‘Tis the season to eat plums in India, and they are delicious. Fruit and vegetables are seasonal here, unlike in England where you can get the majority of things throughout the year. Eating seasonal is great, it’s something to look forward … Continue reading
Not only was it baby’s first Diwali, it was my mum and youngest sister’s too! I was really excited for my English family to experience the Indian festival of light, but I was equally as nervous about how the noise and smoke … Continue reading
I need to start this by saying how proud I am of my little chap. It was a bit daunting, inviting so many people to a party for a baby, everyone expecting to meet the new member of the family, how would he react? Would he be scared? Would we have to leave? In fact, to my relief, he was a perfect host! He had a nice power nap in the middle and cracked the most beautiful smiles. A social butterfly, dressed in red silk.
Traditionally in my husband’s culture, the naming ceremony will happen on the 12th day of a baby’s life. The name is chosen based on their birth chart, by a priest of Vedic astrologer. There will be a small ritual and the baby’s name is whispered into their ear, followed by a “welcome to the world” celebration. Rohan’s name was selected before he was even born, so no astrological charts were studied, but he wasn’t going to miss out on the “welcome to the world” celebration!
Nevertheless, Rohan’s name is written in his stars. Rohan is a Sanskrit and Gaelic name, we were so happy to find a name we both loved which originated from both India and the British Isles. Funnily enough, he was born on the Christian festival of Ascension Day, a festival some of my family celebrate, and Rohan means “ascension” in Sanskrit.
It was wonderful to have members from both sides of the family with us (my mum and smallest sister came from England). I’m sure, as we live between two countries, this will be a rare occasion. We had fun decorating the stage with photographs of Rohan’s first couple of months of life, his name in English and Devanagari (how did I do?), and all the clothes his family in England and India had lovingly knitted for him. We hired the same florist who decorated the hall for my baby shower (dohale jevan) and he pulled it out of the bag, once again.
First, a large brass weight dressed in Rohan’s clothes was passed over, in and under the cradle a couple of times. It seemed like an elaborate symbolic ritual, but in fact this was just to make sure the cradle was safe. I placed him in the cradle, while his great-grandmother, grandmother and great aunts sang a folk song as he rocks back and forth.
The next ritual is a rare one. When a woman is blessed enough to become a great-grandmother (panaji), flowers made of gold are placed on her head. This isn’t a regular occurrence, so my mother-in-law struggled to find golden flowers. Thankfully she did, just in time. Grandma was over the moon. I want to take a gold flower back for each of Rohan’s great grandmothers in England, when we visit.
Then we had the sweetest thing, Rohan’s atya (his paternal aunt) and maushi (maternal aunt, my little sister) performed a dance together for Rohan (who had fallen asleep, but we’ll show him the photos when he’s older). My cousin-sister-in-law is a classically trained Kathak dancer, she is such an artist, and taught my sister a storytelling dance. The story of naughty baby Krishna stealing butter. Not only was it beautiful, I am so proud of my 14-year-old sister for being so brave, getting up on the stage and performing in front of so many people!
A Hindu naming ceremony can be compared to a Christening, and it was really interesting to see how many people gifted Rohan silver spoons and silver coins. This is also a Western tradition. I’ve seen several people in England request guests at their child’s Christening to write a message to the new baby. We asked all of our guests to write words of wisdom for Rohan, and put them all in a jar. I want to add to the jar on his future celebrations and birthdays and give the jar to him on his sixteen birthday.
Oh, I feel emotional thinking about that!
It was a lovely evening, something I will hold in my heart forever. Thank you to everyone who came, and to those who sent wishes from a far. Welcome to the world, my sonshine.
If you are a foreign bride preparing for your Indian wedding, this is a must read! Not only do I have my experience to draw from, I have spoken to so many other non-Indian women who have had Indian weddings and nine times out of ten, they mention these seven things.
So, I hear you ask, what do you need to know to prepare yourself for your big fat Indian wedding?
1. You Must Forget All Your Assumptions Based on Western Style Weddings…
I wish I had attended several Indian weddings before I plunged head first into my own. In hindsight, I thought it would be similar to a Western wedding, but with more rituals and colours. Every minute of a stereotypical Western wedding is meticulously planned by the bride. ever since she was about five years old. An Indian wedding is generally a combined effort, lasting several days and tends to keep to a vague schedule (so be prepared if you are a little pedantic).
Tip: Attend several Indian weddings before you have your own, so you have an idea of what to expect
2. You Must Wear As Much Jewellery As You Can…
It’s considered auspicious for a bride to wear as much jewellery as possible. I wish I knew how much people would judge the fact I didn’t wear much on our wedding day. Simply forget the Western fashion concept of ‘less is more’ when it comes to jewellery. For an Indian bride, more is considerably more. Whilst watching the guests critique my lack of excess, I felt extremely uncomfortable. My friend here in India was asked the weight of her bridal gold by several guests during her wedding.
Tip: You can get some really beautiful and convincing costume jewellery for a fraction of the price of gold, and no one has to know it’s costume
3. You Won’t Know Many of the Guests (And Your Husband-to-Be May Not Know Many of Them Either)…
My sister is currently planning her wedding in England and she is being brutal with the guest list. Only close family and friends are attending, about fifty people in all and this is the norm. Since living in India, I have attending many wedding of people I have never met, and probably will never meet again.
I was really shocked by the amount of guests we had at our wedding, and surprised how obligated my Indian family felt to invite every person they’ve ever met in their lives. This may make the fact that only some, if any, of your close friends and relatives will be able make it over to India, that little bit harder.
I later understood that Indian weddings generally have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of guests because a wedding is an event to show the entire community two people have started married life, and to receive as many blessings as possible (no, it’s not just about showing off!). If you have a lot of people coming to your wedding, your face will hurt from smiling at them all.
Tip: If you are uncomfortable with a lot of people attending your wedding, discuss this with your husband and his family beforehand.
4. Every Woman Who Attends Your Wedding Will Dress like a Bride…
There is a huge taboo in the West, you simply can’t wear white, or even a long gown, at someone else’s wedding. Furthermore, the bridesmaids make their best efforts not to outshine the bride. No one would dare to wear something similar to the bride.
At an Indian wedding. every lady dresses to impress! The bride may wear a bit more jewellery, but it’s an opportunity for everyone to celebrate. I spotted three women wearing very verrry similar purple paithani saree as me during my wedding day, for example.
Don’t worry, you soon get used to this, and start to enjoy it. I feel embarrassed to admit, I have since worn my bridal saree to one of my cousin-sister’s weddings! Eak!
Tip: Wear a bridal gown from your country at some point during the wedding (perhaps the reception) if wearing white has been something you have dreamt about. Everyone loves a fusion wedding!
5. You Will Need a Make-Up Artist Who Understands Your Ethnicity…
My sister did my make-up and it seems it may have been a wise move. I’ve heard from several foreign wives who married in India that they hated their bridal make-up. The simple truth is, not every style of make up is suitable for everyone. Some colours suit some complexions more than others, etc. If you want to hire a make up artist, make sure you have a trail run before the big day!
Tip: Alternatively, simply practice doing your make up yourself (there are thousands of amazing bridal make up tutorials one YouTube). No one knows your face like you, and practice makes perfect!
6. You Must Remember It’s Not Just About The Happy Couple…
It took me such a long time to get my head around this, but I now realise that an Indian wedding isn’t just about the union of two people, it’s the union of two families. Parents dream about their child’s wedding, just as little girls and their scrap books do. You should be involved in the preparations because your wedding should be a special day for you. But, remember to keep in mind that your in-laws may also have a strong vision about how they want it to be. If you want to avoid upset, you may have to compromise on a couple of things.
Tip: The only way to make sure that something is the way you want it is to arrange/pay for it yourself.
7. You May Not Understand Your Vows…
There are so many rituals involved in an Indian wedding, it’s heavy work binding two souls together for several lifetimes. The mantras and vows will be Sanskrit (if you are having an Hindu ceremony, that is) and several of my Hindu friends have admitted to me that even they don’t really understand it all. This may leave you feeling a bit odd during your marriage ceremony.
Tip: Try to find a priest who can speak English and translate some of the mantras and explain some of the rituals. It will bring more value to your ceremony.
Indian weddings can be overwhelming because of their sheer size and complexity, but they are spectacular. Try to forget about things that don’t go to plan and concentrate on the fact that this is the first day of your married life together! And hey, if you don’t like your make up, dress, jewellery, or photographs; you can dress up again in all your splendor at the next wedding or festival you attend!