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Published: Verve Magazine, Feature, September 2013

What is a wedding but meticulously planned theatre for those in attendance, finds an aunt who helps arrange her niece’s destination soirees. A peek into her diary…

Going to a destination wedding is always buckets of fun. Planning one – not so much. I recently had to help my sister plan one at an exotic Thai locale. The beaches are fantastic, we’ve heard. The waves under our already-wrinkled toes, the sun on our already-tanned skin; well it’s what children want nowadays. Vows by the sunset and chiffon frocks instead of Swarovski lehengas. Poor Tarun, Sabya and Manish – they are going to have to work doubly hard to sustain their bridal couture business. And all of us – having to go shopping for things that steer clear of our ankles and don’t have a shimmer on them. How plebian it is to have a subtle wedding. It’s a good thing everyone won’t be there….

The guest list – well one mustn’t go there. The wedding is quite nearly called off because of the guest list. It seems silly, but there it is. It reaches the point where there is some vicious discussion about killing off some relatives in a timely fashion. The parents have a pretty tight list of invitees – it’s true, they do want to invite their tailor and the step-aunt that lives in Kenya whom no one has ever met, but then you can only do the daawat once in a lifetime for your only child, right? (Even if it goes to a second marriage – generally the sho-sha is generously muted.) And really – the tailor has known the bride longer than the groom – he has been stitching her clothes since the time she has been in diapers – so who deserves to be there more?

With the parents arguing over how many weddings they had been invited to and attended, the bride and groom insisting that it is their moment and only people they really know and care about should be there; as most things do, it all comes down to the bill. After much bloodshed, tears of betrayal and the drama to befit a Balaji Diwali special, they whittle the guest list down to 300. Of which 150 are under 30 and 75 of whom are foreigners from places I can’t pronounce, much less find on a map. So that leaves just a few of us to carry on the tradition of bitching out the other side, gasping with a faux scandalised air at the youngsters and weeping at the vidaai.

The wedding ceremony is so quaintly poised on the water, while a dress circle seat is reserved for us on the waterfront. Along with the little booklet to translate the shlokas and vows, the considerate family has also organised binoculars for the audience. It’s nice – we have our own space, can peer into the binos when we decide to catch what’s going on – in between bites of Thai cake and spicy gossip – and give the family their privacy. That way the entire occasion remains a rather private affair – if having only 300 at an Indian wedding isn’t private enough. Tiny speakers dot the waterfront, where we can hear what the Pandit is saying – noting the large number of non-desis in attendance, he ups his tricks by adding flair and doing his own little broken-English translations. After all, what is a wedding but a meticulously planned theatre for those in attendance?

It’s all very well now, but getting Panditji here has been a task in itself. Now I’m quite proud of this – I organised this part of the journey. Panditji couldn’t travel to the destination alone, so I figured the saffawala (person who ties the turbans over the men’s heads) could accompany him. You mustn’t ask me whether they wanted to travel business class or not, but it is a special feat that I convinced them that economy is altogether better and safer. It turns out that the saffawala is quite a fellow. He’s rather in demand for this specialised art, and is hopping off to America before the ceremony has even ended. So Panditji and the saffawala end up having a favourable journey to the destination – it’s all in the stars, after all. I think they are now friends on Facebook

I need to track down the missing wedding photos – it was quite a sweet affair after all, what with the jello-shots and the beach raves. I couldn’t feel my toes after a point of time. Three months later, the photographer hasn’t sent us the photos yet. He is quite a spiffy number – doing mood shots and natural light silhouettes. I know it sounds like a condom ad, but photography these days is very different from our layered make-up, bright lights, hands-held-together poses, bling-and-click moments. It’s a bit wanton nowadays, to be honest. After my mother harassed me for photos, I began trying to track down this hotshot photographer. It seems he has been all over Europe attending functions and clicking away that he hasn’t had time to get home and regroup! So after basking in the Riviera sunshine, he has promised to send some over to us via ISendYou.com or something like that. Is it a specialised (and expensive) courier service? Will have to see how one can pick the photos up from there. Must share them with you sometime.