Technically, there is no such thing as a simple Indian wedding.
You take the complexity to another level when you do an Indian wedding in Canada, and the groom is American. Throw in remote management by my daughter who was living and working in New York City, the picture is complete.
Globalization, through a wedding!
For instance, my daughter and son-in-law wanted forty guests at the wedding, my wife wanted four hundred.
We settled for two hundred. And that was just the beginning.
I remembered Rudyard Kipling “Never the twain shall meet!”
Managing the guest list was a challenge. How do you tell your friends that your daughter is getting married, and they are not invited? Fortunately, the venue had capacity restrictions, which gave us a genuine and logical excuse.
I tried to stay on the sidelines.
My wife reminded me that I only have one child and had to be more involved. So I tried to get involved.
I quickly realized that the wedding industry is big business, irrespective of your culture or background. You can be sensible and get married at the Toronto City Hall. You can have fifteen of your friends and family in tow and it’ll cost you around $250.
Or, at the other end of the spectrum, you can book the Art Gallery of Ontario for approximately $400 per person.
Once we got realistic about the budget, we needed to bring a number of logistical components together. At a high level, the type of ceremony, the venue, the décor, the food, the entertainment, the officiating, the photographer etc. are normal components of a wedding.
It is when you bring in the cultural twist that it starts getting complicated.
Multicultural weddings are the embodiment of globalization at the people level. Every component of the wedding can be handled two different ways.
It can get taxing on the guests who have to potentially be prepared to attend two ceremonies spread over a long day. Fortunately, in our case, the two families were not overly religious. The decision to keep it as a social event rather than a religious one was welcome to both parties. A single event with a few Indian rituals and some American officiating seemed like a perfect middle ground.
As venues go, the old bank building, converted to a modern hotel, was great.
But, we were unsure if it could handle all the traditional lamps that were going to be lit. What if the fire alarm gets triggered halfway through the ceremony? Rain is considered a good omen, but the sprinkler system drenching the guests would not be. The Venue Manager reassured us that she had seen her share of “fire pits” at Indian weddings. She was right.
The décor guy we contracted was not of Indian origin but seemed to understand the general requirements of an Indian wedding. He waxed eloquent about his experience with “mandaps” and “havans,” until my wife asked him,
“Can you get coconut tree flowers?”
For a minute he appeared stumped, but quickly recovered and promised to look into it and get back to us. And sure enough, he did. He had found a supplier – a Sri Lankan grocery store that imported and sold exotic flowers on the side.
The food was next. What do you cater to an eclectic group of people with diverse tastes and preferences? How far will the caterer be willing to stray from traditional fare?
Once again, it was evident – culinary globalization. The caterer could provide traditional steaks, spicy Indian curry, or a vegetarian dish as part of the main options. And for the folks experimenting with the curry, there was the sorbet to cleanse their palates.
The choice of music played at the reception can have an impact on how involved guests get. A mix of traditional wedding songs and dance hits, mixed with some Bollywood favourites seemed like a good idea. The band was comfortable playing all the current hits but safely deferred to taped music for the Bollywood pieces.
Globalization in music is obvious when the opening credits of a Denzel Washington movie plays “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” a Bollywood hit.
Photography in a multi-cultural wedding can be tricky.
As the photographer focused on candid moments, we had to explain the significance of certain wedding rituals to ensure that she captured them as they happened. The images from the wedding party depicted snapshots of sartorial globalization with the guests wearing a colourful mix of sarees, dresses, sherwanis, and even a kilt.
As the pundits debate the merits and demerits of globalization of world economies, globalization at the people level seems inevitable.
All I have to do is look at my own extended family…