Thursday, July 31, 2008

pomp & circumstance

I've been looking up hindu wedding traditions and ceremonies, and there are some things that I really like... but there are others that I am not at all into.

I like all the physical actions, like walking around the fire, stepping on stones, throwing stuff in the fire, having our clothes tied together. Awesome. Sometimes symbolism is better at saying something than just explaining it out loud could be. I like the 4 "life goals" that the rounds around the fire are supposed to represent, I like the 7 things that you wish for when you do the 7 steps. I like that people in our families have special roles.

But I don't like that sometimes only the groom talks, or that sometimes the things we say are not the same. I don't like that my parents "give me away" to him, but his parents don't give him to me.

I wonder if we can change parts of the ceremony in little ways that no one will notice (it's not like anyone understands Sanskrit anyway).

late nights

What time do weddings typically end? Will we be cutting off the party in the middle if we have it someplace that closes at 11? Because everything else about this place would work.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

so.... invitations

Can I get invitations that look cheery and springtimey and bright like this?

Or maybe a bright color with lots of sparkly stuff like this?

F thinks they pretty much have to look like this, though.

Monday, July 28, 2008

things I never expected would be hard

Finding a reception venue to hold an ambiguously large number of people sitting down and eating dinner (at least 400). If we loosen up about that and let it be a "strolling buffet" any of the museums would work, but then I fear the dance floor would get no attention. Local parks would be big enough but they all close at 11, no exceptions, boo.

Finding a ceremony venue with a very, very liberal policy about fire that can hold that many people. (Even parks! Millennium Park has a "no open flame" policy that pretty much disqualifies them. Too bad, because otherwise it'd be a perfect ceremony/reception combo venue. The Chicago park district might have some others that would work, though.)

Finding out what aspects of the wedding are non-negotiable with F's mom, F, my mom, and myself, and making sure everyone gets most of what they want.

Sunday, July 27, 2008



Left to her own devices, F's mom would have Indian food at every wedding-related party. This would be fine with me, but I wonder how much the rest of my family would enjoy that. Since they already have to be good sports and eat vegetarian food, I've been thinking we should give them a bit of variety. There was a middle eastern place I thought it might be nice to have the engagement at, but they didn't have a room big enough for the party. And they are specifically equipped for parties and banquets! (This could be an indication that the party is too big, but to come to that conclusion is unacceptable.) Anyway, I have been thinking that a tasty assortment of different kinds of food that the two of us like should be included in the festivities. If anybody knows of good Chicago-area veggie caterers (or extremely large restaurants), post 'em.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

how about just a pony tail?

The engagement date has been set. Woo! And my brothers are excited to come to it.

But I was just reminded today that for the engagement I'll probably have to wear more makeup than I like (which is also more than F likes). And I'll have to do something with my hair, which is still not going to be long enough for the usual formal up-do stuff. I've been growing it out for a little while, since my short-hair hairdresser left town. But it's not that long yet. Hmm.

Monday, July 21, 2008

who's in charge?

It's normal for Indian weddings to be planned by the parents. But it's normal for American weddings to be planned by the people getting married (especially the woman). So, what do I do? I don't want to have a "too many cooks spoil the soup" situation. But I also like that I don't have to be responsible for everything myself. On the other hand, I do have a few strong opinions about how I'd like my wedding to be. Being outdoors, for instance, is pretty important to me. Other things don't matter much at all. The difference in assumptions about who's in charge also make it harder to start planning things, because I'm not sure if I should start planning anything.

Speaking of planning, I think right now we are waiting for F's mom to get with the astrology guy and tell us when the engagement and wedding should be. Then we get started for real.

what it looks like

I've been fooling around on the internet, finding pictures of wedding-related style elements that I like. Here are a few of them for your enjoyment.

Photos like this might help explain why I want to have an outdoor wedding. Everything looks airy and picnic-y. I also like the outfit the girl in the top picture has. She managed to avoid the massive armor plating trap. In the second photo, they've got a curtain of flower garlands along the "wall" of the wedding canopy, which I think is awesome. In the bottom two images, I like the pink-yellow-orange-red multicolor scheme. Maybe I can talk F into it.

I like the blue-green borders on this wedding lehenga, and I also like how the embroidery work on it is rich without achieving the "massive armor plating" look. I dig the grid-like geometric pattern, too.

This outfit has some of the same features: blue border, geometric pattern, not armor plated. I like it too, but it definitely has a different mood than the first one. It's more old-fashioned (the designer named it the "Devdas bridal" after the movie, which was set in the early 1900s). It's not like that's not stylish, though - fashion is often strongly influenced by recent movies.

Mehendi is the name for henna body painting. There's a whole party centered around the bride getting decorated with it, because after the henna goop is on she has to sit still for a long time while it stains. Somebody's gotta entertain her and feed her stuff! So all the ladies get together and keep her company. There are different styles of this, too. I like big, pseudo-floral styles with a lot of empty space, like these:

But some people prefer designs with a ton of tiny details:

Opinions? Clearly these people all had very good photographers, too. That's part of why their stuff is so pretty. But besides that, what kind of styles do you like?


I am not sure how to explain the idea of an engagement ceremony to my extended family. To them, you are engaged as soon as you tell everyone you are. Engagement parties are just to introduce you to people as a couple. You don't typically expect non-local people to travel much to come to them, and you can have as many parties as people are willing to throw for you. Or you could not have any. (You don't throw them yourself.)

But in F's family, the Engagement is more than just a party. There's a ceremony, and before that happens you're not officially engaged. You're just planning on getting married. Maybe you're pre-gaged. Engaged to be engaged. And you don't get more than one engagement. It's just the one, because it wouldn't make any sense to have the ceremony more than once.

So how do I get it across to my out-of-state aunts and uncles that they should come to this shindig, and it's a bigger deal than a few plates of hors d'ouevres and some chitchat?

maa-beti stuff

My mom is excited about my wedding and really wants to help plan it and throw parties and stuff. I worry that she might feel a little bit left out, though. The wedding is going to be Indian-style, so she doesn't know what traditional things she can boss me around about, what parties she can throw, or who she can invite to them. It is a mom's job to know all the traditions and then boss the young people around. I don't want her to be bored or left out, but I don't know these things either. Now what?

My parents also live in a different state from the city we want to have the wedding in, which is problematic. I'd say they could host a couple of the pre-wedding parties, except that that's a multi-hour drive or train ride away from the center of the action.

Then there's the clothes. Of course my mom wants to help pick out my wedding outfit. But she doesn't like the bare belly style of most lehengas. She thinks that wearing something low-cut with better coverage on the bottom would look "more formal." Indian-style fashion is just the opposite, though! Short cholis are much more OK than low necklines & bare shoulders. How do I get around this? If I try to please everybody I will be wrapped up from head to toe.


What we want: Outdoor wedding. Ideally, outdoor reception too. In the summer of 2010 so I have time to save up money after I am done with grad school. Sparkly Indian clothes. Open bar. A party with lots of music and dancing and good food, where we're married at the end.

What F's family is used to: A wedding in a banquet hall. A much shorter engagement. No drinks. Sparkly Indian clothes. Massive gold jewelry armor plating. Around 500 people, and that would be on the small side. A party with lots of music and dancing and good food, where we're married at the end.

What my extended family is used to: A wedding where I wear a white dress and pearls. Less than 200 people. Open bar. A bit o' Jesus. A party with lots of music and dancing and good food, where we're married at the end. But they are used to the music being in English.

At least we agree on something.

(I should point out that my parents are in the awesome "whatever makes you happy" camp. I'm just saying that I'm going to have to explain all the unfamiliar traditions to everybody.)


In Hindi, mota/moti means fat. Hindi is a language with gender, so mota is used to decribe fat masculine people or things, and moti is used to describe fat feminine people or things. I know Hindi better than Gujarati, so a lot of my language info comes from that even though it's not actually the language F's family speaks most of the time. It is, however, the language of Bollywood movies.

In Gujarati, mota and moti still mean fat. F's mom thinks I will get moti because I like sweets so much. I probably will, too, because every time I meet new people they feed me. I had two and a half lunches yesterday. But the same words also can be used for respect purposes. For instance, in Baghban a Gujarati guy calls Amitabh Bachchan "mota bhai" (bhai means brother) even though he is very fit for an old guy.

The reason I'm telling you all this is that F has his own mom and dad, but he also has aunts and uncles that he calls Mummy and Papa, too. Some of them are called Hisname-Papa and Hername-Mummy, but F's dad's oldest brother and his wife are called Mota Papa and Moti Mummy. Mota Papa is kind of like the family's Godfather, but without all the crime.

Anyway, when I was with F's family visiting aunts and uncles yesterday, Mota Papa called to say hi. I talked to him for a little bit and then he asked for F's mom, so I handed the phone off. She asked who it was, and I said "Moti Papa." This got huge laughs from everybody else in the room. Oops. Everyone is happy that I am learning Gujarati though, so they think my mistakes are cute. Thank god.

hamari kahani so far

F (which stands for fiance) and I got engaged a couple of weeks ago. He's Indian-from-India, and I'm white-from-the-Midwest. This blog is going to contain my wedding and family adventures. I looked for advice and stories about marrying into an Indian family, but I couldn't find much at all, so this blog goes out to all you gori girls who are in the same boat. I know you're out there.

At first when we started dating, F didn't tell his family about me right away. It's just not generally done that way. Then when we were sure it was serious, he told them and they were not pleased (because I'm not Indian). In a couple of months, though, they realized I was not so bad and decided to like me. I'm not saying this is not a big deal for many people, but parents really do love their children and want them to be happy, and it seems like they usually come around eventually. In our case it was like flipping a switch - we went from unhappy parents to "When are you going to get married? How about this summer?"

We got engaged after a trip to my parents' house for a volleyball party. Everyone was calling F's phone to congratulate us, but it was languishing inside the house. They were picking on him for not answering it, but he was busy playing lots of volleyball and had no idea it was ringing. When he finally called everyone back, they all demanded pictures of me. I think they're still waiting.