I clearly remember attending my first Nepali wedding reception a year ago. I was SO excited. I ironed my sari way ahead of time, to make sure it’s all prepared for the evening. You see, I only had one sari at the time. It was a sari I was gifted by my maid of honor when I traveled to India for her wedding a year earlier. It’s a beautiful piece of cloth (look below). Currently, I am a proud owner of more than just one sari.
I am, clearly, the one on the right.
Anyhow, I had my sari ready and when the time came, Mr.B summoned our didi to wrap the sari on me. I was awkward and clumsy, but an hour later sari was clipped onto my body and we were ready to go. The wedding was in a party palace (a fancy name for a wedding hall with catered food) and was packed with people. Everyone, of course, stared at me, and ladies giggled at me walking clumsily in the sari. I bet laughs and giggles doubled (possibly tripled) when I stepped on my sari climbing the stairs to the stage where the bride and the groom were greeting guests. It was then and there that I made an important note to myself: lift the front of your sari as you climb up the stairs. That one has been a life savior (or at least a face savior) ever since. Upon well-wishing the lucky couple, a glass or two of wine and some mingling, it was time to eat. Nepali wedding receptions always have a buffet and people eat whenever they want to. In a Western wedding you usually commit to attending one party per day and then you stay the whole night, eating dinner at the appropriate time and dancing on cue. It’s nothing like that here. Here, people often attend three or more wedding receptions in one evening. They show up, congratulate, eat their food, dance a thirty-second ego-wrecking Bollywood number with a drunken uncle, and off they fly to the next reception.
We (Mr.B and me) usually don’t do that. We commit to one reception per day. It’s only because we’re lazy like that. Going back to the point, my first wedding reception in Nepal was exciting. There was abundance of Nepali food, Indian sweets and ice cream. Nepalis love their ice cream. I had a great time at that reception, and it got me excited for all the receptions to come. Second one was also exciting, but not as much. Then the third, fourth, fifth, sixth came and one by one they were getting less exciting. I realized one thing – they were all the same! Guests were the same, locations were the same, decorations were the same, protocol was the same, music was the same, food was the same… Heck, even uncles and aunties all looked the same.
This is what happens at a Nepali wedding reception:
1. You come in and head straight to the stage. Bride and groom sit there, receive presents and take photos with guests. They also endure an infinite number of aunty kisses and cheek squeezes.
2. You get off the stage (hopefully with your sari still on), and head for the bar. Get yourself a drink. Beer, whiskey, or soda.
3. You stand around, laugh at some awkward dance moves until you are too bored to smile and your feet are too tired. Then you walk around a bit, greet people you don’t actually want to see, and head out for some fresh air.
4. At that point you decide it’s already 9:30 pm and you should probably get some food. Head for the buffet. There’s a choice of: salads, fried veg noodles, pasta, rice, daal, tarkari, paneer in a variety of sauces, naan, chicken curry, mutton curry.
5. You fill your plate with a bit of everything and find yourself a free spot at the table.
6. Eat trying to ignore the waiters hovering behind your back. They stand there waiting for you to finish so they can take your plate away. They do it as soon as your last bite is in your mouth. Literally. It’s quite hilarious. I always have a hard time not laughing out loud. You kind of have to do that thing where you are still chewing, trying to get waiter’s attention by waving a fork that he forgot to take with the plate.
7. Go get dessert. Pastries, gulab jamun, jalebi and ice cream. Enjoy.
8. Go home.
The best part of wedding receptions in Nepal is getting to hang out with friends. It’s always fun. The worst part? They are all so much alike it’s difficult to remember whose reception it is.