It seemed in all the time leading up to the engagement that everybody in India was extremely supportive of our relationship, but I guess that our vision of our wedding was drastically different than theirs. Early on, I insisted to my fiancé that we have a traditional Bengali wedding, which is a four-day event that goes a little something like this:
Day One: Ashirbaad, a party given by the elders of the families to bless the couple.
Day Two: Aai Budo Bhaat, a party given by friends or relatives to signify the acceptance of the couple.
Day Three: A jam packed day. First, Holud Kota, a ceremony where five or seven women of the family grind up turmeric paste and spread it on the skin of the bride in order to make her skin glow, followed by bathing. Then, Dodhi Mongol, the giving of the traditional red and white bangles to the bride and her only meal for the day. The marriage ceremony follows in the evening. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, with fire and with the intertwining of our separate lives, we become husband and wife. But it doesn’t end there. Instead of rushing off to our marriage bed, we are to sleep separate for just one more night.
Day Four: The reception. Think food, family, friends and more food.
It’s always been important to the two us that we respect and share each other’s cultures. We want our future children to know all about all the places they came from. I even started to learn some of the language in hopes that I could communicate with his family a little bit.
Now my family is about as mixed up in culture as a family could be. My father was a Spanish-German Catholic. My mother was an Irish-Native American Episcopalian. My cousin married a man from South Africa. My other cousin married an Australian. My brother married a woman of Mexican descent. My fiancé is fully Bengali, though. It only crossed my mind that it would be hard for me to be accepted in his family one time, but he assured me that his parents knew all about me and were excited about our relationship. They were also genuinely excited about our marriage. I do believe that they are even looking forward to the wedding.
It’s just not the wedding that we had hoped for. When we first learned that my fiancé would have several of his Indian friends who live in America visiting Kolkata in December, we jumped at the chance. It would be so much easier on my brother and me if we had English-speaking friends around. We planned on starting the ceremony on the 22nd through Christmas day. My fiancé called his parents and asked if they could make it happen. His mother immediately protested our getting married on Christmas Eve. Apparently it’s bad luck to get married on the day of the week on which you were born. Fine. So we’ll start on the 21st and still finish on Christmas, just taking the 24th off. Works for me.
There’s so much that I have to get done between now and then. I have to start my vaccines for our trip. I recently got my passport, but I still need to get my Indian visa. My fiancé’s company decides to buy our plane tickets since he has to back to get his American visa stamped and so few of their international employees marry Americans. I found a great flight for my brother so that he gets 10 and 15 hour layovers in London so he can see some of the city before and after India. He’s going to see Delhi, Kolkata, and Agra… home of the Taj Mahal. He still needs to get a copy of his birth certificate, passport, visa and vaccinations. I need somebody who can watch my cat for a month. She can’t go to a kennel because we got her from a shelter and I don’t want her to think she’s been abandoned again. We need to get an extra set of luggage. We have to shop for gifts for his family and Christmas gifts for mine. We have to make announcements. I gave up my job search until we return. I’m not even completely unpacked from our cross country move this summer. It’s snowing outside. My fiancé and I have a bet on who can lose the most weight before we leave. Loser shovels snow off the car and warms it up every day for the winner. I’m Californian, so that’s a bet I don’t want to lose.
He calls his parents again. They’ve moved our wedding date again. Now they want to have a family party on the 24th and both the marriage and the reception on the 25th. He protests. We want a traditional Bengali wedding. “She’s not Bengali, so why does it matter.” Uh oh. It takes me an hour to calm him down. And now, his father wants him to pay for part of the wedding because he’s decided to sink his entire budget on the reception so that people we don’t know can eat like kings. We’re now seriously considering getting eloped.
I contact his Bengali female friend on facebook to ask who did her makeup. She looked amazing on her wedding day, and I want to as well. She hasn’t answered my question yet, but my future sister-in-law does ask me what I’m going to wear since saris are “exclusively” for Bengali brides and non-Bengali brides typically wear lehenga choli, or a stylized skirt. My feelings are a bit hurt. I don’t know whether or not I should mention it to my fiancé because I’m sure he’ll be angry at her. I answered that I wasn’t aware that I shouldn’t wear a sari, so now I don’t know what I’ll be wearing. She was going to try to talk some sense into her dad today, but I hear that it’s not going to be an easy feat. If the amount he expects us to spend exceeds what we could spend on a small wedding of our own, then we’ll go that route instead. I just keep telling myself that our American wedding will be what we want, but then my mind floats off to my family and start to think otherwise. But that will be another adventure altogether.
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