Tag Archives: Nepali Wedding

White Wedding/Red Wedding

According to a wedding website I occasionally check for ideas, there are 230 days to go until my American wedding. Every time I click on links from the website’s e-newsletter a little banner at the bottom of the page reminds me how time is edging ever so closer to that final date.

Some days I’ll look at the banner and think, “Oh my gosh, There is so much to do, I’ve barely scratched the surface!” While on other days I’ll think, “Hey it’s still 7+ months away. I’ve got plenty of time…”

This pretty much sums up the duality of planning a “white” (American) wedding and a “red” (Nepali) wedding. The timings are completely different, and it is both frustrating, calming, and scary at the same time.

I’m generalizing here—but most American weddings are planned several months, if not a year or more, in advance. Nepali weddings, mmmm, not so much. You’re lucky if you have months, usually it is more like month or maybe even weeks. Which is actually quite astounding when you think about it. Most Nepali weddings are significantly larger (hundreds of guests) with more moving parts (multiple ceremonies and receptions) and more ‘plan ahead’ type issues like potential travel to the other side of the world and coordinating with relatives thousands of miles away!

Meanwhile, I’ll pick up the phone and talk to my sisters, mother, or grandmother and they find my relaxed attitude about planning and organizing bizarre. They are on “Team America” where time is of the essence. I’m great with logistics, I plan events at work all the time, but still, the fact that the wedding is 230 days away and I still don’t have a) a dress, b) a photographer, c) a wedding officiant, d) a dj, e) invitations, f) save the dates, g) an official guest list, although it’s just about there… I think I need to stop listing things, or I’ll start freaking out… but there are so many unplanned pieces (and this is just the American wedding! We have a whole other ceremony to plan!). They just don’t understand why I’m taking my dear sweet time. My mother has been hounding me about booking hotel room blocks for guests, and I keep telling her, “I’m not quite there yet” and she responds, “You better get there soon! It will be here before you know it!”

Meanwhile I’ll talk to my Nepali friends and the mentality is—the wedding is so far away. 7+ months… you’ve got ages! Why are you freaking out? Why do you need a wedding dress now? Who thinks about a photographer this early? Of course I have supportive friends as well, but I’m also a little worried that if I talk about wedding stuff with them too much I’ll burn them out since there is so much time left, and I don’t want to look crazy.

It is tough sometimes to remember to keep perspective, especially when the differences between the cultures can be so stark, but there are times where all I can do is kind of chuckle. Over the weekend I had a conversation at a dinner party that went something like this:

Me: “I didn’t know you had 4 siblings.”
Friend: “Yeah, two older sisters who are married and two younger brothers who aren’t, although I’m sure my brother who was born right after me will get married a month or two after I do because he has been waiting.”
Me: “Oh, so when are you getting married?”
Friend: “This summer.”
Me: “Really? Summer 2011? Like us? I didn’t know that! Congrats!”
Friend: “Yeah, thanks.”
Me: “So who are you getting married to?”
Friend: “I don’t know yet.”
Me: “But you’re definitely getting married this summer?”
Friend: “Yeah. Definitely.”
Me: “But you don’t know who you are marrying yet?”
Friend: “Right.”
Me: “I have to laugh. I’m spending all this time organizing my own wedding, that is taking place at the same time, and you haven’t organized anything, and don’t even know who you are marrying.”
We both chuckle…
Friend: “Yep.”

And I’m stressing out about a wedding dress? At least I have a groom!

Actually at one point over the summer I even asked P to call some of the local temples to see if he could check on space availability and one of the temple priests scolded him saying, “I don’t even know where I will be next summer, how can I tell you if the temple is free and what we are doing!”

So wedding planning has definitely been—er—interesting, to say the least. I think I’m getting hung up on little details like picking a white wedding dress because I feel like it is one thing I can control, amongst all these moving and uncertain pieces. I feel I have very little control over what the Nepali ceremony will look like, and I’m a little sad that P’s family doesn’t seem very excited to discuss details. Actually I have yet to mention the word “wedding” to them. A few people have talked about it on our behalf, but that’s it.

On the other side, my family only wants to talk about wedding stuff, but I feel like I have to pick battles all the time—“No, the Nepali wedding is not a ‘side show’ the ‘Asians’ are only invited to,” “No, both weddings are equal so they will both be on the invitation,” “I’m not ‘forfeiting my culture’ by not doing a Christian religious ceremony, I’ve never been religious and I don’t feel comfortable doing one,” “If you want to wear a sari to the Nepali wedding that is fine, but don’t turn it into a joke, and I can’t promise that P’s mother will in turn wear western clothes to the American wedding.”

I have to admit though, I’m kind of excited to go to Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities with my family. I’m excited to have a pocket of American-ness for a few days where people will ask me questions and be enthusiastic and not think it is too weird to discuss details that are 7+ months away. I’m nervous about more wedding culture conversation challenges, but I’m more excited about sharing my excitement.

We will see how it goes. Wednesday my sisters are coming to help me choose a wedding dress. R has already gone shopping with me and gave some great feedback, so I’m looking forward to seeing what my sisters have to say.

So that’s where I am right now. How about you?

Nepali Wedding in New England

I don’t want to scare people away with excessive wedding talk, but as I mentioned in “Wedding Season” our house was the wedding house for our dear friends AS and N last week and there was too much interesting blogging material to ignore.

Not only did they have a beautiful wedding ceremony, and an informal fun reception for 70 guests, they planned and executed the event in approximately two and a half weeks! They were even able to coordinate having some of their wedding necessities sent from Nepal through various travelers making their way to New England. For someone who has a year to organize, their feat was quite amazing!

So rather than go through round two of lengthy explanations of the event, I just wanted to share my highlights:

Unlike our friends R and S, AS and N had a one day ceremony/reception. Our Nepali wedding will be relatively similar, perhaps even in the same temple. Rather than go to the Nepali priest who performed P’s Brathabandha, they opted to go to a South Indian temple in another nearby city. Thus the rituals were a hybrid between Nepali and South Indian traditions.

The bride and groom looked great. The groom wore a traditional Daura Suruwal made from Nepali dhaka fabric. This outfit differentiates the Nepali groom from an Indian groom whose clothing style has a completely different fabric, cut and color combination:

N (in pink colored daura suruwal and traditional topi hat) stands with several of his relatives including a few cousins wearing red and gold Indian inspired wedding clothes

AS wore a sari sent by N’s mother in Nepal. Along with the sari the couple had wedding pote, wedding bangles, grass garlands, and sindoor sent from Kathmandu.

AS in bridal attire

As promised, I made flower wedding garlands (called “mallas”) for the ceremony. It was much easier than I thought. I purchased a yarn needle and some green yarn to string the flowers, and I cut the stems off the carnation heads before making the necklaces. I kept the mallas covered in a damp towel in the refrigerator overnight to keep the garlands fresh for the morning ceremony. The mallas turned out well, and added a colorful fragrant touch to the ceremony—I was quite proud of myself.

Red carnation garlands that I made on a platter after being blessed in the temple with grass mallas and wedding pote sent from Kathmandu

The hour and a half long ceremony was filled with many rituals, but my favorite part is when the bride and groom start to exchange all the wedding goodies—pote, rings, garlands—

Red pote, yellow pote, green pote, then exchange of rings, grass mallas and flower garlands

and of course the important moment when the groom applies the bridal sindoor and the couple becomes officially married.

White cloth is stretched from a representation of god to AS's forehead. N sprinkles sindoor starting at the base of the cloth up to AS's hair. On the third sprinkle the couple is officially considered married. As a gesture of tradition and respect AS bows to touch N's feet but N tries to stop her and get her to stand.

At the end of the ceremony some of the younger neighbors played the role of AS’s sisters and (as per tradition) stole N’s shoes— he had to pay some cold hard cash before the girls would return them. AS’s brother carried AS on his back around the wedding car as a way of saying goodbye to her as a member of their family and the couple drove to our house where N’s extended relatives officially welcomed AS to the family by performing several simple Mukh Herne rituals. Afterward the couple arrived at their reception which was set up in a neighbor’s backyard and catered by a new Nepali restaurant (the Yak and Yeti) in Boston.

Once AS removed her red sequined veil at the reception, we could appreciate her beautiful wedding hair style complete with traditional red dori hair decoration.

So congratulations and a long happy life to the new married couple!

A Different Kind of Ruby Slipper

When most Americans think of “ruby slippers” a certain type of shoe comes to mind… you know, the Wizard of Oz kind…

…but I wanted to mention a different kind of ruby slipper.

There are special Nepali wedding shoes that brides wear during their ceremony, and often afterward these shoes can be used as slippers in the home. Since Nepali wedding colors are most prominently red as well as green and gold/yellow, the shoes are usually predominantly red with green and gold/yellow embellishments.

Actually the first gift that P brought back from Nepal for me, my sisters and my mother were these wedding slippers. Unfortunately he underestimated the size of American feet compared to Nepali feet and the slippers didn’t fit most of us well, but it’s the thought that counts.

I still have a pair of wedding slippers that I wear around our apartment, and with the wedding last week there were several other pairs floating around.

Left: my house slippers; Right: AS's wedding shoes

Toto… we might not be in Kansas anymore, but maybe Kathmandu!

Monsoon Wedding IV- Swayambar

This post is going to have a lot of pictures… because I think it’s the best way to explain what was going on– or at least try to explain, there seemed to be so much happening that it was a little hard to follow. The nice thing about Hindu marriages is that no one really knows everything (with the exception of the priest) but enough of the older people have been to so many weddings that the bride and groom have a legion of aunties and parents to surround them and whisper in their ears everything they have to do. My friends think it is kind of funny that we have “rehearsals” for American weddings (especially since comparatively they are less complicated), but we don’t have the aunties to direct us during our ceremony! ;)

Around 1am the priest arrived and started setting up the wedding area-- rice, flowers, fruits, colored powders, etc...

R's aunties and cousins help her get ready

The groom (to the right) waits in the swayambar area while R's parents prepare with the priest, it's almost 2am

R is ready, and looking radiant

And to prepare for the bride's arrival, the marching band starts to play again (right), remember... its 2am and we are at R's house in a neighborhood. I guess during wedding season surrounding families have to be flexible about noise, because some day it will probably be your kid waking up the neighborhood! The picture (left) shows the band taking a nap while waiting for 2am to approach...

The bride approaches, flanked by her aunties and cousins.

One thing I want to mention specifically… brides are not supposed to look happy during the wedding (even if they are) because traditionally they were leaving their homes for good, and moving in with a groom and a new family that she might not know so well. Its more common for the bride to look sad, or to cry. However R has a very happy, bubbly personality, and I think it was really hard for her to keep looking serious. Whenever she posed for pictures her younger brother would gently tease her, “Hey R! Look down! Look sad!” I think it is nicer for the bride to smile… especially if she is happy. I’ve seen plenty of Nepali wedding photos were the brides look miserable (even if they aren’t) because that is what is expected.  R might have struggled even more to look less happy to be marrying S if it wasn’t 2 o’clock in the morning and several days into an already busy wedding schedule. I think the bride and groom were already thoroughly exhausted.

R finally sees S dressed in his wedding best, and her mother hands them prashad (blessings) as the swayambar ceremony begins

R gives S a flower garland

And they sit and listen to the priest, following instructions for all the small details whispered from both R and S's aunties. There was a lot of picking up flowers and rice and fruits and touching them to their foreheads, or throwing them into a candle flame, etc.

Now the key part begins, remember the sindoor given during the supari ceremony? S used the same sindoor powder to sprinkle on the part in R’s hair. The bride’s face is hidden by a handkerchief as the groom applies the powder,  after which the couple is considered married. I liken this to the exchange of rings in Western culture.

Two angle shots of S applying R's sindoor, flanked by relatives telling him what to do and where.

Exchanging the rest of the wedding paraphernalia, from left to right by row starting with the top: R receives a grass garland, then a flower garland, then a ring (since Nepali culture doesn’t really have the same wedding ring significance like western culture, S gave R back her western style engagement ring), then R gets some gold wedding jewlry and finally her long heavy green wedding pote. Lastly S gets a ring. I guess the men don’t get as much “bling” as the women.

At last! Married... although there are still several more parties, rituals and ceremonies left to complete!

R's parents give more wedding blessings, as the priest starts to conclude the ceremony

S poses with his new in-laws-- R's dad, grandmother, (S), R, R's mom, and R's younger brother

While S poses for pictures, R’s cousins steal S’s shoes. Since the wedding area is set up like a Hindu temple altar, the couple have to remove their shoes for the ceremony, making the groom’s shoes an easy target for the Nepali wedding tradition of the bride’s sisters stealing his shoes. The groom is not able to get the shoes back until he pays enough money to satisfy the sisters. S kept giving 100 rupee notes to try and get them back, but R’s cousin kept saying, “more! more!” and he eventually had to pay 5,000 rupees, about US$80 to get them back.

By the time the Swayambar was over it was around 4 in the morning. Those who stayed at the wedding found a place to sleep for a few hours before the next ceremony began… around 9am!