After our nice three-day jaunt to Kochi and Munnar and New Year’s Eve and Day relaxing back in Trivandrum, January 2, wedding day for Kellyand Sharat, dawned. And I do mean dawn! The time of the wedding was determined astrologically. It was to start about 8 am. So, we left the hotel in our wedding regalia at 7:15, before sunrise. The Christmas tree in the hotel lobby gave us an interesting backdrop for a photo en route to the Hindu temple. Talk about diversity.

Hotel lobby at 7:30 am. Talk about diversity: Indian wedding garb, Christmas tree, Jewish guests! 

Grace and I debated what to wear for months before the trip and for weeks during it. Saris? Western dresses? Our evening in saris in Varanasi (and the process of putting them on, performed by an Indian woman in the know) convinced us we didn’t want to go that route. We wanted something to acknowledge respect for local customs but also with the potential that what we’d buy something we could wear again in the US. Not a five-meter bolt of silk we’d never be able to accurately drape on our own and could only use by a costly conversion at home. We settled on an Indian-style dress for me and tunic for Grace, both to be worn over coordinating silk pants. I elected not to wear my green silk pair underneath, given the hot weather. They were also huge, and I didn’t care enough to have them altered. My dress was sufficiently long to look modest, Indian style, if not 100 percent authentic.  

The bride’s aunt, Grace Peters, and I wore non-sari variations on a theme. All decked out in the hotel lobby before sunrise.


At the temple.


Eli, Pete and Dennis, Kelly’s father, found traditional long linen shirts they wore over their own pants. They fit in well with the groom and men in his family. Kelly’s mom, Nadine, had brought a dressy pants outfit from home and stuck with that.


Our first stop was an outdoor Hindu temple, where a relatively small group of family and friends gathered for a short ceremony. About 25 was what we were told to expect. It seemed more like 100. With a half-naked priest in attendance the couple was blessed, then exchanged the first of two sets of wreaths. Photos were taken before we moved on. Kelly wore sari # 1, Sharat and the men were rather informally dressed. Turns out, they changed later, too, but only once. Barefoot was the prescribed shoe attire.  

Kelly and Sharat after the brief temple ceremony.


We were part of bride’s side family photo. Grace and Pete next to Eli and me.


We went on to a hall set up with a flower-decked altar in front of several hundred plastic chairs. Grace, Nadine and I accompanied Kelly upstairs for the change to sari #2. She’d donned #1 in the hotel with the help of an expert; we heard it had taken almost an hour. Even with jewelry AND sari changes, it took slightly less time at the hall.  

Assorted jewelry for the many changes.


Kelly changes to sari # 2.


Grace and Pete had the honor of leading a procession that brought the groom, now in gold jacket and red satin pants, into the hall. First, outside, Grace had sprinkled rosewater on him. Holding a tray of flowers and a lighted candle she marched in and onto the altar, along with a group of young girls.

Grace leads groom’s procession.

 Sharat assumed a seated position like the lotus in yoga on cushions in the center of the altar, flanked by his parents and other relatives, and waited until the bride came up with her parents.

Groom Sharat awaits his bride (his mother right behind him).

Both bride and groom symbolically kissed the hems of each set of parents,  but Dennis and Nadine added the American touch by hugging their daughter. Dennis almost made the faux pas of placing the heavy red wreath around Kelly’s neck, rather than giving it to  Sharat to do so.  

Sari # 2 jewelry included a significant necklace Sharat’s mother had worn at her wedding. Much of the other “gold” was rented for the occasion.


Bride and her parents circle the groom before she takes a seat next to him.

It was a near miss that would have signified Dennis marrying his daughter. The assemblage gasped, cried “no,” then laughed when he got it right. In case being father of the bride isn’t stressful enough, there was no wedding rehearsal, just some verbal instruction from the family elder—an uncle reported to be a retired big shot colonel–the day before at the hotel.    

Hundreds of wedding guests make it to the first seating of lunch.


Kissing parents’ hems, Indian style.

The whole ceremony was relatively short. When the wreaths were correctly in place, it was the apparent equivalent of breaking the glass at a Jewish wedding. But instead of a loud “mazel tov” and procession away from the altar, at this wedding the symbolic end of the ritual was the signal for the guests to head en masse

Kelly also kissed her new father-in-law’s hem.

to an eating area for lunch. One of the fastest exoduses I’ve ever seen, like a plague of locusts (or Jews to a sweet table).   

The crowd was estimated to be 750, and they ate in at least two sittings, with the family and honored guests (about 50 of us) eating later. The menu was a traditional Kerala vegetarian thali eaten by right hand (though utensils were provided for the Americans, I tried to go native, guided by the colonel uncle sitting next to me). About 1500 invitations had been distributed, most in person, to multiple generations on both sides of Sharat’s family, as well as friends. Apparently, Indian etiquette doesn’t preclude bringing along children, visiting relatives, etc., who might not be originally included on the invitation. Remember, only six people came from the bride’s side.

Honored American guests at their fresh banana leaf table setting. Presentation is everything.

The whole thing was over by early afternoon. We heard that southern weddings are shorter and less

Hugging parents: American way

extravagant than those in the north, where some are a few days long. One-half day was great, interesting–and enough. Still, the bride wore four different saris, changing finally to a special one to wear to enter the groom’s parents’ home as their new daughter-in-law. This was a deep red one, resembling those worn by her married sisters-in-law, traditionally “wifey.”              


Grace and I only wore one outfit each.                                                 

Sari #4 for the ceremonial arrival at the in-laws’ home. The Indian version of what used to be called a “going away” outfit.


Sari #3. Groom didn’t change again.

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