Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wedding Trip to India 2017, Part 7

Regular readers of our now quite irregularly appearing blog will may remember we took a trip to India in December of 2015 and wrote an epic 19 part series of blog posts about it - this is not that trip. This is another trip, also to India, but this time mostly for a wedding instead of tourism. This is also Part 7, so you may wish to scroll down to Parts 1-6 if you haven't already read them.

As usual, the photos that we took can be found on Flickr. Some of the photos used in this blog post were taken by friends of ours or the wedding photographers and don't appear on Flickr. Those will be noted with credit when used.

Day 6 Event 2: The Actual Wedding Reception

This was the fanciest wedding reception that I have ever been to, bordering on the surreal. Ana was not feeling well and stayed at the Club. When the foreigners took a bus over from the club, it appeared that an entire swanky hotel had been booked out for the event - if there were other guests in the rooms above, they were going to be thoroughly inconvenienced by the wedding, which occupied the entire main entrance.

First entrance - taking up the main entrance of the hotel

Second entrance past the first - these are not fake flowers

Seating for several hundred people in this room alone - it keeps going to either side and there is a balcony with more seating above (there were two more attached rooms nearby)

At the beginning of the event, members of the family (but not the bride and groom themselves) greeted all the guests. By this point in the wedding the whole family knows us and we know them at least a little - better than most of the guests at any rate - so we were made particularly welcome.

As events got going, photographers deployed a large drone with camera on it inside the banquet hall. As it flew over tables, it would blow napkins and decorations around, which we thought was pretty funny. I admit that some folks at my table, including myself, deliberately made faces at the drone when the noise interfered with conversation and thereafter it appeared that the operator made a point of buzzing our table on each subsequent pass.

Unlike many other events, this one did not focus on prayers and the key elements appeared to us to be the bride and groom getting pictures with absolutely as many people as possible. Once they appeared, there was first an enormous on-stage photo shoot for them with all possible configurations of other family members that went on for quite a while. 

After six days of wedding, the bride and groom were pretty much permanently fixed into 'smiling' faces - and this event was the final, grueling test

Fortunately, while this was going on, appetizers were made available and once again they were delicious. The little carts going around with appetizers were heavily trafficked so it was important to stock up when you got to the front of the line. My careful sampling determined that the green chicken appetizer that tasted a bit like jerk chicken was the optimal menu item and I pursued it all over the banquet floor as the endless photo shoots continued. I imagine the folks up on the stage would rather have been chasing appetizers as well.

That's the stuff - go for the green chicken!

Once the main photo shoot ended, the greeting of guests by the bride and groom began. Probably 95% of the people there got in line to get a picture at some point - they queued up ten people wide at the back of the line and the line didn't get any shorter for literally two or three hours because as soon as it did more people would get in line. 

This went on FOR-EVER. Everyone wanted a special picture with the bride and groom, who were definitely looking the worse for wear towards the end of their fourth hour of smiling and posing.

An hour or so into the receiving line time, the actual dinner got served and I don't believe I have ever seen a buffet with more options. It was outside adjacent to the banquet hall, under a giant tent, the sides of which were entirely lined by different dishes. They did repeat on opposing sides of the tent, but were unique aside from that. I had been doing valiant battle with the appetizers for quite a while at this point, but the buffet looked so good that I went and got an enormous plate anyway.

I would say about half the tent is in this picture

Meanwhile, the line to get a picture with the couple continued. Most of the foreigners looked at the line, looked at the couple, and decided everyone involved would be better off if we didn't get in line, and we waited for the line to finally end, ate, and talked.

We were in this event for the long haul, waiting to see them off at the end

Finally, late into the night when the couple had shaken all the hands and taken all the pictures and left the stage, we went up as a group to see them. Someone went running to bring them plates from the buffet, and I believe our instructions to the couple were something along the lines of "Don't stand up, don't smile, and don't feel the need to say anything - keep eating." After they had some food we had a few minutes to talk - the bride would be nearly in tears when she said they'd watched us decide to not get in the photo line from up on the stage, knew it was in consideration of their fatigue, and "knew who our real friends were." I think we were all happy to have been there for them through the whole thing.

Of course, they couldn't escape the evening without a few more pictures on the way out...

This event closed the wedding and they actually got a few days to rest and relax on a honeymoon in Goa after the wedding. Several of our friends continued on to that leg of the trip, but we were needed at home to finish up the semester and get final grades in, so we headed out the next day for the long trip home. This was: club to Hyderabad airport, Hyderabad to Delhi, Delhi to London, London to Raleigh, plus the hour's drive home from there - leaving at around 4PM on the 13th and arriving around 5PM on the 14th...which sounds like 25 hours except that India is 10.5 hours ahead - closer to 35 hours in transit end to end.

Can't complain too much though - we are lucky to have such friends on any continent and we wouldn't have dreamed of missing their wedding. We caught up with some old friends and made some new ones, and overall had a darn good time.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wedding Trip to India 2017, Part 6

Regular readers of our now quite irregularly appearing blog will may remember we took a trip to India in December of 2015 and wrote an epic 19 part series of blog posts about it - this is not that trip. This is another trip, also to India, but this time mostly for a wedding instead of tourism. This is also Part 6, so you may wish to scroll down to Parts 1-5 if you haven't already read them.

As usual, the photos that we took can be found on Flickr. Some of the photos used in this blog post were taken by friends of ours or the wedding photographers and don't appear on Flickr. Those will be noted with credit when used.

Day 6 Event 1: Hyderabad Tourism

We'd had quite a bit of tourism in our last trip to India and this trip was focused on the wedding, not tourism, but we had scheduled one day of tourism towards the end of the trip. The tour was set up by some friends of ours who were also attending the wedding and we picked up a few more people through speaking to other wedding guests. The theme of the tour of Hyderabad was arts and crafts and the first stop was a weaving studio. The studio trained widowed women (who apparently have a really tough time getting work) as weavers, which is enough to make a living on. Proceeds from the shop also support a nearby school where the children of the women working there go.

We were told they get through about 2 inches a day, and it is an entirely manual process. The looms looked a bit ramshackle but apparently served the purpose.

We were also told that a master weaver did the configuration and set up for the patterns - we thought they should teach that too.

The group did a fair bit of shopping at the attached shop. We got some interesting orange fabric for future craft projects and some scarves as presents for the rest of the faculty when we got back - nothing actually made on these looms as that fabric was extremely expensive.

Our next stop was a downtown bazaar that was a hub around which most of the remaining stops focused - this picture does not do justice to the quantity of things for sale or the bustle of the place. A few members of the group bought some fruit.

This structure (apparently called the Charminar) is sort of the central hub of the city of Hyderabad - their famous landmark building. The scaffolding is for cleaning. 

We mostly got everyone into the shot

We were getting peckish and stopped into a bakery cafe recommended by the guide. They were selling all manner of cookies and confections by the pound - individual portions were mostly about three or four cents per.

One of the display cases

We got something of a sampler platter - the pastries in the middle were savory with vegetables and very tasty and pretty much all of the cookies were good - if one person didn't favor a specific one, someone else preferred it. I'm pretty sure all of this cost about $1.00 (and I think we'd already eaten some of the cookies before remembering to take a picture).

The next stop was a traditional embroidery shop - these gentlemen are carefully sewing approximately 1 gajillion individual decorative components onto a piece of fabric. It sounded like they were doing a pretty high-end product and it would take that team more than a week to finish, even with multiple people working on the same piece.

On the brown cloth are the raw pieces, and a finished part of the design can be seen under his hand. The pieces are extremely small.

One member of our group wanted some embroidered pieces - sort of rolls of trim that could be attached to other things, and we spent a long time doing the bargaining game for them, then had trouble getting their card reader to work so she could actually buy them. I think we ended up using someone else's credit card.

The final stop was a pearl sorting and processing plant. Hyderabad is nowhere near the ocean, but apparently a couple hundred years ago they were known as a gem market and for processing other gems - so the local lord decided they should add pearls to their market and imported number of craftspeople who specialized in pearls. Down the road, the region still handles vast quantities of them - some of the brands they work for are definitely global names in pearls and with the number of pearls in the building I was surprised there weren't armed guards in evidence. They would happily let you run your hands through some of the piles and they were very enthusiastic about the tour.

This guy's job is to carefully drill a hole through the center of the pearls - I am sure they don't run out of work for him very often.

They went through the steps to process the pearls pretty extensively, and insisted on pictures at multiple stages - the bottles we're holding are either for bleaching or softening the pearls - I forget - both steps were part of the overall process.

This kind of tour wouldn't be complete without a stop in the attached shop - in this case it was several blocks away in a much more prominent and fancy shop - several members of the group made purchases and we had our Hindi-speaking friend available to put the finishing touches on the negotiations. All the items at least had listed prices when you started so you knew how much of a discount you were getting off the quoted rate. We got a snazzy necklace for Ana - small black pearls (the color is artificial or else it would have cost the earth, but the pearls are real) laid out in a swooping v-shape - should be practical for work and play. Some items in that shop I am confident many people would assume as fake should they see them firsthand, just on the size and quantity of pearls used.

Heading back to the bus to return to the Club, we crossed this terrifying intersection mostly by the force of the guide's will - we formed a wedge and waded into the traffic, but the traffic on the whole was not impressed. Nobody died, but there were moments where that outcome did not seem inevitable.

We have one more event to show off - the final, formal wedding reception, before we got back on the plane and headed home to grade exams before grades were due from the school. So we'll pick up next time in the evening for the wedding reception proper. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Wedding Trip to India 2017, Part 5

Regular readers of our now quite irregularly appearing blog will may remember we took a trip to India in December of 2015 and wrote an epic 19 part series of blog posts about it - this is not that trip. This is another trip, also to India, but this time mostly for a wedding instead of tourism. This is also Part 5, so you may wish to scroll down to Parts 1-4 if you haven't already read them.

As usual, the photos that we took can be found on Flickr. Some of the photos used in this blog post were taken by friends of ours or the wedding photographers and don't appear on Flickr. Those will be noted with credit when used.

Day 5 Event 1: Visit to the Kandi 'Farmhouse' and Temple

When we got to this item on the wedding events schedule we really didn't know what to expect. We knew we were going to the 'family farmhouse' and that there would be some praying and ceremonies, but couldn't really envision what that meant. A bus picked us up at the Secunderabad Club and drove more than an hour into the countryside, winding onto smaller and smaller roads and through smaller and eventually very small towns indeed. However, when we arrived, we found that 'farmhouse' undersold the family housing and temple complex by a substantial margin. It turned out that while it may have been a farmhouse at some point, the family had been on an upward trend for generations and had converted most of the original farm into structures and gardens, with a few mango trees and the like retained as a flavor of the past. Apparently a lot of the housing in it is 'rented' just for contributing labor to keeping the place up and is a benefit to low-income folks in the area.

This is not the complex - this is the integrated temple built by the family at the corner of the complex

The first event after arriving was prayers at the family temple, which went on through several stages for an hour or so. Again, most of the prayers and chants are in Sanskrit and even the participants often only have limited ideas about exactly what's going on, and we had even less as we'd get clued in by family members standing nearby from time to time. Some local priests handled much of it and a much higher level priest stopped in for some key bits. The temple is dedicated to a few sort of standard deities and also the family's chosen or patron deity (of education - I believe selected in response to the opportunities and success that education had brought the family - a choice we heartily support). 

I didn't keep track of which deity was which, but this may the family god, patron of education. The local priests were said to be eagerly anticipating a branch of the India Institute of Technology opening just down the road, as students would be likely to seek out a temple dedicated to education and sharply improve attendance and donations around the finals. We could see the massive building under construction to house that branch of the university.

The gentleman in the red garment and the gentleman holding the flaming oil oversaw most of the operations

The gentleman with the orange hat in the chair was the high priest and oversaw some apparently critical passages in the prayers for the marriage and family.

After finishing the course of prayers at the temple, we walked across some of the gardens and relocated to the main hall of the central structure of the complex to get some serious praying done. The building could probably have sat 200 people and featured the first literal rolled out red carpet that I may ever have walked upon.

As evidence - here I am standing upon that red carpet outside the main building

Up at the front of the room a smaller shrine had been set up, and they got to work. We were given a cheat sheet discussing the kinds of prayers going on, which was very thoughtful.

After a total of about 4 hours of ceremonies and prayers, it was time for lunch. Lunch was served in a tent outside, with all the serving being done by members of the family, most of whom seemed to be primarily concerned with making sure you ate enough of whatever it was that they were serving. The food was simple and outstanding - or at least the things I tried were - too many to take much of anything in particular. I enjoyed trying the various spicy 'pickles' which are pickled sauces used to liven up other dishes - super pungent and powerful and I admit to eating some of them without bothering to put them on something else. At this point in the trip we knew all the foreigners and numerous members of the family, so it was nice just to eat together and have conversations.

Lunch tent - with the shade the temperature was perfect

I think the bride and groom got a tiny bit of time to their actual selves during lunch

Lunch buffet line, manned principally by cousins of the groom I think

After lunch, there was discussion of a tour of the local area but that never seemed to get off the ground and eventually we all boarded the bus back to the hotel. I think I slept through most of the trip back, which I suspect was not an uncommon choice.

Day 5 Event 2: "Cocktail Dinner"

It should be noted that most of the events in this wedding and reception sequence were both dry (no booze) and vegetarian. That didn't stop them from being complex and delicious meals, and with so many interesting people to talk to we didn't much miss the alcohol either. However, one event was set aside to focus on meat and alcohol, and that was the "cocktail dinner" the evening after the farmhouse trip. To get there we boarded another (smaller) bus from the Secunderabad Club and were driven into the city, where we went to the rooftop patio of a hotel which looked out over some major thoroughfares of the city from a substantial height. This patio had a well-stocked open bar which was compromised somewhat by the fact that the bartender was probably a bellhop by day and was unfamiliar with concepts like 'gin and tonic' so it was best to either stick to things you'd drink neat or request each component of your drink separately and then mix them yourself. We felt this was pretty funny and shared tips with the other foreigners. Fried and grilled appetizers started going around, including chicken tikka, 'chili potato' (sort of like General Tso's chicken if it was potato instead of chicken and had more sriracha in the sauce), 'chili fish' (same deal but fish instead of potato), and a few other things. They were universally delicious and we were hungry so people would eat everything at one table and then go find another table to steal from until more plates came out - good for mingling. I ate a very large quantity of all of the above and enjoyed all of it immensely. 

One of very few pictures of the venue taken that night

Parts of an Indian wedding can be a bit political - a way to show off who you can get at your party and mingle with important people. This event had fairly restrictive attendance and the father of the groom went around introducing some of the more important people who'd come. It sounded like they had the equivalent of a US state governor (or maybe a lieutenant governor) and the city district attorney or equivalent among the guests. Not sure why they'd want to meet us, but as long as the appetizers kept coming I wasn't going to complain about it.

The rooftop had statues of deities made out of scrap around the outside edges of the patio

After a good hour or so of appetizers and cocktails, the dinner buffet was served inside the hotel - I checked it out but quickly determined the appetizers remained the most delicious items available and kept my focus there as the evening continued. I believe at some point they turned on music and had a dance floor inside but the conversation and air outside was more attractive and I don't think many people went inside.

When the event downtown wrapped up, it became apparent that the remaining contents of the bar were up for grabs by guests and the foreigners made off with about a case of liquor of several kinds and continued the party back at the Secunderabad Club deep into the night. We'll pick up the next morning when we work a little tourism into the back half of the trip.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wedding Trip to India 2017, Part 4

Regular readers of our now quite irregularly appearing blog will may remember we took a trip to India in December of 2015 and wrote an epic 19 part series of blog posts about it - this is not that trip. This is another trip, also to India, but this time mostly for a wedding instead of tourism. This is also Part 4, so you may wish to scroll down to Parts 1-3 if you haven't already read them.

As usual, the photos that we took can be found on Flickr. Some of the photos used in this blog post were taken by friends of ours or the wedding photographers and don't appear on Flickr. Those will be noted with credit when used.

Day 4 Event 1: Transit to Hyderabad

As noted in the previous entry, the wedding was now complete but the reception had yet to begin. The wedding was in Delhi, near the bride's family, and the reception was in Hyderabad, near the groom's, so the day after the wedding we needed to change cities. Google Maps claims this is a 26 hour car ride or 2 hours by plane; we flew. We were on the same flight as a substantial part of the groom's family and a few other friends, so we carpooled with them from the hotel to the airport and did most of the travel together. We spent a fair bit of time hanging out with the groom's younger brother and a friend of his Australia, which enlivened the whole trip.

We flew on the domestic IndiGo airline, which was a little different than most other flights we've taken around the world - for one thing, if you weren't seated in the front half of the plane, you actually went out on the jetway and entered through the rear door of the aircraft. In theory, this makes a lot of sense for quickly filling and emptying a plane of passengers, but too many people who had seats in the back still entered from the front - so now there was traffic attempting to go both directions down the main aisle of the plane, which neatly negated all benefits and probably made things worse. I think if they want that method to work it will need to be enforced at the gate. Second, the attitude and conduct of the flight attendants seemed a bit like time travel with how seriously and glamorously the enterprise of passenger jet flight was being held to be - they were very disciplined in uniform and in giving the safety presentation, though it was also obvious that age, gender, and appearance discrimination had been used in selecting the flight attendants - this may also have contributed to the sense of traveling back in time to a different age of flight.

On other interesting wrinkle was from the security screening in Delhi had all the women scanned for contraband in a private little cabin-box-thing instead of out in the open. Since there were about two screeners for women and about six for men, there was a substantially longer wait for women to be screened.

Day 4 Event 2: Hyderabad Arrival and Secunderabad Club

Arriving in Hyderabad, the traveling party needed to split up as most of the immediate family members of the groom were going to the 'farmhouse' (we'll get to that in a later entry) and the friends of the family, including us, were going to the Secunderabad Club. The family (mostly the groom's younger brother) had arranged for family and hired cars to regularly come to the airport during the day and to pick various expected guests up, but we were in the first wave and it appeared that the system may not have been up and running as expected - one car quickly came to take the family to the 'farmhouse' but the car for us was delayed or missing in action, probably due to traffic. We waited in the outdoor pickup area outside the airport, which was fine because the temperature was quite pleasant and we were still with friends. When a car finally came, getting all the luggage for several international travelers into it was a challenge, but we managed it and then piled in ourselves. The trip from the airport to the club is nominally less than an hour, but traffic was a major ongoing issue for the entire drive. With most roads in India not being super smooth, and the jerky stop-and-GO-GO-GO nature of most of the driving, we were starting to get carsick by the time we arrived, though also hungry because we were getting substantially into the evening.

The Secunderabad Club was an interesting choice for hosting all the foreign guests of the wedding instead of another hotel. The club is a walled compound in the city and was founded by the British in the 19th century. It is members-only and highly exclusive, with a multi-year waiting list. Based on what we saw, I believe it took a coordinated effort of multiple members of the club in and related to the groom's family to get all of us into the guest rooms there. My feeling is that it reflected on the prestige of the family to be able to host so many people there at once, and that it was seen as more fun and different for the foreign guests since it had a lot of athletic facilities and conveniences (like a store) on the grounds. You're not supposed to take pictures inside, but we took a few before we realized that - beyond our few, their website gives a reasonably good idea of the place.

Guest arrival and departure desk and lounge

The guest quarters are a series of buildings with common areas in the middle and guest rooms all around the outside - sort of a complex rather than a single building

Near the rooms was an outdoor breakfast patio - you could get the buffet or have the cooks make an omelet, dhosas, or some toast, but the lead time varied from 5 minutes to at least half an hour for no apparent reason

Ana was much taken with their actual boabob tree as apparently Disney's Animal Kingdom has a fake one and she's always wanted to see a real one

The overall club has a bit of a feeling of faded glory, where everyone is taking the place and the rules of it really seriously, but it isn't quite kept up to the level that would merit it. The hot water supply took several minutes to get going (though it was HOT when it came), the rooms were a little run down and musty, and the bars and restaurants weren't exceptional. However, we were very glad to have the experience of it versus a regular hotel and the place grew on us as we figured it out.

The first night, we really just needed to find some food. In what we were reading, the outdoor dining area was less formal than the bar and we didn't feel like playing dress-up, so we went there. It turned out that the outdoor dining area was on a nice lawn, but there weren't a whole lot of lights out there so it was dark. When the waiters came around with menus they had flashlights so that the customers could read them. We ordered a few dishes and some sodas and eventually a few more foreign guests found us and ordered as well, so the dining became more convivial. Fortified by the food and the company, we changed venues from the lawn to the bar, pausing to go put on collared shirts first since that was an inescapable rule of the bar. 

The main club bar was fairly distinctive - huge high ceilings, wood paneled walls, and insignia from the British and Indian armed forced units whose officers had billeted at the Club over time (pictures). It also focused on whiskey, which was a plus for me, and we sampled a number of brands and types that are not commonly available in the US. I don't think we found any real winners (found some questionable ones) but it is hard to complain about sampling whiskey with friends old and new in an old British officer's bar in India. One interesting wrinkle is that cash is not supposed to be used to pay for things at the Club - we had been given pre-paid cards, but we had no idea how much was on them until we used each one. It turned out that you couldn't buy things with cash, but you could put cash on the card and then pay with the card, which turned the process of buying that drink from quick to extended and became a bit of a running joke for the group. We'd send one person up to buy multiple drinks, then everyone in the group would come claim their drinks and leave the one person the extended job of paying for them, and rotate around. We had a congenial evening.

The next day morning we were invited on a trip to the 'farmhouse', which was another of those 'close family only' events that all the foreign guests were included in. We'll pick up there in the next entry.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Wedding Trip to India 2017, Part 3

Regular readers of our now quite irregularly appearing blog will may remember we took a trip to India in December of 2015 and wrote an epic 19 part series of blog posts about it - this is not that trip. This is another trip, also to India, but this time mostly for a wedding instead of tourism. This is also Part 3, so you may wish to scroll down to Parts 1 and 2 if you haven't already read it.

As usual, the photos that we took can be found on Flickr. Some of the photos used in this blog post were taken by friends of ours or the wedding photographers and don't appear on Flickr. Those will be noted with credit when used.

Day 3 Event 2: Turban Tying

At this point we're making solid progress through the preliminaries and to the actual wedding itself. However, we're not quite there yet. The height of fashion for men in the groom's party (and the groom himself) is to wear a turban for entrance to the wedding and the wedding itself. The family, knowing a whole bunch of men were going to need turbans and that this is perhaps not an everyday item, hired a turban tying guy to bring over some turbans and apply them to us, which was a novel experience.

I think the key thing to know about wearing a turban, at least using these materials and applied by this particular guy, is that it is very uncomfortable, mostly by being extremely tight. I am reasonably confident the goal is to make sure the turban doesn't come undone during the wedding, but from the minute the job was done there was definitely a part of my brain ready to take it off. However, we all needed to be wearing them so we sucked it up and agreed basically to wait for the bus back to remove them. Perhaps this could be thought of as an experience for building empathy for other seemingly painful fashions in history such as the corset and high heeled shoes. The turban guy was also really insistent about trying to get tips even though he'd been paid not to ask for them by the family - once a family member cottoned on to that they told off the turban dude for trying to get paid twice.

Apparently we looked good to onlookers. I thought the turban material could not have been calculated to clash harder with what I was wearing. Fortunately, a whole bunch of clashing bright colors is not nearly as much a problem in India - I think it communicates that you're getting into the spirit of things.

Day 3 Event 3: Entrance to the Wedding

Not content to merely have an impressive entrance for the bride, both sides of the aisle have major entrances in India - or at least, in the parts the bride and/or groom are from. In this case, the bride's family was waiting at the venue, the groom's family and groom made a big show of getting there and greeting them, they all made nice and hung out for a bit, then the bride had her own separate entrance. At any rate, the entrance is a big deal and it is understood that you should make as much noise as possible to show you're serious about the whole thing.

Nik's brother briefing us on the bus - we know him from college and he's actually Lee's little in the fraternity Lee was in with Nik

The groom's side bused from the hotel to the venue together along with at least some of our hired noise - a really big wedding will use an elephant (or at least a horse) for the groom to enter on along with a whole big band, but Nik had put his foot down for less pomp and so he walked in and we only had a couple of drummers and a piper guy. You're still supposed to dance and yell like crazy, so we did that part, with Nik's brother leading the way and dancing like crazy.

Getting warmed up for the procession - these surly looking drummers would stand next to you and drum really loud until you tipped them. Note the two gentlemen in the center with flowers on them - the one on the left is the groom and the one on the right is a younger cousin of the bride. The cousin's job is to make sure the groom doesn't try to skip out on the wedding. There are some ceremonies where the groom has to pretend he's not serious and he's going to bail, and the cousin has to speak up about the bride's virtues and offer sort of bribes for the groom to stay and go through with it. At one point the groom has to threaten to go join the priesthood instead of getting married and the cousin has to convince him otherwise.

Making a ruckus going from the bus to the venue

Arriving at the actual venue - flowers were AMAZING at all events and places - those are all fresh marigolds in the orange stripes there, and that canopy is probably 25 feet deep.

The bride got her own noisy arrival - her party is smaller because a lot of them have to be at the venue already to meet the groom's troop. Also that guy with the little silver horn can create some really piercing sounds.

Day 3 Event 4: They Actually Get Married at some point while we're all eating appetizers

Once both parties are actually at the venue, the wedding goes on for hours. At some point in there they get officially married, but that doesn't end the ceremony - it's just a point in the middle and there is a lot more to go. So the good part is, nobody expects the guests to actually attempt to pay attention to the whole thing - you basically go get some appetizers, talk to people, and every now and then go and check in on the wedding ceremony itself. All the bride's-side-hosted events (including this one) were vegetarian-only but there were still dozens of interesting things to eat while the wedding went on.

For the first set of ceremonies, bride and groom were up on a stage to one side. Preliminaries went on for a while and then they put garlands on each other.

There were also a lot of pictures taken on this stage with friends and family

After the shorter part on the stage they moved to a centrally located set of seats with a priest so folks involved weren't standing for hours.

The crowd would circulate as folks came to check in on what was happening as the prayers and ceremonies continued into the evening.

Flowers hanging down from the wedding pavilion


The venue was outdoors, extensive, and amazingly decorated with flowers

I had one mint mocktail (this is a no-booze event) then a really spicy appetizer. I went for another mint mocktail and accidentally got one that was filled with hot peppers in addition to the mint. This did not improve the situation.

Banquet had about three times as many options as you could possibly try

At one point in there, after the ceremonies were over but before the event itself ended, the bride and groom sort of become available to meet with people, but after hours and days of lead-up and prep they're pretty exhausted. All the foreigners (and some international family members) got together in a big group to basically stand shoulder to shoulder and keep other people away to buy the couple a few minutes' peace. I think someone went out and brought back food and some bottled water and so on and we just made space for them to cram some food in and get a breather. So in that respect you can say we contributed to the goings-on. After a few minutes determined groups of well-wishers started breaching our lines and the bride and groom had to wade back into the fray.

Finally, after a lot of eating and talking and watching ongoing praying and chanting and various other things (and probably most of the guests left at some point in here, but obviously we're in the for whole thing) the last big event of the evening is sending the new couple off. The piper got going with some fairly piercing tunes everyone remaining got together for a few final (for this day) ceremonies to send them off.

And you might think this wedding thing is just about over, but you'd be so, so wrong. The reception is also days long and actually takes place far enough away that we had to get on a plane to get there. We'll pick up on the way to Hyderabad for the second half of the trip.