Recently, I was invited to a pre-wedding bash (read “cocktail party”) and the cosmopolitan nature of it didn't hit me until I witnessed this: a half-Malayalee Hindu-half Muslim bride set to marry a Bengali the next day — both based in Chennai — sporting mehendi on her hands and feet, sipping on beer, and dancing along with her “bridesmaids” to Appadi podu belted out by the DJ.
The next day she looked every bit the typical Bengali blushing bride draped in a deep pink Benaras saree, sporting a mukut – the traditional head gear. No sign of the kuthu dancing girl that she had been the previous evening.
Those two days were a heady mix of cultures and emotions. But this kind of a cultural potpourri is a staple at most wedding these days. It could be something as minor as getting all the women of the house to get together for a session of mehendi and gossip prior to the wedding to elaborately planning a juta chuppayee at an Iyengar wedding (remember the famous Joote De Do Paise Le Lo sequence in “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun”?)
It's not just a pan-Indian influence. I remember a wedding reception at a star hotel's ballroom that had belly dancers from Russia and a jazz band at another.
How did this cultural melting pot happen? I have really no idea. But why? I might be able to answer that one – because it's FUN!! Imagine picking all the fun elements from different wedding traditions and sprucing up your otherwise monotonous ritual-oriented one — these are what make the cosmopolitan weddings of today.
Bridesmaids and best men: Just pick a few of your closest friends and get them to wear similar-coloured outfits during the ceremonies. Also, they enjoy the special privilege of throwing you a bachelor/bachelorette party, accompanying you in your shopping and spa sessions.
Dances: They are essential to making any wedding enjoyable, provided you have a sportive bunch of siblings, cousins or friends. My cousin is a pro wedding dancer. He and his friends practice for days and put up a grand show — salsa, kuthu or cinema dance — at the couple's reception.
Fun invites: Move over boring invites. Jazz it up! Add your pictures — childhood to now, and invite people in your own words rather than copy-pasting sugar-coated statements from the internet. And save people the trouble of wracking their brains over what to get you. Just tell them what you want. A friend's personalised wedding card read: “To celebrate our wedding, all we want is your presence on all occasions. If you insist on a gift, contributions to the honeymoon fund would be great!” Another friend sent out invites for his sister's wedding, which cinematically read: “Engalai ooti valartha paasa thangachikku kalyanam” (Literally translated this reads: Our beloved sister, who fed and raised us, is getting married).
Candid photographs: Precious memories need to be cherished by moments that define them; not by those that we are asked to repeat because the photographer couldn't get the angle and lighting right. How many weddings do you remember where the photographer asks the groom to pose as if he is tying the thali or putting on the ring while he captures the staged drama? Many, I am sure! And if you have to pose, make it fun! .
If, earlier, people remembered weddings for the excellent food, hospitality or what the bride wore, these days it's all about how fun the wedding was. So, what memories do you want?