I knew from my first meeting with June, Rishi, and Rishi's mom that this was going to be an excellent event. I've shot Indian weddings before, but found out that the couple would also be celebrating with an American ceremony the previous evening... and I'd be shooting them in traditional Korean formalwear as well. Having grown up attending nothing but white-dress-black-tux weddings, this peaked my curiousity.
Friday evening, a there was a beautiful ceremony held at the Texas Safari Ranch, and then on Saturday the festivities moved to the Sugar Land Marriott.
Saturday morning I attended a ceremony for Rishi, attended by his close family. In addition to prayers and blessings, this ceremony included the rubbing of several spices on Rishi's head, shoulders, knees, and toes by his elders and eventually, his younger siblings and cousins. An auntie explained to me that turmeric is rubbed on the skin to make him "glow" and cleanse him for the wedding day. It's clear that while it's a spiritual ceremony, toward the end (when the younger crowd's turn comes about) it becomes a matter of "What else can we pour on Rishi to cleanse him? An entire yogurt container? A whole jar of honey?" as the brothers are up. Lots of laughter, and a careful jaunt through the house to get in the shower. I'm happy to report that the camera survived without incident!
At the hotel, June was being prepared for her Hindu marriage ceremony. An Auntie who specializes in the appropriate placement of jewelry and dress and veil was there to advise and help June get into makeup, sari, and her elaborate jewelry. Other Aunties showed up to help the bridesmaids (most of whom appeared not to be accustomed to wearing a sari, but looked absolutely stunning in their outfit) get themselves draped and pinned appropriately.
Meanwhile, Rishi had arrived and was also being prepared. His elders got him (and his little mini-groom) costumed in traditional garb, presented gifts, and hoisted him onto their shoulders and paraded him down the stairs and through the hotel lobby with much singing, and dancing, aided by a drummer. Outside the lobby, he and the small groom mounted a costumed horse and the parade of dancing and singing continued around the perimeter of the hotel. Upon arrival at the second set of doors, he was carried into the building for "Milni", where the elders of the bride and groom welcome one another. June's mother stood with women of Rishi's family, and welcomed him with traditional prayers and blessings-- applying red powder to his forehead for good luck and well-wishes.
Everyone moved into the ceremony ballroom, and the wedding ceremony took place. Afterward there were congratulations, well-wishing, and the stealing-of-the-shoe. Evidently, it's tradition for the bridesmaids steal one (or both) of the groom's shoes (not difficult since the groom had to remove them to for the ceremony)and the groomsmen have to bargain for it... with money, fruit, begging, etc. Once the shoes were on the groom's feet, he left with his bride for a wardrobe change.
They returned for entertainment, dinner, and dancing. Several family members performed dances, songs, and skits in their honor, then dinner was served. At one point there was a sort of traditional Indian number performed by an Uncle, and June's family was encouraged to join them on the dance floor. One of Rishi's Uncles hoisted June's Grandma up on to his shoulders! Toasts were given, and words were spoken, but the most memorable to me were those spoken by June's father, in honor of all the different peoples/religions/cultures that had come together for this celebration. An excerpt from Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird":
A man and a woman
A man and a woman and a blackbird
The rest of the night was all about celebration.