I may not seem a suitable person to be talking about weddings since I ELOPED, but I simply love a wedding. Not all, just the traditional ones that happens back home.
Most marriages take place in the months of November, December, and January. The reason behind being that people have more free time during these months. Fields are harvested, schools are closed and offices are barely functional during the holiday season. Most marriages are still arranged by families and even if it is a ‘Love’ marriage, family still decides the date based on their conveniences. There isn’t much scope for the bride and groom to object to that date because there can be no wedding without family. I mean it, everything is done by them. The concept of a wedding planner is very new to our society.
By ‘family’ I don’t mean just the first cousins, it includes all sorts of cousins, relatives you have never heard of, friends and neighbors. I absolutely love it when a member would get offended because he received a formal invitation card. He would complain, “Am I a stranger?”. In fact, everybody related feels the responsibility to come and help even if they had not been informed or invited. It is beautiful.
I am assuming here the groom’s house where the main reception will take place. The blushing groom is literally jobless once his clothes are ready. He would just be walking in and out the door not knowing what to do as he tries to avoid teasers. The bride, on the other hand, would be stressed with her own clothes, the clothes of her maids, flower girls, every member of her family, the corsages, decorations and everything related to this subject of looking good.
A meeting would be called about a month before the wedding which will be attended mostly by uncles. Work is distributed and they recruit people to their own groups in the coming days. They take care of everything from setting up tents, decorating, grocery shopping, cooking and serving. Also, there is no RSVP, so there is no way to predict how many guests the wedding will have. But there are always some very resourceful uncles who can calculate just anything. They would know exactly how many people a 100kg pig can feed. So, there is no worry.
Work begins weeks before as sacks of dry ingredients for the feast arrives. Soon women will gather and clean the rice of impurities, remove the stalks and seeds from dry chili, scrub and dry the ginger and peel hundreds of garlic bulbs. There would be endless gossiping and laughter.
The earliest weddings gifts will start arriving a week before the big day in the form of livestock. Pigs and cows are in the highest level of gifting, a gesture that can never be forgotten. Years after the wedded couple is gone, their children would continue to talk about who gifted them a cow.
To get an idea of the scale of the wedding, one just need to ask, “How many pigs and cows are you going to slaughter?”.
A day or two before the wedding, the butchers put the animals down, clean them thoroughly and then skillfully separate the parts for different dishes. These chopped pieces will go to the cooks who are always very fussy about their utensils and the brands of ingredients they will be using. The main cook often never lets anybody touch anything he is cooking until it’s all done because it is a very risky matter. Whatever dish is to be served at the reception is cooked in the morning on the same day. Because of such strict cooks, we almost never have food-poisoning incidences.
Our favorite return gift is a bundle of cooked meat wrapped lovingly in green leaves and tied with bamboo strings. These green leaves would be carefully washed and wiped clean by women and children in the past days. Some men scrap out thin strings from freshly cut bamboo and soak them in water to make them supple. It takes a lot of effort from many people to make these bundles and it remains the most loved. Guests get to take them home and continue to enjoy the feast, days after the wedding.
I realize I am describing only the food part of the day but food takes the main stage. After the wedding is over, we first talk about how the food was, only after that we talk of how amazing or disappointing the bride and groom were.
Younger men and women, preferably unmarried, are assigned to look after the buffet tables. They would take the task of handing over plates to guests and refilling the serving dishes. Smaller girls would move around distributing pieces of the wedding cake in trays and baskets. The most wonderful thing is that almost everybody who had been working for days to make the occasion a success make it to the party. They clean up, get dressed and join the celebration that lasts for about four hours. Once the guests start to leave, they would change their clothes and begin the process of clearing.
The left-over food is immediately distributed. By noon next day, everything borrowed would be returned and lost items compensated or pardoned. The meat that hang in store rooms and kitchen are given to loved ones as tokens of gratitude. It takes weeks to rid all signs of the wedding from the property and months to recover from the tiring affair.
Often in weddings there are misunderstandings and clash of ideas. Some egos will be scarred forever but that’s inevitable. Some will feel that they had been over worked but there is always someone who did more than them, silently. Some will get all the glory and appreciation for just walking around in clean clothes and shoes. But in the end, all is forgiven in the hope that the newlyweds will have a happy life together.