Behind-the-scenes of a typical Indian arranged marriage (and what makes them so wonderful)

My brother got married last week. This was the first time I was part of a marriage from start to finish, although not technically, since one or the other rituals keep going on for about a month after an Indian (Hindu) marriage, i was part of almost every major event that happened. I’m not a big fan of family gatherings but being the grooms only brother I had to be there, which, was definitely worth it. Hence this blog post. I’m trying to make it as short as possible.

The whole thing was very interesting, especially since I had never met the bride before, and she was going to be a part of my family for…well…ever. She was two years younger to me, but being my elder brother’s wife, she was going to be an elder for me. This was weird, but sounded like fun. Here is the full first-person-story.

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Creative Commons License Photo credit: jepoirrier

The Plot

You might have already guessed, it was an arranged marriage, like most Indian marriages. Pictures were exchanged, horoscopes were exchanged, parents met, boy & girl met, cards were printed. Read on for the details.

The Cast

There are dozens of active participants in a marriage. Everyone from families plays a role. And interestingly, the roles are fixed. For instance, the bride’s brother has to visit the groom’s house to ‘invite’ him before the groom starts from home, and the bride’s mother must feed the couple after the marriage (the couple doesn’t eat anything on the day of marriage. more on that later.) before they leave for the groom’s house & so on.

The Groom

My brother, 30. Works at Reliance Communications. Very friendly & fun loving. The eldest among us 3 siblings. Unlike me, he has always been of a responsible kind. He is handsome, tall and very caring.

The Bride

The bride, 22. Just out of college and works in a private firm. She is friendly, interesting and full of fun. She once served the NCC and had wonderful experiences to share. Only child of her parents & unlike me, a firm believer of God.

The Story

Indian parents usually start getting worried if their son doesn’t get married by 28-30. For daughters it’s 25. I’m pretty sure they have a mythological story/reason behind that, but I’d prefer going to my grave without knowing that. Anyway, when my brother turned 29, the panic happened in my family too. My parents (& relatives, dozens of them) kept sending pictures of girls who were ready for marriage throughout the year. Though me and my brother live in different cities, I got to see all the pictures he was shown thanks to internet. Some pics were hilarious, some desparate and some, well, just weird. And finally we found one that was perfect. She was pretty, educated and working. We both liked her right away! The problem: she was from a different caste. Now, in India that’s a big problem. My family was happy about this, but there was a clear sense of discomfort among the older relatives (usually grumpy aunts from neighboring cities whom you hardly get to want to see in your entire life). Nobody knows how did that picture sneak in. But it did. It just did.

It took my parents a couple months to convince the closest relatives that it’s okay for my brother to marry her. But finally everyone agreed. In the meantime their horoscope were matched, and the results looked good to the priests. When it happened, they got engaged. Sadly enough, I couldn’t make it to the engagement. And then the dating began :). Well… sort of. It’s more like a personal compatibility test since you already know that you’re gonna marry the girl you’re dating. Funny?

I landed 5 days before the wedding. The journey was pathetic, but that’s a different story. I was happy to see my family after several months. My home seemed busier (& noisier) than ever. Relatives (with screaming kids) were starting to flock in, friends were in the house almost all the time & the wedding planners were scanning through every part of the house. Marriage invitations were being distibuted (surprisingly the cards have to be delivered by hand, no courier/posts).

2 days prior to the wedding, the rituals started. I don’t understand most of them, so not much to write here. Except for once when the family plays by throwing turmeric paste on each other. That was quite an experience. Everyone looked funny in yellow-orange. There were several other rituals I couldn’t quite understand. Some were boring, but most were fun. The only thing I noticed is that the groom had to change clothes several times a day. Apparently, he can’t wear a ‘used’ cloth for any of the events.

In the meantime, I had already met the bride. She was funny, friendly and interesting. It barely took me a few minutes to realize that she’s perfect for my brother.

At home, lots and lots of gifts were being wrapped. Most of them were clothes. In a Hindu marriage, it’s all about gifts.

The Wedding

The big day had arrived. My brother had to wake up early since the rituals began from sunrise. I missed most of them. The sad part was, he can’t have any food till the wedding was over, which was scheduled to be at midnight! At around 10 in the morning, the bride’s brother showed up. And that meant we’re all set for taking the baraat to the bride’s house. And that kinda expedited the process. The mehendi was immediately started. For some reason, the groom has to put on some predefined make up for his wedding. He looked funny for sometime while the makeup was being applied on him, but later he looked as handsome as a groom should look on his wedding day. The house looked great with the lights and flowers.

The baraat in the evening was fantastic. We danced our way to the venue. The bride’s family gave a huge welcome. It’s a wonderful feeling when you see hundreds of people exchanging hugs. I felt great. The marriage was being carried out on one side of the ‘mandap’, while the dinner was being served on another part. It might sound weird but actually only a few guests stay through the wedding, since a typical Hindu wedding lasts for several hours. The bride & groom showed up on the stage for a few minutes. The bride looked beautiful, hungry & tired, but beautiful. And they looked wonderful together. That’s when hundreds of pictures were taken with friends, colleagues, family & relatives.

And then at the scheduled time, the wedding started. It lasted for about 4 hours. Everybody was tired already. After that, the ‘vidaai’ started, that’s when the bride leaves her family forever, well, in a way. The bride’s family cried a little, which was expected. And soon we were back at home. It was almost morning, we were tired so everyone went to sleep. The next morning was beautiful. The bride, now my ‘bhabhi’, was busy chit-chatting with her new family, us.

It was an amazing experience. I skipped a lot of stuff in the middle to save time. I also had to rush towards the ending, since I wanted to keep the post small. But this is pretty much what happened. Now I’m back in New Delhi, waiting for the wedding photos/videos to arrive. Again, it was an amazing experience. If you ever get a change, definitely attend an Indian wedding. You won’t forget the experience, ever.

Written by Arun Pattnaik