Thursday, November 7, 2013

Integrating East and West

Recently, I attended the wedding of a Texas-born Indian bride to a Florida-born groom. Although completely modern in their personal styles, the bride took the wonderful and incredibly fun step of incorporating several Indian marriage rights and cultural elements into her wedding. 

What was so great about her incorporation was the fact that it was seamless, engaged everyone, showed the couple’s personality, and in no way made anyone uncomfortable or confused. Upon leaving the reception, I decided that the items she chose and methods she used were the perfect representation of how to blend East and West into a wedding:

Choose Simple Elements
Explain Those Elements
Incorporate Other Personality or Heritage Traits

Indian wedding ceremonies can span several days. This bride’s did too, but didn’t include every celebration normally occurring during a traditional Indian wedding week. In actuality, the bride only had a Mehndi party. This party, which involves painting the hands and feet of the bride with henna, was held on Thursday. According to tradition, only women attended and the bride wore Indian dress. Although very few guests had ever been to a Mehndi party before, because it was held earlier in the week and had a relaxed atmosphere, none felt awkward and everyone joined in decorating hands, feet, or ankles.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom participated in a short Indian ceremony: the groom presented the bride with a gold heart-shaped charm. This event was short and, because its elements and meaning were explained in the ceremony program, all guests understood what was occurring and why. Trust me when I say that there were more than a few tears in guests’ eyes when the groom placed the charm around the bride’s neck.

During the entrance, the bride surprised everyone by changing out of her traditional, white American wedding gown and veil and into a red sari. She surprised everyone even more by busting out a few dance moves that perfectly evoked Bollywood during her entrance. Combining the surprise and dancing energy increased the excitement in the reception hall and truly got the party started. There was no dull moment in that reception!

Did I forget to mention that the groom changed out of his western suit and into a Sherwani for the reception? To the American eye, a Sherwani looks like a long coat over a pair of snug-fitting trousers. The transformation from West to East, therefore, was complete and uniform by the time the couple entered the reception.

The couple chose a cake topper that was pure Indian and placed it atop a traditional, white (and ridiculously yummy) cake. Once again, West and East met.

Numerous Bollywood-esque songs were played during the reception. Indian and non-Indian guests alike participated in making the dance floor scorching hot during those songs.

The couple also introduced several Florida and Texas elements: bar-b-que was served for dinner and maps of Florida and Texas acted as guest books. The wedding, therefore, wasn’t just a blend of East and West, but also a blend of the bride and groom.

The way the couple blended East, West, and other aspects of their background made sense and was fun. However it also reflected their personality and helped guests get a sense of whom they truly were.