetri, so generally the culture of a household (if the household in Nepal is blended) tends to be that of the father, so much of P’s family traditions were Chetri instead of Newari growing up. (Conversely, S’s mom is Chetri but dad is Newari, so he grew up with Newari traditions).

One tradition that I noticed at R and S’s wedding was that R’s family gave guests small red velvet bags with a picture of Ganesh with “R weds S” imprinted on it. Inside was a small packet of nuts, dried fruits, and chocolates. I assumed that this was a universal custom, not necessarily a Newari custom. So while budgeting for various aspects of our wedding, I had assumed that we would give small favors at the American wedding (as per our tradition) and that we would give a small bag of nuts and dried fruits at the Nepali wedding as a favor.

I mentioned this to P a few months ago, and he said, “Oh that’s sagun that’s a Newari thing. I don’t think we have to do that, but you can ask my dad.”

So we asked, and P’s dad said not to worry about the bags, we didn’t have to do it.

Around the time that P was in Nepal (three months ago), P’s dad realized that I had googlechat because P would message me when I was at work (if the power was on in Nepal). P’s dad loves keeping in contact with people, so after P left, he started messaging me nearly everyday to say a quick hello and ask how things were going.

A few weeks ago I mentioned to him that I was going to give out small favors at the American wedding, since that was the tradition, and asked if he wanted to do anything similar for the Nepali wedding. I think when he heard that there were favors for the American wedding, and thought it would be nice to do sagun bags too. So he told me he would talk to Mamu about it.

Eventually they decided it would be nice, so P’s parents went to a shop to order the red velvet bags with Ganesh that said, “Happy Wedding! C weds P July 9 2011.” (I bet it was the first time that the shop keeper put my name on a sagun bag!)

When his parents arrived in the States, they came with a suitcase of food, included several bags of cashews, almonds, pistachios, and 150 red velvet sagun bags.

R and S made a surprise visit this weekend (in part because the boys decided to take P out for a bachelor’s party– in true P style–deep sea fishing! That’s where they are as I type) so R offered to help put the sagun bags together.

We laid out a sheet, and put the different nuts and chocolates into different bowls for easy access, and R, Mamu and I started filling bags. The first 75 seemed to take a long time (especially when Mamu declared, “No mistake, no mistake” and R and I rushed to keep up with her pace), but later in the evening, after a long break, the last 75 went very quickly.

R and I filling sagun bags with cashews, pistachios, almonds and chocolates

So now we have baskets and bags full of 150 red velvet “C weds P” sagun bags to distribute next Saturday!

Mehendi

Mehendi (henna) is more of an Indian tradition than Nepali. I am sure you could check several other gori blogs to find pictures of amazing intricate henna up and down the arms and legs of soon-to-be pardesi brides. However I think there is a growing trend for Nepali brides to take up this Indian tradition, due to the cultural influences of Bollywood, and let’s be honest… mehendi is beautiful and fun.

When I was a student in Jaipur a friend and I ventured to the “pink city” to have henna applied before a special dinner program where we girls dressed up in saris for the first time. This was also the first time I ever had mehendi “officially” applied.

You can almost see the henna on my hands. First attempt at wearing a sari.

The next time I had the chance was in Nepal for my friend R’s wedding (more pictures HERE). P’s mom seemed so confused why we would want to do this. She kept shaking her head saying, “This is not our tradition. Why is she doing?” I came back with my hands all designed and ready to go.

Henna from R's wedding-- with sugar and lemon juice making my hands glossy and sticky. Supposedly a way to "darken and strengthen the mehendi"

The third time was for my friend AS’s wedding. In lieu of a “bachelorette” party, we invited female friends over to eat, dance, rub turmeric and sandalwood paste on AS’s face and arms, and to apply henna on each other’s hands. I just applied it on my palms so that while I was at work the henna wasn’t as noticeable, but it was still fun!

Before the henna dried

So after two weddings worth of henna, R and AS thought it would be fun to organize a mehendi party for me, and invited friends over on Sunday for some food, wine, and henna paste. I guess traditionally it would be a “women’s only” event, but we had the guys over too, and they were able to amuse themselves during our henna making with a different Nepali tradition—card playing (although a Bulgarian friend was the eventual winner!)

R and AS decorated R’s apartment with saris and dupattas to give it a “Bollywoody” feel, and many of us dressed in colorful kurtas. R’s brother-in-law’s new fiancé was designated as the mehendi artist for me, while AS and other’s took up the henna cones to design each other’s hands.

It was fun—and R’s soon-to-be sister-in-law hid a small P on one of my palms to see if P could find it within 60 seconds. The bet was that if he found it I would have to get up and dance for the whole group to the song “Shelia ki Jawani” which of course I wound up having to do, but at least he joined me halfway through the song!

It’s funny having henna on my hands in the US, because there are those who know about P and the region of the world he is from, and kind of “expect this kind of thing” from me. Yet then there are others—like the custodian in my office who came in the other day to collect the trash and noticed my palms when I handed him the garbage can and exclaimed, “What on earth did you do to your hands?!” and continued to look at me funny while I explained. My sister, who works as a bank teller, said that her co-workers asked if she was bored over the weekend and wrote on herself with brown marker. I’m sure for some people it just looks weird.

But I still like it. The reason we did the mehendi early is because my mother already warned me (she falls into the category of “expecting this kind of thing” out of me) that I was not allowed to have “anything on my hands that will ruin the white wedding photos.” (She was even concerned about the sindor before I was able to convince her that it can be easily washed off in time.) However being the rebel that I am, I kind of want to find someone to do henna on my feet for the wedding, kind of like a secret, since at least for the white wedding my feet will be covered. I’m sure I can find one of my Indian students who might be interested, although P’s mother again will probably be perplexed, “Why do this, it is not our Nepali culture?” Hmmmm… We will see.

Photos from the event:

The designing begins...

1st from left- college friend, 2nd in blue-AS, 3rd in white-my sister K, 4th-C, 5th-R, 6th-R's soon-to-be new sister-in-law, 7th-S's sister

Some of the hands, waiting to dry...

Applying for the Marriage License

The last time I saw my Dad’s family was at Thanksgiving. Sitting around the dinner table they asked various questions about the upcoming wedding. One of my uncles joked that it was important “not to forget the marriage license.” Apparently when he and my aunt got married they traveled up from Texas to New York, and between organizing things from afar, and all the little details of the wedding the “week of,” everyone forgot about applying for the marriage license. Luckily my grandmother knew someone at the country clerk’s office, and everything was rectified in time.

I consider myself pretty organized. I’m trying to get a lot done in advance so that the “week of” we are not so stressed out. I’m keeping a running spreadsheet on RSVPs (for the two ceremonies), meal selections, gifts, and thank you notes. I already have center pieces and guest favors mapped out and pre-ordered. I’m hoping to have programs for both weddings done within the next two weeks, as well as song lists and photographer info. I like thinking about the details. Or maybe I’m just an event-organizing-freak.

But the time ticks by quickly! A college friend of ours is getting married on Friday, which is exactly one month before our American ceremony. Tomorrow is exactly one month from our Nepali ceremony. I’ve been waiting a really long time for this, and needless to say I’m excited, but it’s also crazy how quick it all of a sudden is! I blinked, and now it is only a month away!

So with the 30 day mark hovering I thought, what the heck, lets apply for the marriage license so that there is one less thing to worry about.

In Massachusetts you have to fill out an application for your “intention” to marry, and three days later you can pick up your license. You have to use your license within 60 days, which we already have covered. Last night I said to P, “Let’s go to City Hall tomorrow and fill out the application.” And today during my lunch break at the office I went to the ATM to take out the $40 application fee, drove to P’s university to pick him up, and together we headed to City Hall.

I can officially pick up the license on Monday and I can store it safely until 32 days from now!

"Documenting" the moment. This photo is also a very nice example of "pinky-whiteness" versus nice and tan (from my last post).