Confessions of an Indian Wedding Photographer
Okay, so this post won’t be full of every deep, dark secret of mine, but the title is very appropriate since I want to share a posting from another website called Neo Indian which is about the “confessions of a newly returned Indian”. My friend Seshu shared a link this morning on twitter to this article (along with a few others as I noticed throughout the day)
Have a quick look at the posting, it’s not too long, but I find it quite hilarious: A foreigner’s guide to traditional Hindu weddings
There are so many little jokes that I could quote from the post (Vuvuzela’s, anyone!?), but I wanted to provide you a bit of my take on attending Hindu weddings both professionally as the photographer, but also as a guest…
Now, if you’ve ever been to a Hindu wedding, I’m sure you found it chaotic, but in the end, a crazy-hectic-fun affair full of every emotion under the sun. As a wedding photographer who covers a boatload of Hindu weddings, I can attest to the truthiness of neoIndian’s description of Hindu weddings. To be honest, if a Hindu wedding isn’t crazy and hectic, I feel like bride, groom, and their families missed out on the fun. That’s not to say such weddings aren’t well-planned, but the cultural elements surrounding these weddings are as much a part of the tradition as the religious rites. Let’s face it, a lot of the things that happen during Indian weddings are kind of strange and nobody can easily answer why they’re done. But seeing the fun, hilarious, and ridiculous aspects of these traditions are part of what makes Indian weddings so much fun to be a part of!
Yeah, there’s the fun of stealing the groom’s shoes (not just a Hindu tradition, mind you) and dancing during the groom’s procession, but there’s so many side things going on. Whether I’m hired to cover the event or attending as a guest, I’ve lost track of the aunties who whisper that the priest is “doing it wrong”…meaning he’s not following the family’s tradition when it comes to weddings. Or the mother-of-the-bride who has to keep asking someone else about what they’re supposed to do next. Or what about the complaints that the priest is dragging the ceremony on too long? Especially on a hot summer afternoon, everyone finds it a bit difficult to listen to un-ending Sanskrit prayers. Sure, many priests try to liven it up by telling jokes or just by explaining the rites in common English, but the truth is that Hindu weddings are just as much about family & friends getting together for a long-weekend of fun & laughter as it is about a man and woman beginning their married lives together.
Ask most elders at a Hindu wedding about why certain rites are to be performed and you’ll receive one of two answers: The long answer will hark back to centuries old tradition carried on by many generations (half of which is ad-libbed). The short answer will be “I’m not sure beta, but isn’t it so wonderful?!” followed quickly by “So what do you do? Are you a doctor?” Since I’ve been to so many weddings in my life, I can probably explain the origins or details of most types of Indian wedding traditions, but the bottom line for me is that the weddings we all have a love/hate affair with are about enjoying the time with family & friends. And now that we live far from most of our family, my wife and I can attest to the fact that weddings are a time to catch up and re-connect with our loved ones and strengthen those bonds. To be honest, if it weren’t for weddings, I don’t think we’d ever see some of our family members. That alone is a great reason to attend. That alone is a reason to enjoy the wedding in the context of a larger family.
So if you’re attending an Indian wedding…don’t worry that you can’t follow or understand every rite being performed on the mandap…don’t worry that you might be standing some where inappropriate…and don’t get intimidated by all the people wearing such expensive wedding attire…each one of them is there to celebrate the vows of the couple getting married, but each one is also there to celebrate their family & friends sitting in the audience with them!