Portland, meet Jyothi. She is the world’s most beautiful bride.
The whole event was regal. For the reception the marriage hall was covered with strands of lights cascading from the roof down the height of the large, two-story building. Outside the hall was a grand entry tunnel of crimson and white fabric-draped walls and roof leading to the festivities. The entry steps and the floor of the building were light-colored stone. The main floor was a giant ballroom, set with hundreds of chairs, many that were moved and disorderly, so the guests could visit with one another during the festivities. There were stairs leading to a second floor, with a walkway overlooking the ballroom from each side. The rail was draped with fabric, and decorated with flower arrangements.
When the ceremony started a troupe of horns and drums paraded through the hallway, leading the happy couple to the stage. From that point forward music and singing filled the room. It was heartstopping loud throughout the main part of the wedding ceremony until the end of the wedding photos. Rajeev and Jyothi walked circles underneath their flower-decorated canopy. The whole room smelled of sweet jasmine. A videographer captured the details inside the canopy, with a monitor on each side of the stage so all 1,000 guests could have an intimate view. The stage was cluttered with family so it was difficult to identify the clergy, even with the close-up view.
The ceremony proceeded with Rajeev and beautiful Jyothi facing the guests. Then Jyothi turned to face Rajeev, showing off her floral headpiece that cascaded down her back. A sheet was held to separate the couple, though the videocamera zoomed in to display the activities on both sides of the sheet.
That part of the ceremony concluded and Joythi and Raj continued to stand facing each other as each were wrapped in a sheet from about waist down, like a giant baker’s apron on each of them. Those on stage took turns pouring milk over the couple’s hands and sprinkling turmeric-tinted rice on each of them. It became clear the aprons were literally aprons, to protect their beautiful clothes. As the family members wished the couple well with milk and rice, more guests gathered on stage and followed in suit.
Eventually, the older woman who had first helped Al dress indicated we should go up on stage to give our blessings as well. She took Al by the hand and signaled Greg to join us and lead us through up the stairs, across the stage, and into the crowd. She, with the help of a few others on the stage, pushed us toward the newlyweds under the floral canopy. We waited our turn, and someone handed us a vessel filled with milk. Raj said, “Three times.” His voice was lost in the booming music. Greg looked up and smiled at him. “Both hold,” Rajeev said as he noticed Al was not helping to pour. As she reached up to help, Greg smiled and said, “What? Pour the whole thing?” He started to dump the metal jar all the way over. Rajeev and Jyothi both suddenly looked surprised as milk splashed everywhere. “That’s enough! That’s enough!” Raj’s voice, again was carried away with the music. Greg smiled, at Raj, continuing to pour. Al pulled back hard on the vessel as Raj said again, “That’s enough!”
Disaster averted, the milk was taken away, and turmeric-tinted rice offered to sprinkle on the head of both the bride and groom. We were both pretty embarrassed, knowing the whole event had been captured by the videographer up-close and personally to display for all to see. We each reached into the rice basket, and, quite humbly, took a sprinkle full of rice to toss on Jyothi and Raj. We were shepherded off the stage as others continued behind us blessing the couple with milk and rice.
The processional of guests concluded and the world’s most beautiful bride and her betrothed were escorted out from under their canopy. More ceremony and traditions took place with leaves. As the ceremony continued, an ivory curtain was hung across the stage in front of the canopy. It was quite a large curtain, and did not block the view of the ceremony, and the videographer remained focused on the central events. Props were brought onto the stage, and floral garlands were brought to complete the assembly. Jyothi and Raj exited stage right into the dressing room in the wing.
Thunderous music continued as the canopy was swept away, the curtain raised and draped with pink cloth and flower arrangements, and a decorated bench whisked onto the stage. The wedding site was transformed into a photo studio. When Rajeev and Jyothi emerged Rajeev no longer wore his traditional, ivory and gold tunic and turban, but instead had on black slacks and a lavender colored dress shirt. The processional of guests started once again, as family and friends posed for formal photos with Jyothi and Rajeev. The music continued throughout. The world’s most beautiful bride and the happiest bridegoom of all stood tall and smiling under the hot lights as the 1,000 guests marched in a parade of sarees to pause for their shot with Jyothi and Raj. The hours in perfect poise were even more impressive considering they stood for a similar procession of formal photos for hours during the previous night’s reception.
When we took our turn for photos Raj asked if we were too tired to stay for the rest of the wedding. It may have been a busy and exciting day, but we were not the couple getting married, and most certainly were not exhausted like Raj and Jyothi must have been. Even if we were exhausted we would not think of leaving before the wedding concluded, even if all that happened was family photos for another hour. We waited until the musicians packed their things and cleared their space, and all the photos were taken. It seemed like each time they were finished someone needed one more shot. Al changed out of her borrowed saree back into her western clothes. Raj made some general plans for the next few days and was beckoned away again for more photos.
Rajeev’s brother, who had also changed out of his wedding attire, escorted us out of the wedding hall and into the car for the ride back to the hotel. On our way out of the parking area, Rajeev and Jyothi were participating in more tradition and ceremony, as if to remind us this story is not over yet. Jyothi, Raj, the clergy, family and remaining guests literally had to move out of the way so we could drive through their festivities. We would have stayed if we had known there was more, but the crowd had thinned dramatically, signaling it really was time to go.
The happiest bridegroom ever will arrive in Portland in the next month or two with the world’s most unspeakably beautiful bride. Learning to live as a couple is difficult. We know from experience. Jyothi’s entire social network will literally be a world away, as will both of their families. Our rose-filled city is eagerly awaiting our golden, jasmine lady.