There are weddings and then there are Indian weddings. This is something that I learned after shooting my first Indian wedding a few weeks back.
With most Indian weddings, a specialized Indian wedding photographer is hired since they are familiar with the meaning and progression of events. Niketa Patel had a love for art and wanted a photo journalistic approach for her wedding photos. As she began to explain some of the customs and traditions I started to realize this would be much bigger than I had expected. I explained to her that as a photojournalist I would be engaged the entire time and anything and everything that happened would be photographed and not to worry. It was more strenuous than I had imagined for I ended up shooting 11,877 images in a little more than a weekend.
In my estimation, the scope and planning of the event was equal to at least 3 American weddings if not 10. Niketa spent 6 weeks in India planning and designing the wedding. As is customary, she had approximately 100 saris (traditional Indian dress) made to give as gifts to the women in her new family. Niketa had 3 different gowns made for herself, each with its own array of amazingly ornate jewelry. I was present for at least 3 complete meals for the 500 guests, but there were many more meals catered on the days leading up to and following the wedding.
The countless cultural traditions and religious ceremonies and rituals were really the thing that surprised me. There were also many comedic Indian wedding traditions, like the bride’s sisters not letting the newly married couple leave the wedding while standing in front of the car demanding payment to move and to prove they weren’t joking, these negotiations went on for about 30 minutes. Even after the bride and groom left the wedding, they immediately returned for an hour of games played only by the bride and groom while others watched. One of which was trying to knot their gowns together so tight the other could not undo it.
As one can imagine, the food, colors, rituals, traditions, and cultural tendencies are so far from anything American that even that even one’s imagination pales next to the actual experience. I could write a book, as I am sure has been done, telling about all of the blessings and rituals and their meanings as well as all of my new experiences, but to see them all back to back over the course of 4 days leaves one feeling dazed, inspired, and very much alive. Photos will have to pick up where words leave off.