More Than Just a Wedding: from West Bengal, India

By Katie Hays

Indian weddings are no less of a grand occasion than American weddings. Family comes pouring in from miles away, decadent food is prepared, the bride is practically speechless when attempting to describe her emotions, and gifts galore are purchased and given as a token of well wishes to the newly weds.

Getting the chance to be an attendee at a wedding during my extended stay in West Bengal, India was a must. Little did I know or expect, though, that I would have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only go to the wedding, but also to see what it’s like from behind the lens of a camera.

Like I said, besides the grandness and extravagantness of the occasion, pretty much everything about the “Bengali” wedding is different when compared to a traditional American one.

When I walked into the bride’s home three days before the wedding, family members heartily greeted me, and demanded that I sit down and have a cup of tea. The anxious photographer in me wanted nothing more than to begin snapping away at all the great photo opportunities, but I obliged and enjoyed the warm company of my new friends who did not really know what to make of this American girl coming to their daughter’s wedding to take “non-traditional candid style photos.”

Despite what could have been a rather awkward cultural experience, the way these new friends welcomed me in and hospitably showed me a glimpse inside their family, culture, religion, and life made it seem completely natural. I learned about customs and traditions as rich and deep as the red “sari” that every Bengali bride wears on the day of her wedding.

I witnessed the love and pride that this family and their friends have for each other, and how rare that is, in both India and America. There is just something about this type of love that is contagious and people enjoy being around. Maybe it was the way the bride’s aunt stayed up into the late hours of the night delicately wrapping presents that the bride would give to the family members of the groom. Maybe it was the laughs that could be heard from miles away when the traditional mud-like substance rubbed onto the bride’s face turned into a full on family mud-fight.

Or, maybe it was the fact that they opened up their home in such a way that not one room was empty, and by walking through the house, one could hear, smell, and see the appreciation for this big day. Whatever it was, it engulfed everyone there, including myself.

It was impossible to leave this family with out feeling impacted and blessed by their kindness and joy for life.

I’ve definitely seen it in both America and India, but as you probably know, this type of warmness and care for those around you is rare, and when you do see it, you want to take hold of it and cherish it because it’s not often that these moments come.

Being at the wedding and getting a glimpse inside this family’s life for a weekend was an experience that everyone should have, and one I’ll never forget. Whether in America or India, or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s not so much about being in a different country or place, but more about seizing the opportunity where you are, wherever that may be, whoever that may be with.

Carpe Diem, y’all . . .or as we say here in India: “nomoshkar”

It’s one of those words that people say to each other after having a good conversation or encounter with a friend that they enjoyed.

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