7 Things Every Foreign Bride Must Know Before Her Indian Wedding

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.

And Finally…

Congratulations!

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!

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A-Z of Intercultural Relationships (Pros & Cons)

Want to know more about intercultural relationships? This is my complete, compact A-Z guide, the pros and the cons of falling in love with someone outside of your community, country or colour.

 

Acceptance

The first obstacle you may have to overcome is that your family, and maybe even some of your friends, will not accept your relationship. It may take a while for the people you love to overcome their prejudices or get used to the idea, but have patience.

If your family or friends are struggling to accept your intercultural relationship, read this.

Breaking boundaries

Interracial marriage didn’t become fully legal in America until 1967 and intercommunity marriage in India is still quite rare. When I first came to India, my cousin-sisters-in-law thanked us for breaking the boundaries. They have since married men from different states and castes.

If you are in an intercultural relationship, you may find yourself an inspiration to others like you!

Communication

Every relationship requires quality communication, but when you have cultural differences, communication is even more important. Values and traditions will need explaining, so you can understand why your partner or their family do certain things, and vice versa.

Decisions

An intercultural relationship may force you to come to some tough decisions.

Which country will you live? Which language will you speak? Which religion should you teach your children?

Exciting

Falling in love with someone from another culture has an extra dose of excitement because not only are you discovering another human, you’re discovering a whole new way of life.

Food

The food we eat says a lot about our lifestyle, our heritage, our culture. This could be a revelation to your taste buds, or you could end up eating separate meals at dinner.

Gossip

From “he’s only using her for a green card” to “why is he with her?”. When you enter an intercultural relationship, it will surely set some nasty tongues wagging.

Happiness

If you’re in an intercultural relationship, you put your happiness and love for your partner above the fear of prejudice and cultural conflict. When you combine two cultures, you may have extra things to argue about but with good communication, these things usually are resolvable .

You followed your happy!

Immigration

Immigration may become a huge, life consuming, soul shattering part of your life. It’s getting even harder for those in international long distance relationships to unite with stricter border control.

If you need to bow down to immigration, prepare for your relationship to be thrust under a magnifying glass, every detail dissected. This is not for the faint of heart.

Jokes

You may not share the same sense of humour. My husband definitely doesn’t have a British sense of humour, but we still make each other laugh. We just don’t enjoy the same television shows.

Kids

Multicultural kids are gorgeous (okay, I am bias) and can grow up enjoying the best of both worlds. Diwali and Christmas, for example.

Languages

For some it’s great opportunity to learn another language, others come up against a frustrating language barrier.

Language barriers are toxic to relationships. You and your partner may communicate well, there more often a barrier between you and their family. This can cause conflict and misunderstandings, which can result in problems in your relationship.

Misunderstandings

Language barriers and cultural differences can lead to a myriad of misunderstandings. Speaking a common language doesn’t mean the language barrier doesn’t affect you. If something is translated literally, it can result in misunderstandings. For example, if Marathi is translated word for word into English, it can mean something different.

Nonsense

There are some traditions, habits, or values that may feel like nonsense to you. However much your partner has tried to explain them. Sometimes you are just not going to “get it” and respect that it’s gone over your head.

Open Mind

Not only do intercultural relationships blaze the trail for others who fall in love, you also help educate people who hold negative stereotypes. An intercultural relationship is a symbol of the progress we have made.

Connecting two cultures in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise. Two families come together who otherwise would never have met. With exposure and education, stereotypes and prejudices slowly slip away.

Personal Growth

When you find yourself immersed in another culture, you are thrown out of your comfort zone and into a situation where things are done differently. If you stick around for long enough, your ideas of what is right and wrong are challenged. Here, you have an opportunity for personal growth.

Questions

You will get asked the same questions over and over, ad nauseam. Friends, family, waiters, people in the queue for at the airport. People’s curiosity will follow you around like a hungry dog.

“Are you allowed to celebrate Christmas?”, “can you speak Marathi yet?”, and my personal favourite: “how did this happen?”.

Religion

If you are in an interfaith relationship, some of your partner’s beliefs may contradict your own. It may take a lot of soul-searching and honest communication to resolve some of these issues. However, you may find yourself spiritually rejuvenated by your partner’s faith.

Alternatively, you may both follow you own religions separately without any issue. Reaffirming that religions can life together peacefully, even in the same bed!

Social etiquette

Taking my shoes off before you enter someone’s home, touching the feet of elders, eating with my right hand. These are all examples of social etiquette I had to get my head around when I first joined an Indian family.

You may have to learn a couple of things to avoid seeming rude to your partners family, and you might have to teach your partner a couple of things before they meet yours.

Travel

Oh, the people you will meet and the places you will see.

Your intercultural relationship doesn’t have to be an international one for it to expand your travel horizons. Even if you both were born in the same country, if either of you have roots elsewhere, you have more of an excuse to go out and see the world.

Unity

Intercultural relationships help us see that our similarities out number our differences. Beyond the food we eat, clothes we wear, language we speak, habits we grow up with, we all have similar hopes and dreams.

Values

Whilst all cultures value similar things, some may hold certain values higher than others.

For instance, in India it’s traditional for a son to live with his parents and a daughter to go and live with her husband’s parents. In England, children leave home and start their own family in a separate house. Therefore when this English Wife started her Indian Life, it was pretty difficult to get my head around joint family living.

However, our personal values don’t always reflect our cultural identity. You may share the same values as your partner and that may be one of the reasons your intercultural relationship words so well.

Weddings

You can have a fusion wedding, or even two weddings! I know several couples who have had both Hindu and Christian ceremonies, and others who have had beautiful fusion weddings!

Xenophobia

It’s an ugly word but the chances are, if you are in an intercultural relationship, you will experience xenophobia at some point. It may come from an aged family member or a stranger from the street. It hurts and something you, sadly, have to prepare for.

Your Own Culture

You can create your own culture with your favourite parts of each others, the best of both worlds. I don’t think there is any need to continue traditions purely for tradition sake if it isn’t fun, functional or life affirming.

Zoo Animal

You may occasionally feel like a zoo animal because, even in multicultural societies, intercultural relationships are not the norm. People will stare, and may even take photographs.

Remember: by being seen, you are normalising intercultural relationships. You are opening minds to the possibility that people from different cultures can love each other and live together in harmony.

That’s a beautiful message to spread, one the world needs.

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Advice: The Registrar Did Not Accept Our Marriage (Foreigner & Indian)

Dear Lauren, When I got married in Kerala we had a temple ceremony and we got a piece of paper from the temple that we are married. We were told that in Kerala there is no law right now that would allow foreigners to get married to Indians. After the ceremony we took the piece of paper to the registry office to get our marriage certificate. The Registrar did not accept our application and advised us to go to court and sue Kerala province.

I am trying to sponsor my husband to come to Canada and our lawyer advised us that we have to be legally married. So I am wondering what was your experience? How did you get legally married? 

Anonymous Reader

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Congratulations on your marriage, I’m sorry the legal aspect didn’t go smoothly!

It is my understanding that a foreigner and an Indian must get legally married under the Special Marriage Act (1954), not the Hindu Marriage Act (which you have described), even if the foreigner identifies as a Hindu.

That’s what we did.

We decided it would be a good idea to hire a lawyer because our situation was so different. There was no religious aspect to our civil marriage. We had to go to the registry office to submit a notice of intended marriage, along with our documents and three witnesses (read more about that here). After thirty days, as no one objected to our marriage, we returned to the registry office to make our declaration and received our marriage certificate (details of that are here).

My advice would be to try to get married under the Special Marriage Act (1954) with the assistance of an experienced lawyer. Good luck!

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Dear Readers, Do you have any advice, experience or a fresh perspective to offer? (Helpful and respectful comments only)

Are you looking for advice to help resolve your dilemma? Submit a question here!

You’ve Made the Wrong Choice

If you are open about your life, you will undoubtedly receive a whole heap of unsolicited advice. Most is from a kind or concerned place, sent with love and good wishes, and I send abundant appreciation for that advice, even if I don’t always choose to follow it. Then, of course, there are the moral policers who are waiting to say “you’re wrong” or “you’ve made a bad choice”.

There are several things in life which are undoubtedly wrong, hurting people or inaccurate math for example, but the things I’ve been criticised for, told I should change immediately, are my personal choices. Life is complex, nuanced, layered and everyone is different. What is wrong for you, might be right for me and vice versa. I believe that people should have a choice. If everyone followed the same life path, life would be pretty boring (and kind of cult-ish).

Wouldn’t it?

It’s not only my choice in husband or my choice in home I’ve been told is wrong. It’s my choice to learn from and experience my husband’s culture and religion. I would say to anyone with the opportunity to experience another culture or travel to a distant land, grab it by the horns! You don’t have to change who or what you are, but seeing life from a different perspective will inevitably open your eyes and shed your preconceptions. You don’t always need a plane ticket to broaden your mind, simply stepping out of your comfort zone can trigger an inner revolution.

When I was younger, I really wanted to be religious and have faith, and I was kind of jealous of those who did. I yearned to know an absolute truth, I wanted a guaranteed, tried and tested, path. I spent several years reading about Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Kabbalah. Some parts felt intrinsically right, others didn’t. I’ve since come to peace with the fact that I don’t fit into a religious label. I’ve realised that if God was powerful enough to create a universe, surely s/he would be able to lay out more than one path towards her/him. I have learnt that for me to feel aligned with something higher, I need to stay close to things that make my soul sing.

I remember in school, we had to do a test to discover our learning style, whether we learnt best by hearing, seeing or doing. The teachers recognised that we all learn in unique ways, they used the results of the test to customise their teaching to maximise our potential. I think this applies to life, we are all unique, following different paths. Sometimes we make mistakes, we learn through trail and error, but it is our unique path, our choice.

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