Adventures in India (part 2)

I’m well aware that my trip to India was last December, but I won’t be able to live with myself if I don’t recap the trip for my own memories! So here we are again.

When we last left off (part 1), I told you about my first two days in India. And now it’s time to recap the entire purpose of flying halfway across the world…my friend’s wedding! It’s important to first understand Indian weddings. They are not single-day events that we’re accustomed to in the United States (and even some parts of Europe). Indian weddings are typically 3 days in length and feature a variety of intricate traditions, ceremonies, and events. Oh, and did I mention they are absolutely beautiful?

While there are many smaller rituals accompanying the wedding, my fellow natives told me that the main events are:
* Pithi: a pre-wedding ritual where the bride and groom apply a tumeric-chickpea flour paste onto their skin for good luck
* Mehndi: a pre-wedding ritual focusing on the application of henna for female guests, although men are welcome to join as well
* Sangeet: an event the day before the wedding ceremony, often on the same day as the mehndi; features food, performances by the bride and groom’s wedding party, and dancing
* Ceremony: the groom arrives on a white horse during an event called the baraat, and then the ceremony itself lasts a few hours, during which time the bride and groom exchange floral garments and walk around the fire holding hands (known as the agni), among other rituals
* Reception: the post-ceremony celebration, and perhaps the most “traditional” event in terms of what us westerners are used to

The Pithi took place before I even arrived to India, so I sadly missed it. The bride and groom combined the Mehndi + Sangeet into one day and the ceremony + reception into a second day, so the first day started bright and early. We were staying at a friend’s house the first few days, and we got to move into a lovely hotel for the wedding. It was so luxurious, and we were greeted with a necklace and a traditional bindi upon check-in.

hotel

My friends and I were all so worried about our outfits because we were not at all familiar with Indian fashion, but I’d like to believe that we blended right in! The weather was perfect for the outdoor Mehndi festivities.

Mehndi

I find henna (mehndi) to be absolutely stunning and I couldn’t wait to get my own.

Mehndi

Mehndi

The talented woman drew elaborate designs on my palms, and I kept returning to add more patterns onto my hands and fingers.

Mehndi

The final product was stunning! The paste takes a few hours to dry and eventually slowly falls off, leaving behind the pattern in a gorgeous orange that stains the skin for a few weeks.

Mehndi

The bridesmaids and I left the Mehndi early in order to practice our dance for the Sangeet that evening. That’s right, bridesmaids (and groomsmen) traditionally perform dances during the Sangeet, and we were no exception! I was so so so nervous because I didn’t get to practice with all the other girls since I don’t live in Chicago, and I couldn’t relax until it was our turn.

Sangeet

There were a few hiccups during our dance (I refuse to post the video here!) but it was overall successful and everyone seemed to love it! And then I grabbed a celebratory drink and finally eased into the celebration with others.

Sangeet

What a party! There’s nothing quite like celebrating the love of your closest friends…with your best friends…in an incredible country!

Our night ended early in the morning (haha), and we had to be up again a few hours later in order to prepare for the wedding ceremony.

Ceremony

We got our hair and makeup done, and quickly dressed up in our matching bridesmaid saris.

Ceremony

Stunning right?!? Just look at my gorgeous friends!

Ceremony

Indian wedding ceremonies are long, elaborate, and absolutely beautiful. We didn’t understand much of the happenings but enjoyed watching the many rituals.

Ceremony

We stuck around for the entire 4-hour event and loved the intricacies and significance of each action.

Ceremony

So much love, such decadence and color, sigh take me back!

Ceremony

We were all exhausted after the ceremony and took a quick nap before dressing up for the evening reception.

Reception

I felt most underdressed for this event, but my stunning burgundy sari quickly became my favorite outfit of the entire wedding. Given that it was a Sunday, the reception was fairly mellow and not nearly as wild as the Sangeet (which was probably for the best).

Reception

I didn’t post many photos of the bride out of respect and privacy, but take my word that she looked absolutely stunning. She had a different dress on for each event, and I basically couldn’t stop staring at her (so not creepy…).

Reception

And then the wedding was over 🙁 Once again we barely slept because we had to be up early for our next big adventure the following morning – the Taj Mahal!

Taj Mahal

The bumpy bus ride took over 4 hours but my goodness it was so worth it. Obviously.

Taj Mahal

I mean…I would travel days just to see this wonder.

Taj Mahal

We explored the grounds for a few hours and quickly toured the inside before plopping down on the ground and simply observing the wondrous architecture around us.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

I feel so lucky to have visited this wonder of the world. And then we were off again! The trip back home felt significantly longer, but it was made better with a stop into McDonald’s.

McDonald's

I know what you’re thinking…what the hell?!? I never eat McDonald’s but the sandwiches in India were delicious, trust me. This McSpicy chicken sandwich was so good, I wish they would sell it in the states!

And then our time in New Delhi came to a close. Up next: Goa!

♥ Irina

6 Comments

  1. October 4, 2016 / 11:18 am

    Thank you for sharing all the details and pics from the wedding! I didn’t know Indian weddings were like this until a friend told me about one she went to years ago, and even since then, I’ve been fascinated to learn about them! I hope you enjoyed your henna for a few weeks and got fun questions about it back in the states that let you reminisce about the trip.

    I am totally not surprised the McD’s is good there – I thought the fries from McD’s in Italy were way different than the ones in the states!

    • October 6, 2016 / 1:10 pm

      I hope you have the opportunity to attend an Indian wedding someday, it’s such a unique and incredible experience! Plus, the clothing is so much fun to wear.

      Interestingly enough, we were told that McDonald’s in India is actually considered more on the “high end” of fast food (and food in general). It apparently has higher quality meats and ingredients! I remember that the McD’s in Russia also served a totally different menu. It’s fascinating to see how these chains adjust their menus based on the region.

  2. October 4, 2016 / 12:31 pm

    WOW! This is seriously all SO cool. I think non-American wedding traditions are so interesting, so I love all the detail about what goes into an Indian wedding. What an affair! I can’t even imagine trying to prepare for something like that. And man, everything looks SO gorgeous. What an awesome experience!

    • October 6, 2016 / 1:11 pm

      You should most definitely attend an Indian wedding if you’re ever invited, it’s the coolest experience ever. Apparently, Indian weddings are ridiculously expensive though (for obvious reasons)…I was told that the average cost runs upwards of 100k!!! YIKES

  3. October 5, 2016 / 9:41 pm

    That’s so incredible that you were able to travel all the way and celebrate your friend’s wedding! A lot of the traditions you describe here are actually similar to what I saw with my cousins’ South Indian weddings, but there are some differences here and there. I love Mehndi day/night the best, haha!

    And I honestly think fast food chains OUTSIDE the US taste so much better! Plus Indian McD’s has a lot more vegetarian options 😀

    • October 6, 2016 / 1:14 pm

      I would love to hear about the differences! All the wedding traditions are absolutely fascinating, and I feel so honored to have been part of the experience…especially in India.

      And I totally agree about fast food outside of the states. I was told that McDonald’s in India actually often serves higher quality food/ingredients. It’s fascinating!