Wedding 2012

On September 2nd, 2012, I got married to my long-time girlfriend, Amy, in front of some 260 friends and family. Having no idea what an Hindu wedding is like, I went into this blind, no rehearsal, no dry run, no walkthrough; but I kind of knew what to expect because I typed up the programs. It was a 3-day affair, at least for Amy, all I had to do with wake up, get dressed, and show up for the ceremony.

There was an invitation ceremony where the invitations for the pre-wedding that I have a couple of pictures for.

The first night was the Mendhi, the henna party. People got together and put henna on each other. I spent the day lounging around and later when Michelle got back, we went out and had drinks at Thistle Hill Tavern. Since I wasn't there, I'll just post some pictures:

The second day was the Vidhi, a pre-wedding ceremony for the bride. Again, I wasn't at the event so I only have pictures. I spent the day with my family, lunch in Flushing with my dad's side, then a short romp through midtown with my parents and my cousin Ivan, then dinner with my sister and brother-in-law and our friend Rindy. Bizarrely, we tried going to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central, but they were closed for Labor Day weekend (amidst signs all over the place that said they were open).

After my dinner, I drive my parents, Candice and Jarrett to the Hyatt where the wedding will be. I show up to the hotel a bit late because we ate near Grand Central, but my car was parked in a hotel near Central Park. I do my check-in and then walk over to the bar where I'm greeted by my Pittsburgh crew. After a couple of drinks, more friends who are staying at the Hyatt start trickling down to the bar, including 2 of my cousins from Houston (one who I haven't seen in like 20 years). My friend Kevin, the photographer, is working on his laptop looking through pictures taken during the pre-wedding ceremony earlier. He tells me I've got to be out on the pier at 6:30am for pictures. It's 2am. So I give Michelle one of my room keys so she can wake me up and have one more drink for the night. I had to shave and wash my hair, don't really remember doing either but it got done.

So I get woken up around 6-ish and make my way out onto the pier where Kevin was set up and ready to take pictures. There was a lot of pictures taken, most of them were just of me and Amy. Some of my Pittsburgh crew showed up for some pictures. Eventually family and friends started to make their way down to the pier for pictures. Got pictures with everyone, all of Amy's family, some with my family, some with friends (see Kevin's link at the bottom, or contact me or Amy if you want copies or prints, too many to post here).

More pictures:

It wasn't long until it was 10am, and it was time to get moving. Things started to get rowdy over on the other end of the pier and it was time for my procession to the bride's family, followed by family and friends (and some dancing). Some friends decided that I should be carried the rest of the way. When I get to the other end, Amy's mother was waiting for me. This is the part in the program called "Welcoming of the groom's party":

The bride's mother welcomes the groom with flowers (garlands) in the traditional manner. At the entrance, the bride's mother puts an earthen lamp upside down near the groom's feet. The groom will walk over it, signifying that he will cross all the mountain-like troubles with their daughter. The guests of the bride's side also join in greeting the guests of the groom's side.

The next step is the "Ganesh Pooja":

After the bridegroom is led to the mandap (stage) by his family, religious pooja (ceremonies) of Lord Ganesh (Lord of Peace) are performed. Ganesh pooja is always performed first for his blessing of internal peace, and to create an atmosphere of tranquility in which to perform the ceremonies.

Now that I'm on the mundap, the stage is set and it's time for the wedding ceremonies. First is the "Kanya Aagaman":

Maternal Uncle leads the bride to the site and the stage of the marriage. A veil of cloth is held between the bride and groom while the priest recites religious verses to perform the wedding ceremony.

Then the "Hasta Melap(meeting of hands)":

Bride's parents give their daughter to the groom by placing her hand in his: at this time the veil of cloth is removed.

This part was actually a lot more involved than the program book's description. There were garlands that were exchanged (but I guess it was supposed to happen much later) which confused some people who were following the program.

Up next, is the "Manglastak":

Prayers are recited and blessings are offered to the bride and groom. Rice and flowers are sprinkled on the couple by parents, relatives and the guests.

People came up to put petals and rice in our hands (another). Afterwards we closed our hands and a veil was placed over them. A string was placed around us by the bride's family. This was followed by the "Agni Pooja":

The couple prays to the Agni (Fire) that today in your presence we have become one and only you can separate us from each other; meaning death will separate us.

The priest lit a fire in front of us and people starting to line up to greet us and give us gifts. Eventually, my sister is asked to come up and tie my scarf to Amy's sari. Then there's some bit of prayer and putting oil and rose petals in the fire. We also had to hold something that looked like a decorated coconut. Then, the "Mangal Fera":

The couple walks around the fire four times. Usually, the husband leads the wife for the first three rounds and the wife leads the fourth round. The importance of the four rounds are that life has four duties: Dharma (religion), Aarth (finance), Kam (life & family) and Moksh (salvation). In the first three rounds, the wife will follow her husband but in the fourth round, the husband will follow his wife.

This involved standing with hands held, as family members put rice in our hands, which we'd place in the fire, then I'd lead Amy around the fire, touching our toes onto the plate with the fancy coconut looking thing. There would be women on either side of use armed with flower petals that they'd use to pelt us as we walked around. This would happen 2 more times. However, on the 4th time around, Amy's brother grabbed my leg to prevent me from touching the plate. But the girls on my side (the groom's side) came to my rescue. He was very persistent, and had to eventually be paid off with an envelope of money, he was pretty excited.

Then comes the oaths, the "Saptapadi". I don't really remember how much of this I had to say. Everything's sort of a blur and I can't tell from the pictures. But it ended with me putting this red powder in the part of Amy's hair (another angle) and putting a necklace on her. Both of these things are symbols of a married woman.

That is followed by the "Akhand Suabhagyavati":

Five married women from Amy's family get onto the mandap to whisper secret blessings into the right ear of the bride.

Pretty uneventful for me, but I was told to protect my nose because the women were going to want to pinch it. Also during this time, we touched each other's toes onto a row of betel nuts (more). Then it's the "Sindoor, Mangalsutra, Anguthi Rasam":

Garlands and rings are exchanged by the bride and the groom. At this time, the bride and the groom become husband and wife. Husband & Wife offer sweets to each other, a symbol that they will share whatever they have in life. Closing ceremonies include the recitation of the blessings by the priest. Parents, relatives and friends sprinkle rice on the couple.

This was supposed to be when we exchanged garlands, but I don't remember doing that. We did exchange rings though (more), and fed each other sweets. Then the signing of the marraige license. Everyone then lined up for pictures, there were lots of them, friends and family. After that was done, it was time to move to lunch, I got my shoes which were kept safe by a very diligent Mark.

Lunch was held in the ballroom, and when we showed up, everyone was already there and seated. We got our own table in the front of the room. After putting down some food, we cut the cake. Our good friends Will and Nancy did a toast, with some funny visual aides. It was an awesome touching toast, I really liked it and a lot of other people told me later how much they liked it. This is the only picture I can find of all the food spread. Finally, it was time for the last part of the ceremony, the "Vidai":

At the end of the ceremony, Amy's family bids her a touching and emotional farewell which is both very joyous as she begins the next stage in her life and a little sad as she leaves her family to start her new life. However, she leaves with the very best wishes and blessings of all whom witnesses her marriage ceremony

People start gathering outside around the car I'd be driving Amy off in. I have to touch Amy's parent's feet and there are a lot of goodbyes (we were only going to drive around the block a few times, but traditionally, this part of the ceremony is sometimes the last time the family/village will see the bride if she's getting wed to someone from a different village, so some of the older women get emotional). So we get into the car, Amy's mom breaks a coconut (more). Then some of Amy's younger cousins head to the front of the car. Amy's brother says goodbye. The girls in front of the car block the car so we can't leave (preventing me from taking Amy away). I got my friend Stephan to pay them off with envelopes of money, but their price was steep, needed more envelopes. Finally, we were off, on a trip around the block.

After the spin, we swapped some passengers and then drove to Amy's family's Hindu temple for some blessings. First time I've ever been to one but Kevin wasn't with us so I don't have any pictures of this part. After the temple we drove to her parent's house to pick up a suitcase or something. There's something symbolic about that. And after that, we drove back to Jersey City and the Hyatt to change out of my Indian suit and into my western suit. We then met up with my family and had dinner at the Light Horse Tavern. The food was pretty good, and so was the wine. We had to hurry back to the hotel because we had told everyone to meet at the Hyatt bar for drinks at 8pm and we were running late. Got to hang out with a lot of my really good friends all at the same time, it was great. Also got to catch up with a few cousins that I haven't seen in like 20 years. I think at one point I went to my suite to change out of my suit, then maybe around midnight we went to my suite to open the bottle of champagne. I can't really remember what happened, but I probably passed out soon after that, seeing as how I've been up since around 6am. A bunch of people kept the party going, though. What was supposed to be my wedding present of Talisker was appropriated for consumption. I heard there was some running around on the pier at 3am.

After the wedding, my mom took this picture of us relaxing on our new couch. All in all, it was pretty special, so many awesome friends and loving family. I only hope they had as much fun as I did. I'm surprised that I wasn't nervous at all. The bloody mary's that the hotel butler brought me in the morning probably helped (they definitely helped take the edge off of drinking all night the night before), but the atmosphere was so casual and everyone was having such a good time that it felt like I could do anything and it would be fine. We're still going through all the gifts and will be sending cards out soon. Thanks everyone for coming and to all of those that couldn't make it but sent us your best wishes.

Pictures courtesy of Mickey, Nima, Vimal, Paul Jacobs, and Kevin Kerr. Kevin is a great photographer and has over a thousand awesome photos of the Vidhi and wedding. Contact him from his website for prints and copies. You can see all of the pictures that I have HERE.

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