I did not understand the utter craziness associated with wedding planning until it was my turn, which then involved my morphing into the mythical bridezilla! When I began trying to figure out how I wanted our once-in-a-lifetime day to unfold, I was at a complete loss for ideas. I imagined my wedding to be unique, fun, and the one day that you remember for the rest of your life, like every couple getting married hopes will happen. Pretty soon, I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused. Not to mention, I was probably not a ball of joy to be around..
I started off with every bride’s new best friend, Google. I researched all I could on “Indian weddings.” To my dismay, not much exists out there for the Indian-American bride; however, I did find some inspiration on a few scattered websites. Some of my favorite wedding websites included www.weddingsutra.com, www.myshadi.com, and a few articles on www.theknot.com.
First things first: creating a wedding website.
I felt a wedding website was the perfect way for Tobiah and I to get the party started, and to obviously showcase who we were and what our guests could expect on our big day. About half of our guests were non-Indian and I wanted to make sure everyone knew what an Indian wedding would be like.
Save the date:
The more Googling I did, the more interesting things I stumbled upon, such as an Indian-themed “save the date” caricature magnet. I thought it would help get our guests excited about our wedding and point them to our website. Also, it helped me realize what type of wedding I wanted to have-something light, colorful, and fun, not overly stuffy or too serious. I wanted an event where everyone was laughing, relaxed, and having a great time, despite how hectic an Indian wedding can be because of all the events and guests.
Travel to India needed?
Next came a huge discussion on whether a trip to India was necessary to get our outfits, invitations, and other items related to the wedding ceremony. I wondered whether the ticket expense, time, and inconvenience, which may affect my family and job, was worth the cost savings. Did I need greater access to trendier, more fashionable accessories required in an Indian wedding that could be found in Bombay? So to settle the debate, I went window-shopping in Atlanta and Houston at Indian clothing boutiques. I found outfits that I was happy with at double or triple the prices that could be bargained for in India, according to my parents. However, I asked myself despite the higher prices in the U.S., does it justify a trip to India? I also found a few Indian invitation websites that seemed to have great customer service and a wide variety in selection.
Eventually, I caved. A trip to India with my mom was more than just saving time and money. It was about reconnecting and bonding with her before my wedding day and having some good food along the way! We were India-bound for a short 10-day trip to get as much done as possible. This is a sufficient number of days if you manage your time wisely and plan ahead.
The trip to India was pretty hectic, to say the least. I probably tried on a hundred outfits before finding the right one. I could not believe the variety that was available! I will say this: try to have an idea of what colors and style you are looking for before you go to the shops. The salespeople are very good at their jobs and are persuasive to the point where they can convince you to second guess whatever color scheme or wedding attire you had in mind!
Finding the right outfits and colors
What helped me the best with my outfits was looking at a ton of Indian wedding pictures from searches I did on the web, Facebook, and family friends’ wedding albums. I picked out what I liked and did not like, using these images as inspiration. I am a very visual person, and so, seeing what colors and styles were flattering on brides with my figure and skin tone, enabled me to narrow down what I wanted. Also, despite the lack of online wedding resources solely catered to Indian weddings, an infinite number of wedding pictures are easily accessible with a quick online search.
Another point worth noting is that colors that you may want may not be in fashion in India, so, it may difficult to find outfits in those colors. For example, I wanted a turquoise outfit for my reception; however, turquoise was not in fashion in January 2009 in Bombay, India. I could not find any pieces that were in that color! If you plan on having bridesmaids in your wedding, there are numerous smaller shops with great designs that are not too expensive. In Bombay, it is hard to find the same design in the same color because who wants to have the same sari as someone else? No one. However, I was able to find the same design in different colors at a boutique shop that I randomly decided to check out in Dadar. The shop owner was able to make me three additional saris in the same design in just a week!
The invitation selection was a lot of fun with so many to choose from. If you have the time and patience, you can design your own for about the same cost. Before going to India, I had already typed out the information I wanted on my cards and had proofread for mistakes. This saved a lot of time in India and relieved me of the paranoia of a misspelled word or grammatical mistakes. I ended up creating one with my own design, bright colorful inserts with an elegant cursive font playing on an intricate red and gold background. The invitation designer and I created a way to combine A and T (the first letters in our first names) with a Ganesh to put on the front flap of the card. It looked beautiful, if I do say so myself. I was impressed with how fast our invitation vendor was able to put to print my ideas, given that I had to have them made in a few days.
I found my wedding favors in Mumbai as well. Tobiah and I met in law school; and so, for our favors, I found a silver Om bookmark for each of our guests. With it, I put an explanation of Om:
“Om” or “Aum” is the basis of all sounds in the universe. The “Aum” of the Hindu Vedas is similar to “Amen” for Christians and Jews, “Amin” for Muslims, and “Hum” for Tibetans. The Upanishads (Indian Vedic texts) describe Om as the complete sound that encapsulates the entire range of sounds the human voice can make. It starts with A at the base of the throat, moves on to the U with the tongue and the palette, and ends with M where the lips close and no more sound emanates. Research has shown that reciting Om produces a frequency that is very close to the basic vibration frequency of the Earth.
Taking travel precautions
The most interesting part of my trip would probably have to be that I lost my passport. If you are traveling to India, be sure to have made an extra copy of your passport, visa, and driver’s license-and have with you during the trip. What a stressful chain of events that resulted: having to report to the police, going to the US Embassy, the visa embassy, etc. However, I did make it back safe and sound with my temporary travel passport without any travel delays.
Upon returning to the U.S., the real, more stressful planning began. We had already decided on most of our vendors. To my surprise, most brides have all this sorted out about a year before their weddings. Good photographers, decorators, and wedding banquet halls get booked up fast, especially if you want to get married during prime wedding season, which is from May to September.
The only mishap with a vendor was that I had requested to meet the DJ before we signed a contract with him. Because I lived in Houston and the wedding was taking place in Georgia, the only time I could meet with him was in January. I scheduled a trip and confirmed that we would meet. He never responded. The day that we were suppose to meet, he emails me and apologizes that someone else had already signed up for that date.
This is when I realized the importance of picking all your vendors as far in advance as possible. After a month of phone calls and online searching, I finally found a replacement that was not as experienced as the first one, but I did not have much of choice given that the big day was quickly approaching. I had to trust, or at least hope, that he would work out fine, and in the end he did, and he was notably cheaper-a win-win situation.
Another detail worth noting is wedding programs. You can get very intricately designed ones in India; however, programs can take up an entire suitcase depending on your guest count, not to mention everything else you will be bringing back (clothing, invitations, accessories, gifts, etc.). I made our wedding programs here in U.S. when I got back from India.
Making the day meaningful to couple, families and guests
The most challenging part of wedding planning was how do I ensure my guests are having a good time. I know people say that your wedding is about you, the couple; however, seeing our friends and families celebrating with us and having a good time was very important to both of us. After all, we would not be who we are, a well-suited match for one another, without their influence and support.
About half of our guests were coming from across the country to be with us. I thought about having acrobats, photo booths, candy stations, caricature artists, midnight snacks, belly dancers, among other ideas. My sister brought me back to my senses with a, “What are you doing, having a carnival-and is your budget a bottomless pit?” This got me thinking: What is important to us, what do I want people to remember about us, and what do I want people to take along with them on their life adventures without putting a huge dent in our bank accounts?
The most important part of our day I wanted people to remember was that despite how and where we grew up, and our cultural and racial differences, Tobiah and I are a lot more alike than different. I wanted our wedding to not be divisive or uncomfortable for anyone, it had to be a celebration of blending, a melting pot, if you will. I know this sounds cheesy, but I had fought my own internal battles on our differences, and so, I wanted our newly wedded lives to begin with a coming together of these stark differences.
I was the most worried about the Baraat part. Were the non-Indians going to enjoy it or would they be hot, bored, and confused? I have always gotten tired and cranky by the end of a Baraat. Plus, I always felt so awkward dancing. What I had largely underestimated was that Tobiah and I are very open-minded people and so were our friends and families. The Baraat turned out to be one of the best parts of the day! Everyone was dancing together and having a great time. I think because we had such a diverse group of people, inhibitions went out the window! We had amazing dhol players that really got the party going. Listening to them, you could not help but start moving with the beat.
Our priest set the tone for our ceremony. He had a deep, engaging voice and spoke most of our ceremony in English. He said the verses in Sanskrit and immediately went back to English. He definitely kept the attention of our guests by helping them feel as if they were involved in our wedding as he described what each part of the ceremony symbolized and the importance of it all.
Lastly, I hoped our reception theme represented us, a couple that love adventure by stepping out of our comfort zones. Tobiah and I have learned from each other how to live more in the present by exposing ourselves to different realities outside of our norms. Being in an interracial relationship can oftentimes force you to be outside your comfort zone, and it was important that our guests feel like they had been transported out of their reality and stepped into our shoes in hopes that it would inspire them to do the same in their own lives.
Yes, I know this sounds very odd, serious, and hard to bring to reality, especially in a wedding context. However, we had an amazing decorator who was able to represent us with his decorations by creating a high-energy, mystical event. We used a bright color palette: hot pink, teal, and gold for the tablecloths and linens; a Moroccan theme: mosaic lanterns as the centerpieces on the tables; and had the dhol players play on the dance floor to get people dancing. We kicked off the night by entering in a rickshaw, with Tobiah bicycling me into the room. Our dance floor was packed throughout the entire night, with people making moves they never they thought they had in them. It was a huge success. To my amazement, our Indian and non-Indian guests partied all night long.
At the end, I realized that we did not need any fancy gimmicks to help people have a good time. Tobiah and I were laughing, mingling, and dancing throughout the entire day with our friends and family and, as a result, our energy spread like wildfire. Take a look at our pictures to see for yourself. The biggest piece of advice I could give a wedding-planning couple is try to figure out what you want your wedding to represent about you. Once you figure that out, everything else will fall into place.
Our wedding day turned out to be one of the best days of my life despite the high-stress levels of making sure everything ran smoothly. When it came down to it, seeing all my loved ones together in one place, celebrating where I was brought up, was one of the most amazing moments of my life as it is truly because of all of them that Tobiah and I found each other.