The big day was going to be filled with two ceremonies (a Hindu ceremony and a Sikh ceremony) as well as the grand finale... excuse me, I mean the reception. With so much activity being crammed into one day, you better believe that Sunday started off bright and early. The guests were instructed to head down to the main lobby by 9 AM sharp, in order to be in time to watch the Bharat, which is where the groom rides a horse amongst throngs of his friends and family dancing around him to the main entrance of the hotel.
I have to say, the Bharat is one of my favorite events at Indian weddings. It's just so FESTIVE and I simply LOVE watching the groom's family and friends dancing their hearts out...it's so clear everyone is just so darn EXCITED for the big day ahead.
So, right at 9 AM, you better believe I was jaunting downstairs to make sure I was able to watch every single moment of the festivities... but I quickly got distracted because... well, I guess with 600 people at a wedding (with like half the guests from Cincinnati itself, since that's where the groom is from), I was bound to run into an unexpectedly familiar face or two. But still... that thought didn't remotely temper my excitement levels when the familiar face that I ran into was...
Now, I know this may look like just another Indian aunty to the rest of you. But this aunty just happens to be one of my FAVORITE aunties in all the land. This is actually my college roommate (for all four years!)'s MOM!! Trust me... I could NOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT. It had been so long since I'd seen her, and quite frankly, she makes me the happiest thing ever (especially when she calls me "Giggly"... SIGH, HAPPINESS!!!).
After literally attacking her with a hug (good thing she doesn't scare easily...), I quickly made my way outside and down the sidewalk where I was able to find my friends (thank goodness! Knowing very few people in a crowd of 600+ can get kind of overwhelming, not gonna lie!).
Despite the 90+ degree heat and humidity of the morning, the excitement was in FULL FORCE. I'm not exaggerating, "throngs of people" is an understatement of the sight to be seen outside of that hotel and lining the city block. Since shamelessness is kind of my "thing", I scooched my way to the front of the crowd in order to snag at least ONE picture of the guest of honor...
Surprisingly enough, the Bharat actually started relatively on time. Eashwar, decked OUT in his traditional Indian attire, began riding that horse down the city street to the main entrance to the hotel... all to the blasting Indian music and exuberant family and friends dancing away...
Once he'd made it safely inside the hotel, the family and friends gathered in the hotel lobby to begin some of the traditional rituals. To be honest, I couldn't exactly understand what was going on down there, but it was definitely a moving, touching moment.
Shortly thereafter, we ended up wandering up to the second floor of the hotel, where the Sikh ceremony was going to take place first. During this ceremony, everyone had to make sure that their heads were covered as they entered the sacred place, ladies sat on the left while males sat on the right, and everyone was sitting on the floor (sans shoes, which had to be left outside the big hall).
It was actually VERY interesting for me, since it was my very first Sikh ceremony. Sure, the bread pudding-y type of treat they gave us at the end of the Sikh ceremony certainly helped things along.
Even though it may not look like much in that picture, that treat was LE-GIT deliciousness. Not gonna lie... I certainly did help myself to seconds :)
Alright, so after the Sikh ceremony, we all exited the hall so that it could be revamped for the second ceremony of the day- the Hindu ceremony. After a more-than-light snack in the interim (oh, if there's one thing that can be said about this ENTIRE weekend, it's that you NEVER went hungry, that is for darn sure), we headed back up to the same hall... to a whole new world ready for the Hindu ceremony. The mandap (it's kind of like the "stage" for the bride and groom) was revamped, there were now chairs in place of where we'd been sitting on the floor, new flowers were decorating the aisles... it's amazing how much can change in the course of like 45 minutes.
I just loved the Hindu ceremony. There was even an Indian uncle who was kind of narrating each and every ritual during the Hindu ceremony, so people could truly understand what was going on. And of course... I mean, look at the happy couple. They just make me so HAPPY.
Immediately following this ceremony was... of course, lunch. Ah food... how it does epitomize all things Indian. Because I didn't want to look like a complete freak (I mean, how many aunties and uncles would really understand the concept of blogging?), I refrained from taking all too many pictures of food (it took some serious self-restraint though).
After lunch? NAPTIME!! We had a couple of hours free in the afternoon before we had to start getting ready for the grand reception and you better BELIEVE I took full advantage. I take my naps VERY seriously and it had been kind of an exhausting weekend already (I can't even imagine how Neha and Eashwar were feeling!), so I fully embraced my naptime.
Well, naptime came and went and then it was time to... get ready for the reception. The reception was the only event where I was going to be wearing a sari, since it was the "fanciest" night of the whole weekend. A couple of my other friends were also going to be wearing saris, so you better believe we had to flag down an aunty earlier on in the afternoon, so she could help us put these things on. I don't think I will ever understand how one singular piece of fabric can be so complicated to put on.
A few of us headed down to the lobby around 7 PM- just in time for... cocktail hour!! Wahoo!!
Aren't those drinks so FUN?? I swear, me and that Lychee Martini became like BFF throughout the night... it was the epitome of tasty deliciousness.
As cocktail hour started winding down, the grand doors to the reception hall were opened and... well, so much for keeping my jaw off the floor. I can safely say it was one of the most majestic reception halls I'd seen to-date... everything was just so well DONE. I mean, just look at the flower arrangements.
And that's just the beginning of it. Unfortunately, my phone camera isn't exactly behaving itself, so the quality of these pictures could have been a little better but whatever. All I have to say about the reception is... it was one of the most emotionally taxing receptions I've ever attended. Honestly, I have to say it's in the top three wedding receptions I've been to (and, if you know me at all, you know I've been to my more than fair share of weddings over recent years), primarily because of the speeches/sentiments that were made. I couldn't stop crying! (And, to be fair, there were more than few of us who couldn't stop crying.)
At the end of it all, though, it's a wedding reception. And, God, what a wedding reception it was. And best of all- we actually got to talk with the bride for a fair amount of time!! (Seriously, trying to catch Neha this weekend was like trying to catch a celebrity!)
I know I've said this before, but I have to say it again... GOD, do Indian people know how to party. The music couldn't have been better and the dancing couldn't have been more spirited happiness.
All in all, I have to say that this wedding weekend was one of the absolute best that I've ever been to. And I know I've been making light of a lot of the weekend what with all the open bar-ing and the spectacle that only busloads of Indian aunties and uncles can provide, but in all seriousness, this wedding was one of the most touching ones that I've had the privilege of experiencing. I'm so grateful to have been able to participate in this extra-special weekend for Neha and Eashwar and it's definitely one of the weddings that will stick out for me for a long time to come.