The Wedding

Chennai, India

Pacing up a darkened street almost as fast as my newly acquired $8 pair of jeans are falling down my waist, I search frantically for the local YMCA in the hopes of making it to the wedding reception in time. Sandeep messages me frantically, “Have you found it??”, as beads of sweat stream down my face. It’s about 30 degrees here even at night; Skinny jeans were a bad choice.

I met Sandeep on the train from Hyderabad and he explained he was on his way to Chennai to attend his cousins wedding. He made no hesitation in inviting me along and, though barely able to contain my excitement, I accepted immediately.

A far cry from the monochromatic, orderly scenes of most european weddings, the crowd here is awash in bright colours. Gleaming saris and bright dress shirts flood the halls as a queue to give blessings to the newly wedded couple extends far out of the door. Sandeep hands me a floral broach, explaining that only the family may wear these: I am a guest of honour, it seems.

Not wanting to disappoint, I make my way around the crowd taking photographs and shaking hands. Downstairs in the food hall they serve dinner on large banana leaves to the 1,200 guests flowing through the venue. On offer: the most delicious mutton biriyani paired with fried chicken, indian bread-and-butter pudding and more. I am in heaven, though it must be said that while I assumed eating with my fingers would come naturally, a life of cutlery use had left me woefully unprepared. I do my best to battle through it much to the amusement of the locals around me.

After 3 or 4 hours spent greeting guests and smiling for photographs, the bride and groom are finally permitted rest and in a move of great flattery summon me up onto the stage to meet them. Congratulating them, I stood and beamed as we posed for one last photograph. They hand me a bouquet of white flowers and profusely thank me for coming. I am floored by their warmth and tell them the pleasure was all mine.

The bride, groom and guests pose for a photograph
The modern wedding: abound with selfies. Sandeep second from the left
Mehndi pattern on the hands of the bride The bride and groom recieve blessings from friends and family
View of the guests in vibrant colours The mother and father of the bride tuck in to dinner. 'He wants to show his friends how Indian people eat!' chuckles the mother as I take a photo