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When Manisha and Abhinav, from Michigan, decided to get married in the summer of 2012, they were very sure that they wanted the elaborate ceremonies that are an integral part of an Indian wedding, as well as the fun customs of an American wedding. The Sagaee (engagement ceremony), Sangeet (henna and dance event), and Saath-Phera (the actual wedding) constituting the former and the Bridal Shower, a Bachelor party for the groom, and an American style of Wedding Reception were the ceremonies/ customs that became a part of there very elaborate Indian American wedding. The bride's mother, Mrs. Jain did all the wedding shopping from India, for of course, the Indian bridal couture has to come from India. “We shopped from various different showrooms in Mumbai. The bride and the groom wanted to co-ordinate their colors in a subtle manner, so I did the shopping for the groom too”, says Mrs. Jain who enlisted her sisters' help to facilitate her shopping in India. “My daughter wanted shades of gold and blue for Sangeet, gold and red for Phera, and Magenta and Green for the Reception”, Mrs. Jain eleborates. I remember the various different events and how beautiful the color coordination looked and how the decorations in the wedding halls had the same colors subtly highlighted all around as well. 

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In all the wedding events, Manisha looked dazzling in her vibrant and intricate Lehengas. Abhinav, her groom, looked stately in the elegant men's Kurtas. I think back to those well organized, vibrant, colorful events with delight.

The Sangeet ....

The 'Sangeet' is a musically delightful evening. The bride and groom sit on a beautifully decorated traditional seat, as family and friends perform Indian classical as well as Bollywood dances. Some of the dances are humorous melodies with deliberate pun that describe their relationship. The groom's brother, Abhijeet, and the bride's friend are the MC of the event. The evening is alive with dance and music, each participant smoothly taking their turn as they are introduced by the two MCs. The presentations are all well rehearsed, played out to perfection. The groom's parents sing a beautiful duet.   The guests watch on- applauding, clearly enjoying themselves. The evening ends with Ras and Garba, traditional dances of the state of Gujarat in India, where the bride's family originally moved from.

(Pictures on right: Top- Manisha and Abhinav during their Sangeet ceremony; Right- the Abhinav's niece, Raashi, performs Kathak, a form of Indian Classical dance, at the Sangeet)

The Shaadi ...

The actual wedding, Shaadi, takes place the next morning. The baraat (wedding procession that ends at the wedding venue) starts sharp at 9:30 in the morning. The baraatis (people accompanying the procession) dance to upbeat Hindi music played by a live band as the groom regally rides a well decorated horse, actually a mare as is customary in a North Indian wedding. The procession ends with baraat aagman (welcoming of the baraat by the bride's family). As the guests quietly take their seats, it is time for the bride to walk down the aisle. Much like an American wedding, the bride's arrival is preceded by arrival of her bridesmaids and groomsmen (bride and groom's close friends and family). Finally Manisha walks in, with both her parents on her side. She looks ravishing in her beautiful red bridal lehenga, the inner lining of which matches Abhinav's kurta. Her jewelry is intricate and elaborate, also purchased from India. The bride's arrival is acknowledged with quite excitement by the spectators. This is followed by saath- phere (seven rounds around the holy fire) on the stage as the panditji (priest) chants the shlokas (Sanskrit verses). The bride's parents sit by the panditji to perform the kanya daan (giving away of the bride), while the bridesmaid and groomsmen are seated on neatly arranged chairs behind the mundap (place where phera takes place, picture below). Suddenly there is excitement among the baraati and the bride's family. It is time for joota- chupaye (a custom of hiding the groom's shoes by the bride's sisters that results is lot of good-natured bargaining for money in return of the shoes). The Americans in the gathering are curious. When others explain what's happening to them, they clearly find the custom interesting and fun. Of course, the American friends of bride and groom already know all about it and actively participate in this very fun custom.  It is then time for photo-op with the bride and groom, followed by lunch. 

(The groom's family trying to prevent the bride's family from hiding the shoes for Joota- Chupayee., Above) 

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The Reception ...

Reception in the evening starts with outdoor photo shoot for the bride, groom and their close family, while the guests indulge in a lavish spread of hors-d'oeuvre  and cocktails. After the cocktail hour, the guests are requested to take their assigned seating in the reception hall that is beautifully decorated in the same color theme as the bride's lehenga. The reception is really like an American wedding reception, except for the food, the attire, and the music (well, music not entirely- that is almost half and half). Again, the bridesmaid and the groomsmen dance in to the music of their choice, followed by siblings and parents' of the newly weds. Finally the bride and groom waltz in, introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Kumar for the first time. As the guest wine and dine quietly, they get to witness the wonderful speeches made by close friends and family to honor the newly weds.  The newly weds then take the stage as they dance to a song of their choice. Everyone else soon follow and gyrate to both Hindi and English music until early hours of the morning, especially the newly weds, their siblings and close friends.

Undoubtedly, it was a beautiful wedding. 

(Reception pictures on the left column- outdoor photo shoot and the reception hall decorated in pink and green- matching the bridal attire for the occasion)

(Reception picture above: The bride and the groom's family and friends deliver their speeches (top two); it's time to dance (third above).


I later hear my kids tell there cousins- we have attended one American wedding, one Indian wedding and one Indian American wedding. I am surprised that they distinguished between the Indian wedding that they attended in India and the Indian wedding that they attended here in America. Having attended an American wedding as well as the Indian wedding in India, they were able to see that the Indian wedding here in America was a combination of the two weddings. The bride and the groom are both most of the time born and raised here, so like an American wedding, the wedding is entirely planned by the bride and the groom- the date and the details. The venue and everything that relates to the venture is mostly their call. Of course, they do work around their parents' budget as well as their own financial constraints. To add to the gala, are the numerous ceremonies from the traditional Hindu wedding. Plus, the fun and focus from American traditions. There are some other aspects of the Indian American wedding that my kids loved. My kids point out that in an Indian- American wedding, every little detail is pre-planned to the minute, there are no delays, the guests sit respectfully quiet in all the ceremonies, the young couple along with their siblings seem to run the show rather than the elders in the family, and the focus is entirely on the bride and groom. The reception style is almost entirely American- assigned seating, introducing the family and the newly weds, their first dance, the speeches, toast and cake cutting. Of course, the attire and the food is Indian. My kids are right. Here in America, Indian Americans have certainly come up with best- of- both- world scenario with respect to weddings. An Indian- American wedding is a complete package of traditions, customs and merrymaking with total focus on the bride and the groom.

By Sonal Kulshrestha.

(Sonal had the privilege of attending the beautiful wedding of Manisha and Abhinav in Cleveland, OH).

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