So much about weddings, irrespective of cultures, is about the attire. What a bride wears on her big day isn’t a decision that was made in haste. Instead, months of planning, searching and dreaming stand behind every bridal outfit. However, it’s not entirely up to the bride’s whims and fancies either. Every culture has a set of unwritten rules about the bridal outfit - whether it’s the Indian custom of choosing red colored sarees and lehengas; or, the Western tradition of wearing ivory white wedding gowns.
But what happens when these two distinct cultures intermingle in the name of love? How are these fusion brides bending their traditional customs and rules on what makes for the perfect bridal attire? And what little permutations and combinations help in throwing the big fat Indian-American wedding?
The Making Of An Indian-American Wedding
There’s no denying that Indian weddings are colorful, kaleidoscopic events. Be it be the bright bridal trousseau, the grand backdrops, the delicious array of traditional food or the age-old rituals that dictate wedding proceedings, Indian weddings involve a lot of activity, drama and color. They are notorious for their length, with families sometimes carrying on with the celebration of a new couple for days together.
And although Indian Americans getting married in the U.S. try to keep all those aspects intact, they do have an entirely different set of considerations to keep in mind while planning the grand event. For instance, weddings back home tend to be overcrowded affairs, with the organizers having just a vague count of the number of guests. However, that can’t be the case when the same wedding happens in the U.S. The logistics, weather and the money involved tend to have a bigger say on the number of people that can attend the wedding. So, a tight guest list and prior requests for plus-ones are quite common in Indian-American weddings.
Grand indoor wedding venues, that are a staple of Indian weddings, are being replaced with outdoor venues that offer sweeping mountains, cerulean seas or majestic monuments as backdrop. And, Indian-American brides are conscious of their dual roots - the Indian consideration of auspicious dates and time now tie-in neatly with the western traditions around seasons. So, an Indian-American wedding now needs to take into consideration not just the auspicious time, but also the season in which the wedding takes place. What that means is that there is an inherent customization of wedding wear according to the location, weather and the fusion of two great cultures.
Looking Beyond The Traditional Reds
The bride who’s getting married in the U.S. differs in subtle ways from the typical Indian bride: For one, she prefers the understated elegance of simple jewellery as against the large statement pieces preferred by brides in India. But the most important way in which they differ is their willingness to stray away from the traditional wedding reds. Indian brides typically don’t experiment with colours, perhaps because it’s too sentimental and entrenched in tradition. The color red is believed to signify fertility, prosperity and is symbolic of the rising sun. It’s also the color of the planet Mars, which is the astrological custodian of happy marriages.
The Indian-American bride, however, feels the need to express her dual roots with her wedding attire. And, that makes her more willing to push the limits of tradition. So, instead of going for the bright, vermillion tinge, Indian-American brides are opting to tone down their wedding reds according to the seasons - rust for the fall wedding; salmon-pink/red for the winter bride; and sunny peach or orange for those tying the knot in spring. Darker pinks and wine-reds are also trumping the traditional red in nouveau Indian-American weddings.
Fusion Weddings Are Tall Orders
The considerations that go into planning a wedding and the bridal attire become even more complex when Indians fall in love with Americans. Irrespective of whether the bride is Indian or American, she now needs to plan a wedding that adequately represents both cultures. She needs to incorporate the most beautiful elements from either side to create a wedding that’s reflective of their union.
Indian-American weddings tend to have longer itineraries, sometimes spilling over and lasting for a couple of days, even! After all, there are rehearsal dinners and sangeet parties to throw; Indian rituals, followed by the exchange of vows and the pastor’s permission to “kiss the bride”; and typical Indian receptions, made spicier with cocktail parties. That’s a long list of ceremonies, sure, but what they really mean is the opportunity for the bride to wow the crowd with a diverse variety of bridal outfits. If she’s an Indian, she could wear the traditional saree or lehenga for the Indian ceremony and quickly transform herself with a gorgeous gown for the American wedding ceremony.
In recent times, the colors gold, ivory and peach have won the hearts of many Indian brides, because of their neutrality and universality. And colors that were never part of the traditional trousseau, like royal blue or black shimmering with golden flecks, are now making bold entries in Indian weddings as well. If she’s an American bride, she could step into a fusion wedding dress - one that combines the wedding gown with Indian embroidery, jewellery and a red ghoonghat / veil. And of course, her bridesmaids could drape themselves in Indian finery to show solidarity.
The Bolder Indian Brides
The other ceremonies, like the rehearsal dinner, the sangeet, the reception and the cocktail party are all blank canvases where the bride can show off her eclectic taste. She could stun the crowd in a beautiful dress for the American ceremonies as well as she can woo them with the grandeur of an Anarkali suit or a mermaid saree for the Indian ceremonies.
With Indians becoming more open to multi-racial weddings, they’re also becoming more accepting of improvisations in the wedding venues, menu, and most importantly, wedding colors.
Simply put, the new Indian bride has the best of both worlds.