I had a gigantic event in my life more than a year ago, and I did not blog about it. What a waste of precious blog space. Well, for the advantage of some people who are getting married this year, I' like to share some 'thoughts' and unsolicited advice on wedding planning for an average, middle class family F1-H1B wedding. ( I cannot believe I called it that.. to be defined by visa statuses..pattetik).
Disclaimers: This is a completely materialistic piece. I am in no place to give you 'shaadi ek samjhauta hota hai advice.. more experienced people like your parents, I am sure, are drilling it into your heads already.
A was equally, if not more involved in the wedding preparations when it came to things like the decorations, the menu the invitation colours, and the words that go into the cards. While I am writing about it, he deserves more credit for doing some of these things, and therefore helping me keep a cool head, and enjoy the whole thing a little more..
So here goes..
One year before the wedding happened, the planning began, I told my parents that I wanted a small wedding, with just a few close relatives. Well.. that is possible if your parents are hermits. But if your mom's contacts are so far and wide that she 'randomly' meets someone she knows and with whom talks for an hour, not only in the local vegetable and fish market but also at Niagara Falls and on the train going from Philly to New York, the head count of your 'close relatives and friends' easily tops 400.
At first, a June wedding was planned, but then hacked down thanks to the fear of monsoons ruining the wedding and the guests outfit. The only time we could mark out of our busy schedules was December, and I wanted the wedding to be as late in December as possible. So the last 'auspicious' day in Dec was picked as our wedding date.
The venue, was one thing I was adamant about. I did not care about anything else in the wedding (well, except who would be the groom) . Not my clothes, not the food, not 'how long the ritual should be'. But I wanted to get married close to my house. Why? Well,because its convenient. The bride has to do more make up and things than anyone else at the wedding, so it is better that the venue is close to the bride's place.
Hiring people for the wedding arrangements:
Also, we could pick and choose whichever beautician that was close to the venue, and that way, I could get ready at her salon than at the wedding hall, where invariably something or the other is either forgotten or misplaced. Also, since the beautician was in the same locality as we lived in, we knew her and 'had seen her work' at other weddings. In fact, I decided up on my make-up lady by chance. My cousin looked fabulous in her wedding and I told my mom that I'd like to have the same lady do my make up. No surprises here, the lady turned out to be someone my mom knew personally, and readily agreed to do it ( at full price of course). Book your people well in advance. Since Dec is a rush hour for weddings of people who live abroad, these people get booked really fast. If you have a December wedding, I would say, get everyone in line by September.
A note on hiring 'friends and relatives' to do your make up, mehendi and other arrangements. NO. NEVER. Unless you know that they are completely professional, and will charge you the full amount for the work they do. Don't let the budding make up waali in the family take over your wedding and ruin it for you. You don't want to look like a pie has been thrown at your face right before the wedding ( Thanks to the fair is beautiful notion, 200 layers of talcum powder is sometimes the choice of some 'budding' artists). AVOID.
While on make-up. If possible, go to the department stores or your local CVS, and pick up the foundation that is the correct shade for you. Brands like L'oreal etc have a wide range of shades in their foundations and you are sure to find the one that is best for you. They are generally at the same price in India, and so buying them here and then taking them to your makeup lady is a good idea. Consult her and your mom and if you think that is a good match for you, use it. Often the makeup ladies have the perfect shade for you..(Mine did) but it never hurts to go prepared.
While I was in the US, I spent days looking at pretty outfits from Benzer and Seasons , and decided that I'd be buying at least one of my outfits from one of these two. Decide what you want to wear at your wedding. IMHO, a saree is better than a lehenga ( if lehenga isn't your traditional wedding outfit) because it lasts for ages longer and is a lot more easier to fold and keep away. It does not require specific alterations and can be handed down from generation to generation, and will still fit you even if you get fat. ( not that that should ever be the reason why you pick it.) However, I still wanted a lehenga type outfit for one of the wedding days, and that's why I used to surf the two websites endlessly.
Next came the wedding cards. If someone in your family is good at pataoing people, you can actually get sample wedding cards from the potential card makers you are going to engage for the wedding. My MIL, the queen of negotiations, had about 10 samples sent to us in the US. From these we picked the one we liked. However, the card inserts for those particular cards weren't of good quality. So we got the cards printed from another place, which could offer us a huge discount on them.
The unexpected 'event' you think is going to fall flat on its face..but doesn't:
Of course, I wanted a get together with all my family members, so we would not have to go out and meet each and every one before the wedding. My mom conveniently converted it into a 'sangeet' . Now a Maharashtrian sangeet is something I had never ever thought would be possible. My mom 'recruited' a budding Saroj Khan in the family, and then promptly fired her because she was getting pushy.(ref: note about hiring relatives..) She then hired a 'band' , which was essentially the kinds that plays 'bhaavgeete' and 80s Hindi music in an attempt to be hip. I was scared, but didn't tell my mom that.. she had way to many things on her mind already, and she was just following tips people were telling her..
The shopping for relatives' gifts, parents outfits etc was going to be done by the parents. My sister went to India 10 days before I did so that she could help out, while we were busy enjoying our lives in the US. (whatever that meant)
When we finally boarded our flight to go to India to get married.. it felt weird, since we already knew each other so well, that we had become each others' support when either would get jittery about the wedding.. ( well, mainly I was the one who'd tend to go jittery, but that is the way I am.)
In flight, and on the airport, I typed away at something, I was expected to submit before returning to the US, and all the wedding things completely escaped me. But it finally hit home when we landed in Mumbai, and were welcomed by the parents. The minute I landed, my mom pulled out all the shopping she had done...and went over it..as I saw her it struck me. I was going to be married, and there was no time to be the coy bride. (thank god for that) Things needed to be done. Outfits needed to be bought, and accessorised. The biggest advantage I had was that I lived in the middle of the city that had become India's largest shopping mall.
And so the journey began..