Wedding

Vivaham Byah – Divine, Shine and Dine

This will be the last shaadi blog post for a while. I will be back with more updates closer to the wedding. However, for this editions let’s look into multiple underrated aspects and few overrated aspects of wedding planning!

Priest(ess) and Rituals

When I was an early teenager, my father had suggested me and the girls in my family to seriously consider the role of a ‘Priestess’ as a career option. He rightly said that women are underrepresented in the domain and that we could be trailblazers. While none of us were interested, his idea was fascinating and I parked it for a later date.

Since our wedding preparation has started, I have been toying with the idea of having our wedding rituals performed by a priestess. However, on this righteous path of helping a woman in breaking the glass ceiling, I still hadn’t found a female priest. Then an interesting event happened. Dia Mirza went ahead and had her wedding conducted by a priestess. I was glad that a prominent personality chose this path. It motivated others to break norms and accept the new normal. It got people talking. During one such conversation, my mother informed me that one of her college basketball friends, Sujata aunty, had studied and graduated to become a priestess and had recently performed the rituals for a wedding. Of course! The solution had been right under my nose the whole time. Thus, when I found out, we asked her to conduct the rituals of a pooja that we were planning to carry out soon. Sujata aunty explained every little chant and action is great detail. Her knowledge-sharing and patience were exactly what we were hoping for. I am glad that I will be able to see my vision through her execution. She was elated that she would be performing the wedding rituals of her friend’s daughter.

Stationery

We have a simple plan for stationery. We aim to have none. Stationery is an overrated wasteful activity associated with weddings. I once watched a vlog where a wedding invitation store in New Delhi offered a variety of invitations, where their cost ranged from a few hundred rupees to around INR 20,000 per invitation. Such money-making tactics are taking away from the sanctity of weddings.

Technology has made life much simpler. Weddings can be a medium to embrace digital creative artists who have started customizing virtual wedding stationery. From caricatures of the bride and the groom to representation of their journey, everything can now be depicted via E-cards and shared over email and Whatsapp. A dear friend of mine, even had a wedding website made for invitations, RSVPs and other details about her wedding.

On similar lines, we reached out to my fiance’s BFF, Shantanu Gaur. He’s an animator by profession but an artist by passion. We discussed a couple of wedding invitation ideas with him and in just a couple of days, he reverted with a cute caricature of my fiance and me. Closer to the date we plan to work with him and get simplistic invitations designed which will be sent out virtually. In this digital space, the world literally is our canvas.

A prospective caricature for the wedding invitation

Gifts and Hampers

‘Lain-Dain’, loosely translated to ‘Receive-and-Give’ is a hyped evil within weddings. It started with the uniting families exchanging simple gifts as a symbol of forging new relationships but has now been blown out of proportion. People now gift expensive outfits, jewellery, gadgets and even cars and property to each other. Must we really put a price tag on relationships?

For my to-be in-laws, I have been planning to curate a set of gifts which are native to our culture and reflect our art. At the same time, I aim to ensure that it has a high utility value, is sustainable and doesn’t harm any sentient creatures in its production. I am open to ideas. If you have any, do drop them in the comments below.

When it comes to wedding gifts, we plan to extend our wedding invitations to guests with a message. We lead fulfilling and sufficient lives and thus do not need any gifts in cash or kind. However, there are animals and people who do need immense support. We will be partnering with various animal, children, and women charities and encourage our guests to contribute to them as a mode of showering their blessings on us.

The trickiest part of wedding gifting is in-room snack hampers. While it is easy to procure paper or cloth bags, snacks are usually wrapped in plastic packaging. I have identified a few vendors who provide paper packaging, but in that case longevity becomes a hassle. I am still weighing out some options here and will update as and when I find something interesting!

Makeup

I have always had a love-hate relationship with makeup. I admire it when others are able to apply and carry it with finesse but I hate using it myself. I have loved my natural look with an addition of just some lip balm maybe. This self-love was fortified when mainstream media started propagating the idea of body positivity. I resonated with the concept of embracing my flaws and breaking free. Thus, when the discussion of wedding makeup came up, it was a touchy topic for me.

Around the same time, I attended my cousin sister’s wedding. Her friend did most of her makeup for the smaller events and I fell in love with its minimalism. Also, her friend has a great eye for styling outfits and matching accesories. I reached out to her for help, and she graciously agreed! Over the next few months, I hope to learn more about makeup and styling from her and even expand my vegan and cruelty-free makeup collection.

Wedding Planning

Although we have been planning every aspect of the wedding in excruciating detail, we are aware that execution is a whole new ballgame. As my family would be busy greeting guests during the wedding, we would need someone to take care of the thousand unexpected occurences that would take place simultaneously. We knew that a wedding planning team would make life much easier.

During our search, we primarily looked for Aurangabad-based wedding planners for two key reasons. Local wedding planners know the lay of the land. In most cases, they have experience hosting events in the viscinity and sometimes even in the same venue. Thus, they are aware of most potential roadblocks and can be prepared for it. Additionally, they know the best local vendors in terms of quality and budget-effectiveness.

Since we had no contacts in this domain, we Googled and reached out to Aura Events (now merged with Planning Paradise Official), the first well-rated search result among Aurangabad’s wedding planners, and boy we were impressed! They had tons of experience organizing every scale of wedding in Aurangabad and had a well-established network of vendors ranging from mehendi artists to DJs. After a few rounds of ironing out the nitty-gritty, we closed the deal.

Outfits

Have you brushed through the other sections to just reach here? Well, you are not the only one. Every one I have met in the past few months has only asked me one question, “How’s wedding shopping coming along?”. I’ll be answering that and more in the next few lines.

We plan to have six essential functions: Haldi, Sangeet, Mehendi, Engagement, Phere, and Reception. Natural silk purchase is an absolute no-no for me. Since I am vegan, exploiting animals for products is against my philosophy. Thus, I explored the option of vegan silk or art silk. Since the production of art (artificial) silk takes place synthetically, it does not put animals at risk. Opting for art silk seemed like a great idea. However, synthetic materials are not biodegradable and are rarely recycled. Thus, I decided to strike a balance between cotton outfits, synthetic silk outfits, and hand-me-downs. For Haldi, I plan to use an old cotton saree and convert it into a crop top and lehenga. Since sangeet is an evening event, the look has to be brighter. I sought my mother’s permission and planned to reconstruct her reception saree into an Anarkali with the help of our local tailor. For Mehendi, I bought a simple vegan silk saree and planned to convert it into a flowy dress. My engagement outfit would be a customary gift from my to-be-mother-in-law. Thus, one less dress to worry about. The reception outfit will be my mom’s wedding saree, draped in a non-traditional style. For the plenty of small rituals, I planned to reuse old dresses and sarees. I know you all are waiting for the big reveal, the wedding outfit. It has a funny story.

Earlier this year, a lot big brands had end of season sales going on. I am not one to chase sales because the outfits in showrooms are usually overpriced and foofy. However, along with my parents, I went to a few with the expectation to be unimpressed with the myriad of silk outfits, which was true for the most part. However, in the bridal section of one store, I came across a lehenga which felt like love at first sight. I asked their associate about the lehenga material, and he told me that it was organza silk and that this specific one was synthetically produced. Yes, I am aware that it is not sustainable, but thankfully, it did not harm animals. In all my choices so far, I had tried to ensure that I do not upset Mother Nature, but here I felt conflicted. I went on to try it. The beautiful silver applique work on the powder pink lehenga, and the rounded sweetheart neck of the blouse hit such a sweet spot. Another con in this bargain was the expense. Even with the sale, I had never spent more than one-fifth its value on an outfit before. It did not seem like a sound choice. Yet, I decided to go for it. The lehenga was the only unreasonable purchase that I allowed myself. However, I set down some conditions for its use. I promised to use the blouse, dupatta, skirt individually to create different looks for other events once we wrapped up the wedding ceremony. Additionally, I decided that if I do not have an opportunity to use it an ample number of times, I would thrift it out to be put to good use by someone else. Thus, after tons of mental calculations and negotiations, I finally had a wedding outfit.

However, it is not only an outfit that maketh a look. Haha! I know that jewellery and accessories are equally important in a wedding ensemble. For the Haldi, Mehendi, and Sangeet, I plan to mix-and-match some heirloom jewellery. For the pièce de résistance, the wedding jewellery, since my lehenga has silver-colored work, the type of jewellery seemed like an obvious choice to my parents. It had to be diamonds! No, I was not born with a diamond spoon in my mouth. However, they had been saving up for an eternity. Anything less than diamond or gold jewellery felt like a severe transgression to them. Our middle-class values have taught us that diamonds and gold are always preferred because they are an investment. According to them, imitation jewelry would be an unforgivable faux pas. I have always been hesitant about wearing expensive jewellery since it brings the added headache of being extra protective. Thus, until I moved to the US, my haunt had been the likes of Colaba Causeway and Linking Road. I had discontinued this frequent purchase of trinkets since I started learning about and practicing sustainable living and minimalism. Thus, when selecting wedding jewellery, I had to find the middle ground, and that I did.

I started building collages using snaps of me wearing my lehenga and downloaded pictures of various accessories that I found online. I tried to create looks by retaining the photos of charming accessories and swapping out misfits. In this process, I came across a necklace adorned by the influencer Ankita. It was a statement silver piece with studded kundan and lots of tiny pearl latkan. I reached out to the store tagged in Ankita’s post, Silver Streak. They informed me that a recreation of the same piece was available for purchase. Since it was silver, it was not an exhorbitant expenditure, it still is an investment and I was prone to wearing it more often than gold or diamonds. Most importantly, most silver extraction in India has not exhibited human rights violations as compared to gold and diamonds. Having said that, I am aware that the industry is not entirely devoid of evils and all I can do is hope that the silver I wear shines of goodness.

The necklace had a downside, though. The pearls were freshwater cultured pearls. Neither the mining nor the culture of pearls is safe for mussels or oysters. Pearl formation takes place when a mollusk enters the system of oysters or mussels and acts as an irritant. The creature starts building layers of nacre around it to shield itself from the discomfort. The final product of the layered irritant is a pearl. In natural pearl formation, the mollusk is an organism where as when pearls are cultured, culturists manually add the irritant into their system. It is one of the many ways we humans exploit animals’ natural defenses for our gain. I raised my concern with the store owner. He was willing to get the freshwater pearls replaced by synthetic pearls. I was ready to go with that option. We visited the store, and I took my lehenga blouse along. When juxtaposed, it was a perfect match. We purchased the necklace and a silver ring as well. The ring had Rajasthani mirror work and an outline of ghungroo. I haven’t picked the other accessories yet, but I plan to use some of my maternal grandmother’s old silver jewellery and some new pieces. Even though I do not have everything finalized yet, the bigger picture is coming together in my head.

Food

I have reserved this topic for the end because it is close to my heart. I have always had a steadfast bond with food. I love it. I love trying it, I love experimenting with it, and I especially love bonding over it. Food even plays a key role in my relationship with my fiancé. Thus, my wedding meals had to be remarkable. On a personal front, I faced a significant setback here.

I have been vegetarian for a little over two years and vegan for about a year. I am proud of myself since I have protected plenty of animals and simultaneously reduced my carbon footprint. I was hoping to spread the message by curating an exceptional vegan menu for all the wedding meals. However, this seemed impossible given the roots of both our families. Our lineage starts in Telangana and our cuisine derives from Mughal cuisine. Yes! We belonged to the land of biryani, mirchi ka salan and boti. Even the mandatory vegetarian food served during weddings seems like an abomination to my family.

On the other hand, my fiance’s family is Punjabi. While his immediate family had mixed feelings about non-vegetarian food, they had no doubts about their need for dairy in almost every meal. Thus, dairy and non-vegetarian food are inevitable.

At this point, I have lost all my interest in meal planning. The only question that I currently ask all our prospective caterers is whether they would modify the recipes and accommodate my vegan preferences just for one portion. As far as they are willing to do that, they are good to go from my end! When we finalize the caterer, I plan to discuss with them and personally oversee the avoidance of single-use plastic utensils, cutlery, and water bottles. Additionally, as far as possible, I plan to select dishes with local and seasonal produce and curtail the size of the spread to a reasonable number of food items. After all, in the words of Simon Sinek, “Progress is better than perfection.”

As I inch closer to the wedding, I plan to abide by this mantra through all the preparations. In the end, a girl can only hope (for a greener tomorrow)!

3 thoughts on “Vivaham Byah – Divine, Shine and Dine”

  1. Sonika, just excellent. I am sure your thoughts will inspire millions in the future.
    Great going, keep it up.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s