1 wedding, 12s of wedding events & 1000 guests

Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
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38
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Trip End Jul 27, 2011


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Flag of Bangladesh  , Dhaka,
Monday, January 10, 2011

In the native language the literal translation of 'going to a wedding' is 'eating the wedding'. We
are super excited and honouered to have been invited to our first Muslim wedding and look forward to wearing Sarees. Over the course
of a week or so, there are wedding events three times a day it seems
and a lot of them revolve around food. I learn the following Bangla saying:

Mosolman der hari
Hindu der bari
Christian der gari

Muslims put their $ in food (and entertainment)
Hindus put their $ in houses
Christians put their $ in cars

Thanks to Shaista's auntie Yasmin being a close family friend of the bride's family, we get to pick which events we want to attend. We end up going to five of them over the course of three or four days:

1. A meet and greet evening thingamajig dinner.
Here, we hang around one sister's bed room, watching girls put together welcome packages for the groom's party who is flying in from Kerala in India that night. Their flight has been delayed by nearly a day in the meantime. Quite common apparently. They are stuck in Mumbai I think. Shaista and I help with some handicrafts a bunch of teenage girls are working on, sitting on the living room floor. The bride's family house is a massive multistory apartment building, with gorgeous rooftop terrace overlooking the lake, slums on the other side of the water. It isn't just this house that soon makes it obvious that this is not your every day standard wedding. Later, we learn that the bride's family has the monopoly on car tires and batteries in the country as well as owns a supermarket chain.
Dinner is served buffet style on the roof. It isn't until late that evening when I notice men and women are sitting on separate tables during dinner.

2. A pre-wedding blessing party.
This event is where we get to wear our Sarees for the first time. The bride's family has provided them. The same colour for all ladies, turquoise. Lucky me that it is my favourite colour. Girls in pink, guys in yellow. A family friend comes over to help us put them on. It takes 20 to 30 minutes each to artfully wrap the 5 or 6 meters of fabric over a petticoat and so-called blouse. The latter is essentially a crop top. I remember Gina telling me that in India, it is perfectly normal to have your belly hanging out. But showing your shoulders is a very seductive thing to do. This being a Muslim wedding, add to that showing your legs as frowned upon.
'Only' a few hundred guests are in attendance at this event. Food stands are scattered around the gorgeous venue and later there is a buffet dinner. My favourite part is the Bollywood and
MJ performances put on by the 'Council of Cousins'. The bride and groom, upon their pompous arrival, sit on a stage for hours receiving guests' blessings. That involves feeding them and putting turmeric on their faces. It doesn't look like much fun for them. They put on brave faces in their beautiful dresses and look stunning.

3. A Mehndi party to get our henna on.
This of course is what we've been looking forward to most. The Henna looks soooo pretty, but the affair takes forever and then you are essentially incapacitated for several hours to wait for it to dry, then moisten again for a darker tone, and eventually scrape it off your hands and feet or whereever else you cared to have it applied.

4. A pre-wedding party with an 8-piece live band and delicious BBQ.
Sadly, I can't eat anything because it is WAY WAY too hot. I will need to eat before the events, because my wedding diet consists of mostly chapati, rice and occasional cucumber salad. Usually, I am the one that eats everything. I don't like the feeling of needing special treatment like this. As a side development, I decide that I really don't like Indian food, which I never cared much for in the first place. One lady at another event can not fathom what I could possibly be eating if I can't have chillies. How do I cook? How do I add flavour to my meals? She is in complete disbelief.
When the band goes off stage for a break, the cousins start some
dancing and within minutes, a good bunch of people are wiggling and
shaking. You know the move.....pat a dog with one hand, screw in a light
bulb with the other ;)

5. The actual wedding ceremony,
which we unfortunately miss because we are distracted by more food (most of which I can't eat of course) and confusion about the sequence of events. This main event has about 1000 guests. Everyone is decked out in their finest traditional wear. The bride and groom look rather uncomfortable, mostly just sitting on a stage all evening, having their pictures taken. The venue is not meant for the unusually cold weather. It is gorgeous, but absolutely freezing. At this event we are told, many people just show up to eat, congratulate and then leave. Most aren't even watching the ceremony. The latter includes the bride and groom signing wedding papers in separate rooms. Traditionally, only after this, will they get to see each other for the first time.

I am not sure how closely these families follow the traditions. But I do know that it was a semi-arranged wedding or at least a set-up meeting. Right from the first date the objective was to check out each other as potential future marriage candidates. Hashem who happens to live in Toronto flew to London/England where Fareeha studied to meet her and shortly after sent his proposal to her family.

None of the events served alcohol, which was a little rough on Manu and I. For a whole week, we did not have a single glass of wine or other alcoholic drink. It made us wonder that there were a couple of moments, where we would have given our firstborns for a glass of champagne.

Being the only Western guests really surprised me. Especially at a wedding of this scale, I would have expected many more international attendees. So yet again, we were the odd ones out, though at least the social class of these people meant that noone stared at us. Everyone was really welcoming. Considering noone really knew us, I must say it was extremely graceful and hospitable of them to invite us. The more, the merrier is the theme here. And indeed, the religious idea is that you want as many people as possible witnessing your wedding. While we are awe-ing and ooo-ing at the beautiful outfits and being fascinated with all the different traditions, everyone seems to love and appreciate that we also dressed in local outfits.

It was a chance I would not have wanted to miss and with the newly-wed couple both in Toronto soon, I am happy to hopefully get a chance to invite them back.
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