I traveled to New Delhi, India to attend the wedding of a Carlson School classmate and friend, Tarun Jain, to his wife Sonal. This 3-day celebration will be one of the most memorable, special, colorful, fun, crazy and incredible opportunities from my year of travel.
Bryana, another friend of Tarun’s from the Carlson School, came to India for the wedding too. She and I were welcomed like family to the wedding festivities. For Indian weddings, it is common for both the bride’s family and the groom’s family to rent a reception hall with attached hotel facilities to feed and house guests. Bryana and I were invited to stay with the groom’s family at their hotel and to join all of the celebratory events during the 3-day marriage. Tarun’s family members were always checking on us to ensure we were comfortable, well fed, and having fun.
The wedding was a Jain wedding with many pre-wedding ceremonies. Tarun and Sonal enjoyed an arranged marriage, a practice common in India. Their families, as well as the couple, bonded as they spent time together during the engagement and wedding preparations. In India, the joint family, instead of the nuclear family, is the family unit. The closeness of all was obvious in the easy way everyone enjoyed time with each other 24/7. It was beautiful to be a part of this occasion.
Bryana and I escorted Tarun to pick up his wedding outfit. Superstition says it is bad luck for the groom to be alone.
Mehndi or henna is common in India for weddings and festivals. Sonal had elaborate henna on her hands, arms, and feet. Both Sonal and Tarun had intricate henna on their hands with the names of the other person hidden in the design.
Tarun’s family hosted the first wedding party. There were religious elements plus a fabulous live band and this incredible singer. This night felt like a Bollywood movie and we danced a lot.
The clothes wedding guests wore were bright, elaborate, and stunning. Each event required a more splendid outfit.
Tarun and Sonal participated in the religious portion of the evening. Then, dancing began led by Tarun’s family including his brother in navy/yellow and his sister-in-law in green/tan. Sonal is wearing peach and Tarun is wearing orange/navy.
Tarun’s mom dressed in maroon/gold on this evening. It was a happy, loud and fun affair. There were over 200 guests in attendance and a huge buffet of food and appetizers. We arrived around 9:00pm and left after 3:00am.
Tarun arranged for a family friend to loan me and Bryana traditional outfits. A woman hired to do hair and makeup for family members helped dress us. We made friends with many of Tarun’s younger family members.
The following day we awoke around 9:00am, dressed, and headed downstairs for breakfast in one of the hotel’s banquet rooms. This morning religious ceremony was for the groom’s family only. During the ceremony, family members chanted to thank and remember their ancestors.
Also as a part of the ceremony, Tarun’s aunties rubbed turmeric on him. This tradition is meant to make the skin glow. All throughout the 2-3 hour ceremony people were eating delicious food and socializing. About 100 people attended. Following the ceremony a dance party began. I napped though so I could stay awake for the evening ceremony.
Tarun showed off his wedding ring. After the morning family ceremony, Tarun dressed for the evening wedding and photographs began.
I borrowed this gown from a family friend who was rooming with us during the wedding. Thanks Rupam! Tarun’s niece wore many gorgeous dresses including this one for the wedding night.
Bryana and I were given special hats to wear to the wedding ceremony identifying us as important guests of the family. It was an honor. To begin the evening, Tarun mounted a horse for a short, symbolic walk from his family’s hotel to the wedding venue. A band played and everyone danced. The procession ended and we boarded cars for an hour drive to the real wedding venue.
Once near the venue, Tarun mounted a new horse. Then, to the music of the band, we danced down the street and into the outdoor event space to meet Sonal’s family and friends. It was about 10:00pm.
After entering the outdoor reception area, family portraits took place on a central stage. Everyone wore incredible clothing and gold jewelry. Per custom, the bride’s gown is a surprise selected and paid for by her mother-in-law. Sonal saw her gown for the first time the day before this ceremony.
There were more than 50 food stations serving many varieties of traditional Indian food from all regions of the country. We ate a tasty sampler platter around 11:00pm. Alka, in the gorgeous green gown, and her husband are Tarun’s cousins. Alka helped me and Bryana in advance of the wedding and during the 3-day celebration.
The formal ceremony during which Tarun and Sonal were officially married took place after 3:00am on the night of the biggest wedding party. For the ceremony, only close family and friends remained from the hundreds in attendance for the dinner and groom’s arrival. During the ceremony, the couple circled 7 times vowing to support each other.
Around 4:30am, Tarun and Sonal departed the wedding venue. They rode on a decorated bicycle for photos and then transferred to a car for the journey to the hotel. It was after 6:00am when Bryana and I went to sleep.
The morning after the wedding ceremony, Tarun and Sonal returned to the reception hall Tarun’s family rented to play the final traditional games. Games included competitions to see who could untie knots in a bracelet faster and who could find their name in the other person’s henna faster. Bryana and I enjoyed great conversations with Tarun’s family.