Zina Dolan is from Urbana, IL and participated in the 2018 Hindi summer program.

This week, I attended my first Indian wedding -- and it was incredible. The day was full of traditions, colors, music, saris, family, and food. The groom was a friend of my host grandfather, so my entire host family attended the event.

Several days before the wedding, my host mother invited me into her room to look at her collection of saris. In a family with a grandmother, a mother, and two sisters, there was no shortage of options. Ornately decorated cloth draped all over the room, and I gently ran my fingers over the gold stitching and soft silk. My host mother even pulled out her own wedding saris -- several of them -- which were worn 22 years ago and looked as beautiful as ever. Suddenly, my host father entered the room and declared he knew the perfect sari for me. They pulled out a silk forest green fabric trimmed by a rich red border, with hand stitched gold details throughout. I have never worn anything as beautiful in my life.

image of wedding decorations

The morning of the wedding, my sister, mother, and I spent several hours getting ready. I wore my grandmother’s jewelry, learned how to wrap a sari, put on bindi, and we were out the door. We were supposed to arrive at around 10:30, but didn’t end up making it there until noon. We spent the first few minutes greeting everyone my host family knew and congratulating the family of the groom. Earlier in the morning, the couple had performed several rituals privately. At the event, the bride and groom performed a tradition where they stand on opposite sides of a curtain while a family member signs hymns about their characters. At the end, the curtain is dropped and the bride and groom give each other flower garlands. After the ceremony concluded, we all ate a great meal of rice, daal, chana masala, buttermilk, sweets, and a lot more foods I still haven’t learned the name of.

image of a wedding ceremony

Finally, we got in a long line to congratulate the newly wedded couple. I felt awkward not even knowing them, but there were so many people at the event, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one! After we said our thanks, we drove home and changed back into casual clothes. My host mother then pulled out her wedding photo book and we spent the afternoon talking about her wedding and how Indian weddings have changed over time. It was a great experience and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go -- especially within my first week here!