I had the privilege of attending a wedding in Chennai a few (read: six) months ago. Shasha’s friend Divya held a traditional Brahmin wedding ceremony there, and Shasha didn’t want to travel to India alone, so I jumped at the chance of this pilgrimage of sorts. The both of us had never attended an Indian wedding before either, so this was an experience of firsts for the both of us.
Rohit, Divya’s fiancé, picked us up at the airport and so off we went in a taxi to what would be our lodgings for the next five days at New Woodlands Hotel.
We were briefed on what to expect for our stay in Chennai during the ride – how much trips usually cost, to make sure to haggle since the prices quoted would be marked up since we looked very obviously like the tourists that we were, and to only drink from bottled water, because no one wants dysentery for a souvenir (even though the water was safe by their standards, but our stomachs probably weren’t acclimatised to the different nutrients in their tap water). I’m glad to say that we came out of the trip in good health after heeding the advice that we were given by so many people.
Shasha and I also frequented The Brew Room next door for the decor, faster wifi, and the yummy pizza. It was perfect for outfit photos. There’s even a brick wall!
The wedding lasted for two days – the first day was an engagement ceremony in the evening, and the second was a whole day consisting of the actual marriage in the morning, followed by a reception in the evening. Each segment required guests to don a different outfit (preferably Indian attire), so Shasha and I made it our mission to shop for suitable clothes after we settled our bags in our room.
We tried on Sarees at Soch, and while I fell in love with the intricate prints, when worn they were a little too much for my tastes. Shasha and I decided to explore downtown Chennai for more options and finally came across Nalli, which was cheaper and offered a larger variety of cloth and patterns which were much more raw than those offered at Soch. After we paid for our items, we had to bring our cloth to a guy who worked on creating tassels on the ends of our sarees. It was fun and such an eye-opener shopping for clothes. I highly recommend going to both Soch (expensive) and Nalli (cheap) in order to experience both ends of the spectrum.
Shasha was busy helping Divya get ready for the first day, so I took my sketchbook and Faber Castell watercolour pencils out to sketch the view in front of New Woodlands Hotel (
here’s my Instagram post). It had been so long since I last drew anything, so it felt pretty good to slowly – but surely – make some markings. Quite a number of passersby stopped and stayed around – auto drivers who were waiting for passengers, a boy who literally got the driver of a motorbike to stop so that he could ask what I was doing, women walking along the pavement who would stop and chit-chat with the rest gathered around me… some of the auto drivers even helped to push away newly-parked autos who were blocking my view of my subject. I even shook hands with a few strangers. It was incredibly heart-warming.
I got back just in time to change into the saree that I’d bought, with the help of Suruchi, another of Divya’s friends who bunked with us in our room. I’d never have gotten it right even with the illustrated diagrams that we’d been given at Nalli – so many safety pins were used! I then went to get my arms henna-ed at the pre-wedding event. Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to get outfit photos in my saree. Perhaps someday I’d get the opportunity to wear it again. :P
Of course immediately after getting my henna I got hand-fed by one of the relatives at the snack buffet because my palms were also full of henna which hadn’t peeled yet. It was so embarrassing and everyone was so hospitable. (*w*)
1) Pretty henna the next day.
2) We were required to be barefoot, and I walked on the outside of my feet throughout the ceremony because I’ve got a thing with being barefoot on public floors (part of the reason why I’m a big fan of socks).
3) THE FOOD WAS AWESOME. I was the girl who kept calling for the papadam bucket but everything else was also very yummy.
I did, however, get some time for my day two outfit the next morning. This salwar kameez was purchased from Soch, even though I didn’t buy a saree there, this piece caught my eye with the texture of the material and the bold patterns:
Part of the wedding included a traditional playtime segment, where the bride and groom sat across each other and played simple games to get to know each other. Apparently it came from times when children used to be married off, so games like rolling a ball towards each other, drawing on each other’s faces with food powder and such happened. Very eye-opening stuff; Shasha and I were honoured to witness this part of the wedding reserved for close relatives. Also, I wanted the groom’s cool shoes.
Outfit photos assisted by Shasha.