Photographs are a wonderful way to capture moments in an instant. This picture is an important part of a special memory, which is of my sister’s wedding. My sister’s wedding was an amalgam of excited, felicitous, and somber feelings. Whenever I look at this picture, the whole occasion relives in my mind.
An important part of the wedding was the selection of dresses and beauty salon. I remember when my cousins and my sisters, and I used to go to different malls daily, scouting for the perfect outfits. We purchased elegant dresses of different colors with exquisite jewelries, such as, ear rings, necklace, and bangles. The color of bride’s sharara (special outfit of brides) was orange, golden, and maroon. Every one was very excited, because we all wanted to look beautiful for that event. Our joyful excitement was like a forest fire which could be seen from a mile away.
In my culture, wedding ceremony consists of two days function. The first day called “mehndi” is the day for youngsters to celebrate. I can still remember the girls and boys singing songs and dancing. There was a fun-filled singing and dancing competition between relatives of the bride and the groom. Girls were painting beautiful designs on the bride’s hands and their own hands with mehndi (a paste of leaves, which makes temporarily tattoos). The second day was the actual wedding day. My sister and her husband were looked stunning in their wedding attire. While our four hundred guests dined on a delicious meal in the festively decorated banquet room, the family was holding a photo session.
At the end of the ceremony, there is a time for the bride, to go to her new home by leaving her own family. Her departure created a gloomy mood for many of us. It was stressful to try desperately not to feel deeper feelings of grief which result in weird actions like obsession, anger, or crying. My sister was also feeling somber, as it is natural to be sad when one is at the end of a formative period in life. Sorrow is a part of existence, and often mixed with joy.
We went to my cousin’s wedding. It was a lovely wedding– very unlike any wedding I’ve yet been to, but a lot like the weddings in the movies (you know, like The Wedding Crashers… never understood why someone would *want* to go to a wedding they weren’t invited to). The ceremony was short and simple, though there were a lot of attendants, complete with flower girl and ring-bearer. The bride had both her father and step-father give her away, one on each arm. The Lutheran minister was kind of a jolly middle-aged woman. The gentlemen were almost all in army dress uniforms. From my cousin’s face, you could not tell he was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan just a few months ago. He’s still not walking correctly and never may, but the damage seems to mainly be concentrated in one leg.
The wedding was in a part of the country where folks are not as stiff as Midwesterners or as unstructured as Northern Californians. I’ve been to Midwestern wedding receptions that tried to be like this reception, but the soul wasn’t there so they always ended up being kind of lame with folks congregated in the parking lot to talk away from the DJ. People at this wedding line-danced (and not just to country music) and they enjoyed it. My usually introverted uncle is apparently a dancing fiend and led the bride in some traditional dances. The food was great and full of local specialties (including something we heard about on the Splendid table from their road trip foodies). And, important in my book for any wedding, they served appetizers between the wedding and reception.
You may recall that the groom’s parents had said they refused to attend because he was not getting married by a priest. Not only did they not show up, despite his being hit by a roadside bomb in service to our country, they did not allow any siblings to come. The daughter whose college my parents and aunts are paying was threatened with being disowned when her mother found out she was planning to attend. So she didn’t go. Guests kept asking if I was a sister. No, not a sister.
But all of my aunts and uncles went, and I have a lot of aunts and uncles. It was funny to see all my uncles and my cousin and the characteristic ears of that side of the family. The family resemblance is especially strong with military haircuts. All my uncles are ex-military and they bonded with my cousin’s army buddies. Not much has changed in the army in the past 30-40 years. SNAFUs still abound. My aunts talked about how the world has changed and wondered if the homophobic father of the groom realized his favorite aunt (after whom one of his daughters is named) was a lesbian. How nice it would have been if she’d been around today and been able to share her relationship with her “companion” out in the open.
They openly wondered what had happened to my uncle– he’d always been rigid and never had a sense of humor, but wasn’t such a hater until he married his wife. Perhaps he could have been rigid and humorless for the powers of good if he’d married someone else. Ironically, the woman he married and is refusing to countenance this wedding is a divorced mother of three… but the difference is that she got the Pope to annul that marriage, so somehow that made it ok. There was some speculation that perhaps the bride is better off with her mother-in-law not talking to her.
My childless aunt and uncle took over duties of parents of the groom. The groom gave an especially moving speech about how grateful he was for his family to come and show the support they were showing. The bride sent a lovely thank-you note with the same sentiments. As the wedding party was breaking up for the folks having to catch planes, the bride and groom made plans to visit all of my aunts and uncles who live in interesting and accessible places. My family does take care of its own, even when some members refuse to.
My cousin and his new wife are very nice people. I know they will have a lifetime of happiness together. And if their children and step-children are close with their great-aunts and uncles rather than their grandparents on my side of the family, well, that’s not such a bad thing.
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