“I know I am jumping the gun here, but if we ever end up together, would you want to have a big fat traditional wedding or a quiet one at a beautiful place with just our close friends and family?” I asked him on our very first date. I eagerly waited for an answer hoping he would say the right one.
Dec 10 2017
Wedding rituals were about to start in another hour, and there I was… panicking and screaming my lungs out. Everything seemed to be so out of place. Sounds like pre-wedding jitters of a to-be-bride, isn’t it? Or maybe not. The Sun was quickly disappearing over the horizon, and we started to lose daylight. The photographers were waiting in the parking; we were yet to click some pictures on the beach, which didn’t seem possible anymore. The makeup artist ready with her kit, waiting in my room to start dressing me up, but I wasn’t in a mindset to get ready yet. My friends were missing from the venue; the paper lanterns we handmade were not fixed properly. Sourab was waiting out in the beach with a bucket of Ice, and a lighter(you will know why), my plan of sneaking out to meet him failed miserably and to top that my phone never stopped ringing the whole day. How did it go all wrong when we had planned it so well, and everything was in control? I came a cropper, it was all my idea, and nothing was going as planned. What do I do now, I thought while I crashed onto the chair next to me waiting to face it all, contemplating how it all started.
Back to the first date: After a few seconds pause which felt like an eternity he said “The latter sounds good”, I was exhilarated. When your whole family wants to have the traditional wedding with hundreds of guests to watch the show and you being the only one to be rebelling against becomes nerve-wracking. I finally had found someone who would fight the plight alongside me.
Well, the fight transformed into a battle in no time. The fact that ours was an arranged marriage, the concept of getting married in another destination away from hometown didn’t seem to fit well with any of our family member’s idea about the wedding. I gave Sourab the task of persuading my parents, and I would convince his. My dad turned out to be the tough nut amongst all. “Why would you travel to a different place when Bangalore has so many options available. You want a destination wedding? Let’s go to Nandi hills” he said to my wonder. Yeah, right dad! 60 km away from home does qualify for a destination, and who needs a beach wedding when you have a hill next door?. After several arguments, explanations, and convincing when Sourab’s entire family and my mom supported us, we were able to talk my dad into it. He wasn’t completely happy though, but wasn’t left with any choices; we had won the first battle.
The destination was decided conjointly- Goa. The happening land of Sun, sand and Sea was our best choice. We were thrilled. Dates of the wedding were fixed for December. The next thing to do was draw up a budget. I knew I had a limited one, plus I had to prove that my idea of having a small and intimate wedding was cost-effective. Yes- the very common inhibition we have that destination weddings are exorbitant. Let’s find out if that was true in my case.
Planning our Big Day: Planning a wedding is not easy at all, and I learnt it the hard way. Since our family members didn’t know much about planning a wedding in a different city, we both had to take up all the major responsibilities. We met every weekend and on some weekdays too. Cafe Coffee day was our adda. We would sit there for hours ordering one drink after the other, he with his laptop and me with my diary and pen, making prolonged phone calls to vendors and scribbling notes nonstop. Deciding venue, travel, number of guests, food, photography, decorations, shopping…all of this was driving me insane. Having Sourab by my side was a blessing; he was the only one there when I felt it was all a lost cause. After several calculations and estimations, we made up our mind to keep the budget within INR 5 Lakhs (All inclusive). I wasn’t very delighted though as I had to let go of my designer footwear and lehenga, but that’s all we had with us, so I compromised.
As we zeroed in on wedding venues, we were hit with a hard reality that almost all the beautiful beachside locations were booked out up to a year in advance because it was peak season for weddings in Goa. What would happen to us mortals? Luckily we were able to find one that was both beachside and available; we blocked it immediately.
Next in line were the venue decorations. The resort provided us with a few contacts of event managers who we met in Goa and discussed the plan in detail. I could already see the beautiful image in front of my eyes, the Sun setting in the horizon, the Mantap with all white flowers and red drapes, hundreds of hand made lanterns hanging in the garden, that was the dream.
Then came the guest list. I knew it would be very small, our immediate family members, our best friends and the priest. However, we ended up inviting a few more relatives to help us with the rituals, with a total of 45 guests.
Now that the guest list was confirmed, we started booking our travel and stays. Travelling by bus was the best and the most affordable option, few of us decided to travel by flight, tickets were booked. We sorted the stay at one of the other hotels, which was very close to the venue and economical.
We had to have the best photographer in town, no compromise on that; we met this very talented duo who were glad to cover us. The same with the makeup artist- I had to look the best on my wedding day. After much considerations, we confirmed the one suggested by our photographer who would travel to Goa on the day of the wedding. The three-course food menu was decided, and confirmation sent to the resort.
Now the main task pending was the shopping. You see…In Indian weddings, you shop not just for yourselves but also for all the immediate and extended family members. This was going to eat up a considerable part of our budget. It is hard to believe but true. I did all my wedding shopping online, the lehengas, the saree, the jewellery, shoes, dhotis all of it. Thanks to the digital world we are living in!!
Dec 8 2017- The days passed by swiftly and we were already packing our luggage. Both our homes were bustling with people as relatives arrived from Kolkata and Tripura. The air was filled with the sweet smell of celebrations, Alpona(traditional Bengali paintings) decorated the floor, Bengali delicacies were prepared in the kitchen, gifts and sweets were exchanged, Mashis and Kakimas (Aunts) were off with their traditional bantering of the bride. After the Aiburobhat (last meal as a bachelorette), we started embarking the bus one by one, the luggage was stuffed in, we picked up Sourab’s family, our friends and were on our way to a 12 hour long drive to Goa, singing and having fun all way long.
We reached Goa late afternoon the next day. As we settled down in our respective rooms, it was time for our pre-wedding partayyy!!!!. Decked in our best attires, we made our way to the respective vehicles. Sourab decided to go along with his friends and me with mine; we would meet at the party venue sometime later. We finally managed to track down Mama Cecilia’s and were all seated at a large table, music playing in the background and the rounds of introductions flowing in from all sides. Food and drinks were ordered, conversations were endless, and before we could realize it was already 3 in the morning. Sourab and his friends chose to get back to the hotel while my friends and I stayed back to get a midnight dip in the ocean. After all the craziness, dripping top to bottom, we returned to our rooms. I decided to get some shut eye as I had only a couple of hours before all the morning wedding rituals start. In just a blink of an eye my alarm went off, I woke up with a terrible hangover and all the stringent rules of fasting on the wedding day didn’t help either.
The wedding day: My day started with my phone going off every 10 mins, wedding coordinator, mehendiwaalas, bus driver, resort manager all calling me nonstop. The priest then announced that the bride and groom have to stay away and travel separately as we were not allowed to see each other on the day of the wedding. We were in a massive shock as we had some pretty awesome Ice and Fire pre-wedding shoot planned up on the beach. Sourab and I plotted a foolproof plan over the phone of whisking our relatives away after all the rituals and sneak out to the beach right before sunset. Not to forget all our family members and friends advised against it.
With a lot of delays, we all reached the venue and finally managed to kick start the Mehendi celebrations. As Bollywood wedding numbers played in the background, my hands and feet were adorned with beautifully intricate mehndi designs. We clicked some pictures along and then it was time for Haldi. We as bride and groom had separate functions, and our friends made sure we didn’t see each other at all.
One after the other, the Bengali customs seemed to be endless. It was almost dusk, and the priest was still chanting mantras while Sourab had to sit there. And there I was waiting in my room nervously strolling the corridors in anxiety as time was running by and there was no sign of my relatives leaving the venue. With every passing moment, the Sun was fading and our chances of getting a themed photoshoot done were slowly getting washed away with the waves of the Sea. Finally, as all the initial rituals were done, friends and relatives left the venue (to reach the hotel and to get dressed for the main wedding or Muhurtam).
Wasting no time, I reached out to the photographer to wait near the parking area, called Sourab to get ready and reach the gates ASAP. I got changed into my attire in a flash and hurried downstairs to meet them. Sourab sneaked out first from behind the lobby while I hid my face under the “Ghunghat” (Veil) and raced through the garden towards the beach. As I walked down the pathway, I was shocked to see my father and uncle strolling around the venue. They weren’t supposed to be here, I made sure they were all gone, or so I thought. There was no way I could tiptoe across the garden and make it to the beach without them spotting me. And as fate would have it, uncle found me hanging around and ordered me to get back to my room immediately. As I disappointingly walked back, I saw paper lanterns so diligently made by almost everyone I knew were hanging haphazardly. I called my friends to help me out of the situation only to find out they were away, and the very next second, the makeup artist arrived as it was time to deck me up.
All the preparations and planning, such beautiful location and backdrop, and yet we couldn’t manage one photoshoot together. I was confined to my room and couldn’t even supervise the venue decorations. All these thoughts flashed back while I sat there in silence and rage. I felt utterly helpless.
Then the phone rang, it was Sourab on the other line. “Hi…are you okay?” he asked with concern.. I found myself tearing up and couldn’t speak a word. After a few moments of silence, he spoke again “Riya; it’s okay. You have done enough already, don’t let this ruin our big day. Some things ought to go wrong at a wedding, and you can’t control everything. This is our first wedding, but it doesn’t have to be our last one. If it makes you feel any better, let me promise you that we will get married to each other several times in our life and one will be better than the other always”. Mmmm hmmmm…I said as I let it all sink in what he explained made sense. Slowly all the stress started fading away, my frown turned into a smile, and I saw hope again. “See.. that’s why we hire a wedding planner; it’s not the job of a bride” he added mischievously. “Now get up and get ready and don’t keep me waiting” I heard the phone disconnect. I wished so much I could see him at that moment and bury myself in his arms. Let the world turn upside down; it didn’t matter anymore as the only one that mattered was there for me.
After this short conversation, everything seemed to fall in place. Our photographer graciously agreed to do the shoot during our reception instead (Which did not work out either by the way). I got ready quickly, and we even had some time for some solo shoots. My friends returned from their impromptu escapade all looking their best in traditional Bengali attires. One of them ran back to the garden and instructed the decoration workers to put up the lanterns properly. As the clock struck 11:30 in the night, I was escorted to the sidewalk where everyone was eagerly waiting for me. Amid the Ulu Dhwani, I was lifted on a “Peedi” (Wooden block) by my friends who would take me to the groom all while covering my face with betel leaves. After a little game of hide and seek, we were allowed to glance at each other. It was like all the people around dissipated; it was just him and me gazing into each other’s eyes. This moment was interrupted by the priest who instructed us to walk up to the Mantap to start the final wedding rituals. After 2 and a half hours long ordeal, the ceremony concluded with the Sindoor ritual, and we were confirmed married.
It was a quarter past three in the morning, and all the guests began leaving the premises one by one until it was just us friends around. We managed to capture a few more moments and finally retired to our respective rooms. As we entered our suite, we saw food arranged in our table. An entire day of fasting and we still weren’t hungry. A few more hours and we had to make our journey back home. My eyes started drooping as I hadn’t slept in days.
Finally, it was all over; we made it to the next chapter of our lives. I slowly drifted into sleep, hoping to have a dreamless night. As all that I dreamt of had just turned into reality and I would be waking up the following day and all the days to come with him next to me.
Post wedding scenes– Well the wedding turned out the be a pleasant leisure break for all. I managed to get our entire family out of our house after a decade. Yes, you heard that right, we hardly ever go out together. Our parents were super proud of the fact that we planned and executed the wedding all by ourselves. My friends were in the Goa fever for almost a month. And in case you are wondering if we stuck to our budget, the answer is HELL NO!! We went 40K over it, but it was okay because we accomplished our mission. We had broken the golden rule- and our family got to see that it’s not that bad after all. We spent less and had more fun, and for all the other ones left out, we threw a reception party in Bangalore the following week.
Finally, as promised by Sourab, we did have another wedding in Seychelles exactly a year later, and this time nothing went wrong. 🙂