Tag Archives: White Wedding

Wedding Weekend Post IX: It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding

The day was beautiful. Warm, but not a cloud in the bright blue sky.

By the time I got to the tent where the rest of the bridal party was waiting P and his parents had already walked out arm in arm. P’s brother U was already next to the gazebo playing Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring on his guitar as our processional.

P, U on guitar, S, D, RH (in height order apparently ;))

AS and RH walked out together down the stone path to the gazebo, then R and D, then my younger sister M and P’s best man S, finally my maid of honor—my sister K walked out alone right before I walked in with my dad on my right arm and my mom on my left.

I don’t really remember much from walking in other than my dad whispering, “Slow down, people are trying to take pictures.” At that point your brain kind of goes into autopilot. I think I hugged both my parents and took P’s hand and then I was there, standing in front of the gazebo, starting the wedding ceremony.

Walking in with Mom and Dad

I remember thinking silly things like—should I stand with my side to the guests looking at P the whole time? Or should I turn and face everyone and make eye contact, like a speaker in a presentation? (Which I did a few times, I’m such a nerd.) We held hands through the ceremony, and stole long smiles.

AS, R, my younger sister M, my middle sister K.

The officiant opened the wedding with a brief welcome. Then our good friend D stood up and did the first reading—“The Art of a Good Marriage” by Wilferd Arlan Peterson:

Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.

He had told us in advance he was going to give us high fives after—but opted for a quick hug.

D reads "Art of a Good Marriage"

Next my younger sister M got up to do the second reading, a passage from “Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louis de Bernieres:

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being “in love” which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.

M during her reading

Next the officiant asked our parents for their blessing in our marriage, asking them to “relinquish [their] claims upon [us], save those of love and affection?” while our parents responded “We do.”

The officiant asked the rest of the audience, “You are here today as relatives and friends, to give your support to the marriage between P and C, and to enter into a new relationship with them as they become husband and wife. Do you give your blessing to them on their marriage?” and they responded “We do.”

Then it was our turn, and the officiant asked us if we were ready to proclaim our love and devotion for each other, affirming to respect, care for and commit ourselves to each other in happiness and sadness. We responded, “We do.”

Then P and I read our vows to each other. I wrote my vows while P and I were driving down to Philly to help his brother move about a month before the wedding. I figured I would share my vows with P since he is less familiar with what vows generally sound like, so as to give him a baseline for what he might plan to write (it seemed only fair). I remember when I read them in the car (he was driving), that he got a little choked up. Just a little bit, but it was there, and it made me happy to know he liked them.

The officiant had P read his vows first. I hadn’t seen them yet, and they nearly made me cry. When he finished and it was my turn to speak it took me a moment to refocus so I could speak without my voice shaking with emotion. He said:

I, PP, promise to be your one true companion and partner till eternity. I cherish the wonderful days that are ahead of us. I also realize that there may be days that we would want to forget. I promise to be completely by your side in  joys and sorrows, in sickness and in health, through all these times of highs and lows. I promise that I will always respect you and I will always support and encourage you. I promise that I will always love you as you are. I look forward to our next adventures in life, and I look forward to growing old together with my best friend.

I just got choked up again typing them out.

I went next:

I, CC, promise to be your equal partner in life; to be fair, honest faithful and kind. I promise to have patience, and to listen, to be hardworking but fun loving, and to always be ready for the next adventure. I will always strive for a happy, supportive and loving home and family. And although I can’t promise that I’ll eat daal-bhat everyday, I do promise to be the best companion, wife and friend that I can be.

Even with my little line of humor in there, P won the best vows award for sure.

Reading our vows

Next I had to put my own intercultural spin on things. I can’t help myself. When P went back to Nepal in April I asked him to bring back a small vial of dirt from his backyard. Meanwhile I asked my dad to do the same. Instead of the “sand mixing” ceremonies some people are doing these days I decided to do a “Mixing of the Earth” ceremony.

The officiant said, “As all of you present surely know, P and C come from very different cultures and very different parts of the world. Their union bridges two families, two continents and two cultural perspectives. To symbolize this special bond P has brought some earth from his childhood home in Kathmandu, Nepal and C has brought some earth from her childhood home in Oswego, New York. As they combine the dirt of their homelands together, so too do they combine a life of intercultural appreciation and understanding, and many long years of American and Nepali festivals, holidays, foods and traditions.” Then P and I mixed our two vials of earth together, and I shook it for good measure, and we now have this sitting on our bookshelf at home—a little piece of both our “homelands.”

Mixing of the earth

Exchanging rings

P and I exchanged rings, and then as per my mother’s request, we did a unity candle. P’s mom and mine came up to the gazebo with us and lit candles, and then the two of them lit the larger candle together to symbolize our two families coming together.

Mothers lighting the Unity Candle

Then those famous words, “In virtue of the authority vested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I now pronounce you, P and C, husband and wife.”—and P had to kiss me, in front of all his friends and relatives, something he was completely embarrassed to do. Later KS, a friend of ours for many years said, “It was funny to see the two of you kiss… in all this time we have never seen you do that in public!”

Woot Woot!

We finished with a final blessing, which I originally heard at my friend ArtAsana’s wedding last year:

Now you will feel no rain
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness for you,
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place,
To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

At the conclusion P’s brother said, “If you know the words, please sing along” and he played us out of the ceremony with a guitar rendition of “All You Need Is Love.”

The "deed" is done... ;)

"Husband and Wife" It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

We did the picture thing with the wedding party and the family during the cocktail hour, and then the bridal party was announced and P and I did our first dance… to John Lennon’s cover of Stand By Me. P and I probably should have practiced first, we probably looked a little stiff slow dancing together, but he did manage a few spins and it was very sweet.

First Dance

My sister K did her maid of honor speech which was also very touching. Both she and the best man, S, were so nervous to do their speeches (I was surprised about S, he loves to talk!). But they both did a nice job talking about their relationships with us individually and us as a couple (including a funny line from S about how when the two of them were the only Nepalis in rural Maine and went everywhere together people probably thought they were a gay couple ;)).

Cutting the Cake... and I didn't smoosh it, like I promised. See, showing good "wife" skills already

I think generally during wedding dinners the DJ is supposed to play less danceable music so people can sit and eat. I even think some of our friends were planning to make short impromptu speeches during dinner, but then our DJ said, “The dance floor is officially open” shortly after the MOH and Best man speeches, and my mother’s family took it literally—there was pretty much non-stop dancing the rest of the night.

Other than cutting dinner a bit short, I thought the DJ did a fantastic job. I had asked him to do a mix of classic rock/rock and roll dance hits with a few modern songs peppered in, as well as some Nepali/Bollywood songs that we gave him (originally on a CD, but I think P’s brother gave the DJ his laptop to hook up to the sound system with all his playlists).

In the beginning the American hits had the Americans on the dance floor, and the first Nepali song that came on cleared the Americans but brought all the Nepalis up, which I think my American family found interesting, but as the night progressed I think the dance numbers became more integrated.

I’ve mentioned this before—but there are certain songs for which I will literally drop what I am doing and run to the dance floor for. I know I am probably super lame, but I LOVE some of those group dances, specifically “Shout!” “YMCA” and the “Chicken Dance.” I’ve written about this before, but I’m always a little sad when people put the Chicken Dance on the do not play list, and I was certainly sad when the DJ told me that the “YMCA” wasn’t popular at weddings anymore. We did all three with full dance floors. I actually wanted one Nepali friend to lead the Chicken Dance (because of a dare from a few years ago), but I didn’t get a chance to arrange it with all the dancing and socializing with guests.

Other great songs from the night—I asked the DJ to play “Kathmandu” by Bob Seger since a lot of the guests were from there, and that was really fun, especially yelling out “I think I’m going to Kathmandu!!” and “K-K-K-K-K-K-K-Kathmandu!” and of course dancing with P to “Pretty Woman,” “Sweet Caroline” (and shouting “So good, so good, so good!” would have been more fun had the song come later in the night). There were a few big Bollywood numbers of course, like “Desi Girl” (for which R yelled out, “You are officially a Desi Girl now!!” as we both spun around on the dance floor), and my uncle requested “White Wedding” and my family made sure I was on the dance floor for that.

Snap shots from the dance floor: Pic 1: Dancing with my father-in-law to a Nepali song; Pic 2: "Shout!"; Pic 3: "A Little Bit Softer Now..."; Pic 4: "YMCA"; Pic 5: The Chicken Dance, of course!!; Pic 6: More Chicken Dance love ;)

Weddings where people dance are a lot of fun. I’m not really one to go “out” to dance (clubbing, etc), but I love to dance at weddings (I think in part because I love the older music). It must run in the family, because my mother was tearing up the dance floor– even dancing with P’s dad–so much that at one point he must have tripped, because he wound up on the ground. It was a lot of fun.

The night passed so quickly. I was really glad to have two wedding days to talk with people more and have more time to enjoy. I was literally running on pure adrenaline by the end of the night, having barely touched my food. It was so much fun, I didn’t want it to end.

As the night was about to close our friends helped us pack our car with gifts and other wedding stuff (which was very helpful, that and the fact that R and AS kept asking me if I had enough water to drink, and would thrust water into my hands. Sometimes you get to busy that you forget the basics! It was really helpful of them to keep an eye on me, and I’ll keep that in mind for any future weddings I’m involved in!)

As we finished the night, the farm/wedding venue owners met P and I at the door with a basket of goodies for the morning—juice, milk, muffins, Danish, and two pieces of wedding cake in case we didn’t have a chance to eat during the reception. As the last guests headed out P and I walked across the parking lot to the bridal suite.

During the reception AS and R snuck over and decorated our bed with flowers and left us a bottle of chilled champagne. Another friend left us a “honeymoon basket” of snacks—cheese and crackers, chocolates, nuts, sweets, etc. Everything was so beautiful, and all these kind gestures reminded us of how important and special all our friends are to us.

Decorated bridal suite

With the night over, I finally felt the exhaustion of the entire week fall heavy on my shoulders, and I sunk to the floor in my wedding dress and said, “P, I think I’m too tired to get up.” It took me a few moments to finally pull myself off the floor. We put away the champagne and the honeymoon basket, and I took down my hair and wiped off my makeup. After a quick shower, knowing that the following day we would have to wake up early and get back home to spend the day visiting with P’s relatives, we promptly fell asleep. I was probably more tired than I’ve almost ever been (including international flights!)

Wedding Weekend Post VIII: Morning of the White Wedding

I took a break from writing about the wedding weekend, but I’m ready to close the series with the last few posts. Connect with the other posts starting HERE.

The morning of the Red Wedding I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling thinking, “Today’s the day I’m getting married.” But it didn’t feel like it. I was surprised at how un-nervous (if I can make up a word) I was for the day to proceed. Even getting dressed in the red sari, and arriving at the temple, and meeting the guests, and sitting up on the altar under the mandap, I didn’t really feel nervous, more anxious, maybe, that everything goes well, and that people enjoy themselves, and perhaps curious of how everything would happen, but I wasn’t really nervous about getting married.

At the end of the night our Irish friend RH said, “That was a fun day, but it didn’t feel like a real wedding. I know it was, just not the kind we are used to, but I’m glad you are doing both, I think tomorrow will feel really different.”

And it did. Maybe not right away… I didn’t really feel it when I woke up that second morning. But as the day progressed, I could feel it, a bit of nerves, a bit of excitement, a feeling of, wow it’s finally here. I was really appreciative that we did two ceremonies. I was so happy to experience the Nepali way of getting married, but I was also very happy to have my own way as well, something I didn’t expect until it actually happened.

I got out of bed and snuck downstairs to eat something for breakfast. The hotel lobby was full of wedding guests. I spent a little while chatting with different groups of people, while trying to chew a few bites of a plan bagel (without much success.) I rounded up my mother and sisters so that we could get to the hair appointments (there was a misunderstanding and the hair people scheduled us really early for our afternoon wedding) and I loaded up the car with all the white wedding stuff.

Again my “control freak” nature took over, and I couldn’t sit down and breathe until I knew everything was good to go, that everything that had to be at the wedding venue was there, and that all the pieces were in place. I finally achieved that status around lunch time and could sit for a little while. I took my turn in the hairdresser’s chair, and my sisters bought some raw veggies and dip to snack on while we got ready and waited for the wedding to begin.

P and I had found a wedding venue about twenty minutes from where we live in MA where we could get married outside and have the reception in a tent behind the reception hall. The place was a family owned dairy farm, which had been converted into a reception venue when the farmer and his wife (a caterer) wanted to retire from the daily grind of farm life. The old dairy barn was beautifully reworked into a great hall space, and the family run catering kitchen continued to use many of their farm grown produce in the catering dishes. The barn was situated on top of a large hill with a view of rolling forested hills in all directions. It was a quiet, peaceful and picturesque spot.

Across the parking lot from the barn/reception hall was the farmer’s old house, which was converted into a hair salon/spa and bridal suite. My mom, bridesmaids, and I got our hair done on premises, and hung out in the bridal suite before the ceremony, and P and I were planning to spend our first night at the suite that evening.

Perhaps it was because during all the previous days I had been going, going, going, but when I finally had time to sit on my own and breathe, that’s when I started to feel a ball of nerves in the pit of my stomach. At first I actually thought that the veggies and dip had upset my stomach, but then I realized that it was excitement, and nerves, and energy. All this pent up emotion from planning, and thinking about it, and now we were only an hour or so away.

Several of our female friends dropped in—Indian, Nepali, Senegalese—much to my mother’s chagrin. She’s not really used to others inviting themselves over and being part of a “moment” that she expected to be private. The girls were also getting ready, putting make up on, making conversation. However as the last hour before the ceremony approached my mother insisted that these extra friends head out. “Sorry girls,” she kept saying, “But it is an American tradition that no one sees the bride after she puts her dress on until she walks down the aisle, so I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

R, AS, K and M helped each other with their final bridesmaid touches while my mom and I headed across the parking lot to the barn to sit in the “private waiting area” until the time to walk in began. Unfortunately many of my relatives were walking in at the same time and started to say, “Oh how pretty!” so I started frantically saying, “Please close your eyes, close your eyes! You’ll see everything soon.” I hurried to the waiting room only to find the door locked.

The venue coordinator looked perplexed, “The guys aren’t in there. I don’t know why it is locked.” I knocked on the door and said, “Please open up!” and a female voice came back saying, “I’m changing! I can’t.” so I banged on the door and responded, “Please, open up right now!”

“But I’m nearly naked!” the person inside said.

“I don’t care, open the door now!”

And the person came to open the door. It wound up being two of our friend’s from our time in New York when P was doing his master’s degree. They had decided to get dressed at the venue, and found an available room. One girl said, “I’m sorry C! I didn’t know it was you or I would have opened the door right away!”

“Normally it would be okay, but everyone was outside. I wanted to keep hidden,” I said. They quickly finished getting ready so they could take their seats. My mom and I sat in the room on our own waiting for the venue coordinator to come back and get us.

My mom started to get a bit emotional. I think the wedding had finally had a chance to hit her as well, and sitting there with me reminded her of when she was sitting and waiting to walk down the aisle with my father, a relationship that didn’t last. She got a bit teary eyed and said, “I thought when we got married it would be forever. I hope this is forever for you.”

“Mom, please. If you start getting emotional now, then I will to, and we will be a wreck walking down the aisle.”

So we took a few breaths and got ourselves together.

Then the knock came from the venue coordinator. It was 4pm. Time to walk down the aisle.

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 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!

White Weddings are “Exotic” too!

I talk a good game about how the Nepali wedding will be so “interesting and different” for my family, but I’m being unfair when I fail to mention that the American wedding will be “interesting and different” for P’s family and some of our South Asian friends as well.

For someone who has the cultural “norm” baseline of white weddings—from movies, and tv, from family expectations and events, it’s kind of easy to forget that this isn’t the “cultural norm” for all. Whereas weddings can be fun and exciting in general, going to one that is different can feel even more exciting because it’s a bit exotic (“the other”), and it is funny to think that something that is normal for you is exotic for someone else.

This hits home when I realize that maybe P’s family doesn’t ask too many questions about the white wedding because they are not sure what to ask, where to start, how it will be different from weddings they are familiar with, or what the event will look like (ours will be their very first one). Or when a few of my South Asian friends who wear pants as daily clothing, but salwaar kameez or sari when they dress up for parties or events, find it kind of fun and exotic to wear a party dress to the white wedding.

I was even kind of surprised when my Nepali friend R was helping me look for a white wedding dress, that she wanted to try at least one on herself. She explained how she always thought it would be fun to have a white wedding dress and do “the whole white wedding party” thing. She admitted that sometimes while walking by bridal boutiques, she would think, as she checked out the dresses in the windows, about how it would be fun to rent or borrow one and do a photo shoot for the experience of wearing it. Why should I be the only one who thinks dressing up in the wedding cloths of another culture is fun and beautiful? R was gorgeous in that dress!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the intercultural exchange and educational moments of both the weddings—my relatives dressing up in clothing and participating in rituals and eating food they are unfamiliar with and vice versa. I’m excited for both sides of my (new) family to learn more about the other and I think this will be a great way to open up a dialogue about the awesomeness of being different.

I hope R doesn't mind... but she looked too great in that white wedding dress to have pictures of it sit idly in my picasa account!

Notes on the “White Wedding”

I mentioned in my post white wedding/red wedding that I was making a website with ceremony information and places to stay, etc, for our guests. In order to  help guests learn more about the different cultural traditions (hey, I’m an international educator at heart) I wanted to have a page on Nepali ceremonies and American ceremonies to give an idea of what to expect for people who haven’t attended one before.

Before sharing with friends and family, I wanted to run my information by you, dear readers, first. Have I added too little, too much? I’m I missing anything glaring? Does it sound okay or weird? Suggestions??

So first up, for your approval, is the posting for the “White Wedding…”

(Don’t worry, I won’t include the video– but amusingly enough the first 22 seconds of Idol’s song was the theme music for the Nepali news when P was in high school! Feel free to continue playing while reading the post for extra added effect… Okay, now on to the actual post–)

Notes on the “White Wedding”

The US houses many different cultures with varied rituals and traditions, and so it is hard to describe what a “typical” American wedding looks like. Contemporary weddings also incorporate new ideas and trends unique to a particular couple, so one wedding may look very different than another wedding of someone from a similar background.

However here are a few things to look for in our ceremony:

Before the Ceremony

-Wearing White: Brides generally wear white dresses (hence “white” wedding). Traditionally the color of the dress symbolized the purity of the bride. The groom is not allowed to see the bride before the wedding on their wedding day, and the dress is a surprise. Another tradition is that the bride wears “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”– the dress is often the “something new” while jewelry or other pieces of the bride’s attire might be “something old” or “something borrowed.”

-Bridal Party: Often the bride and groom have several family members and/or friends who “stand” with them as support during the wedding ceremony. They can be identified by the clothing they wear, which generally matches the color theme and style of the wedding. The female attendants are referred to as “bridesmaids” with the main attendant referred to as the “maid of honor,” and the male attendants are called “groomsmen” with the main attendant referred to as the “best man.” The bridal party walks in with the bride and groom at the start of the ceremony.

-Parents and grandparents of the bride and groom are recognized during the wedding by wearing a flower and processing down the aisle at the start of the ceremony. The father of the bride traditionally walks the bride down the aisle before “giving her away” to the groom at the start of the ceremony. Some cultures, such as in Jewish tradition, have both parents walk the bride down the aisle. Parents typically sit in the front row of seats, but do not stand with the bride and groom at the altar like the bridal party.


American wedding ceremonies can be either religious or secular and can be presided over by a member of the clergy or by a layperson. Religious ceremonies usually include readings from religious texts that are relevant to marriage and love, while secular ceremonies include readings of poems, passages from literature, or cultural blessings on marriage, home, and love.

A common element in weddings (both Christian religious and secular) is the “unity candle”– two smaller candles are lit by the parents of the bride and parents of the groom, the bride and groom then take their respective “family” candles and together light a larger candle to symbolically represent their “unity” as a new family. Other similar rituals include taking separate jars of sand and combining them into a larger vessel to symbolize the new family unit.

The pivotal moment in an American wedding is the recitation of the vows. The bride and groom make a list of promises to each other that they vow to keep until “death do [them] part.” These vows can either be written by the bride and groom or they can use standard vows. After the recitation of the vows the bride and groom exchange their wedding rings which symbolically unite the pair as man and wife.

At the end of the ceremony the officiant declares, “By the power invested in me by the state of _________, I now pronounce you man and wife, you may now kiss the bride.” The kiss concludes the ceremony, with the bride and groom officially married.


Immediately following the ceremony is a “cocktail hour” where drinks and appetizers are served. Typically during this time the families of the bride and groom take formal wedding photos.

Generally tables are assigned to the guests, and a seating chart is available for people to find their appropriate seats. After the cocktail hour guests are ushered to the main reception area to formally receive the bride and groom.

The reception begins when the bridal party and the bride and groom are introduced. This is sometimes followed by brief toasts given by the maid of honor and best man, and sometimes a parent or relative of the bride or groom. This is followed by the first dance of the evening reserved for the bride and groom to a song of their choosing. Occasionally a “father/daughter” dance for the bride and a “mother/son” dance for the groom are also organized.

After dinner the wedding cake is cut by the bride and groom and the first piece is shared between them before the rest of the cake is sliced and served.

The rest of the evening is filled with eating, drinking, dancing and fun.

(Tomorrow the “Red Wedding” installment…)

What I’ve Been Up To…

I’m sorry my posting spree of October became a relatively quite November. As I mentioned at one point, things became pretty busy. Here’s what’s been happening in the American-Nepali Household:

-November meant Tihar celebrations leading into an international educators conference, leading into International Education Week programming, leading into good bye parties and dinners for AS and N, leading into Thanksgiving celebrations (and lots of “on the road traveling” to see family)…

-December meant preparing for the international student council’s biggest event of the year the International Dinner, and now that the dinner is finished, prepping for Christmas, writing out my long list of Christmas cards, and organizing our annual Christmas party in “the household.”

P and I have also been doing a lot of apartment cleaning/rearranging since the departure of our friends. It was a little challenging to completely “settle in” when we first moved to our new place since we didn’t use certain sections of the apartment. Not to mention (frustratingly) there were a lot of small things around the apartment that were broken by previous tenants, that P and I didn’t have time or patience to fix before (don’t get me started on the landlady who lives thousands of miles away and is not interested in fixing these “small” inconveniencies.). I actually spent a good deal of Sunday afternoon on a ladder 12 feet up in the air  replacing venetian blinds and fixing the pulley systems to get them to open and close properly (perhaps working at an engineering college is starting to rub off on me?) Now that the weather is getting cold, being able to close the blinds and keep out the evening draft will  be important!

Lastly, I’ve also been working on wedding stuff—I found a dress for the American ceremony (hurray!), we finally locked in the Nepali ceremony site (another hurray!), and my sister printed “Save the Date” magnets that she designed for us that I am hoping to get out soon (which will be a “hurray!” once they are distributed). I’ve also been working on a website so that invitees can have more information about venues, times, dates, places to stay, etc. I’m hoping to have two pages that explain some of the cultural elements of the “white wedding” and the “red wedding” and for some reason have hit a bit of a wall—I’m not really sure what to include. Perhaps if I have time later today I’ll try to draft something and put it up here for some suggestions. I don’t want to overload people with information, but being an international educator I find the dual ceremonies a “teachable moment” and I want my friends and family to learn more about the traditions involved.

So that’s where I am these days. What are you up to? Any holiday/festivals coming up in your households? Do you have suggestions on what to write for Nepali or American wedding traditions?

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?