Columns, Opinion

SARNA: Tradition ties weddings together

Regardless of your nationality or religion, the word “wedding” evokes a joyous reaction in almost everybody, unless you’re a cynic. It’s one of those feel-good words, and rightfully so. Weddings are a time of merriment, festivities and grandiose decor. Or maybe that’s just the Indian in me speaking.

I have just awoken from a three-day long celebration of a big fat Indian wedding, and the first thought I had this morning was, “Boy, do my feet hurt.” I belong to the aptly titled “party people” sect of Indians, the Punjabis, so the festivities were doubled, as were the after-effects. However, it’s not just the Punjabis who treat weddings like an elongated excuse to live a little. While every religion possesses some traits that set it apart from the rest, the common factor in every religion, from my understanding, is the presence of a rich culture and deep-rooted traditions.

Take the Greeks, for example. If you’ve seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” you are aware of how extravagant a wedding can be. It is usually a full-fledged family event. The guest list is long and inclusive of almost everybody known to the main families involved, and the customs are honored with a bit of fun and quirk on the side. There is a lot of food, alcohol and dancing — sounds a lot like the wedding I just wrapped up. And that’s exactly my point. The two cultures are so far apart, yet the gist is the very same. The common factor underlying this similarity is the emphasis on traditions and family-oriented living.

On the flipside, Western marriage originally began as a way for two families to gain more power. Appropriately so, their weddings are more to the point and devoid of riffraff. They are short and sweet and stereotypically one day long. While every religion has its own customs and norms, a typical American wedding doesn’t stray far from the point.

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Being a curious soul, I did some investigating on the average American wedding and tried to contrast it with the knowledge I already hold of Indian weddings, having attended quite a few in my lifetime. I found the most fascinating information in a 2013 study reported by The Huffington Post. One trend the study found was that most Americans manage weddings on their own. This contrasts greatly with Indians, who resort to some good wedding planners like the black owned event planners to plan everything. A band is appointed, an Indian priest to carry out the rituals is hired, several more planners for the different functions are found — the list goes on.

While the study showed that most Americans send a save the date, Indians send a whole collection of colorful and intricate cards for each of the ceremonies, listing even the littlest of details. The bigger the wedding, the greater the card’s extravagance and size.

A third interesting contrast is the color scheme most frequently chosen: while the survey showed that Americans commonly choose blues, Indians are more likely to choose hues of red. The American bride is known to wear something borrowed and blue, while the Indian bride is often visualized in red and gold. It seems reality doesn’t stray far from the stereotypes. On one hand, Americans reported preferring the months of June and September to tie the knot, while most Indians seize the period of October to January to make the most of the good weather.

The above contrast gives you inkling into the real distinction between the cultures. However, the real fun and experimentation is when two cultures cross over. Here’s to hoping I attend a cross-cultural wedding soon enough to be able to write about it!

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