Partaay

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.

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.

Wedding madness

Before Mr.B and I decided on our wedding date in Nepal, I was told it needs to be within the “wedding season”. The wedding season?, I asked in disbelief. Apparently, there is such thing. Couple of times a year there are certain dates on which people get married. I had no problem with that, leaving the decision up to Mr.B.’s mom. The date was set and I kind of knew that there would be other weddings going on at the same time, but I had no clue that there would be so many other weddings going on at the same time. Trying to get a good wedding venue for those dates was as hard as trying to squeeze your freshly-lotioned legs in skinny jeans.

When the auspicious dates came music was blasting all over. I was sitting innocently in the kitchen, reading my book when I heard a horn, and when I say a horn I mean like a brass instrument type of horn, and then suddenly I could tell it was the whole orchestra out there. I thought: oh my, there must be some kind of festival going on! so I went to the window to check it out. I saw all my neighbors up on their roofs with gleeful expressions on their faces, so I ran up to our roof to get a better view of what was going on. To my great surprise and delight what I spotted was no festival. It was a wedding procession! It looked so lovely and so much fun, I was beaming down from the roof.

The wedding procession was led by a an orchestra dressed in white and red outfits, and with brass folk instruments. Imagine an American high school band. That’s what they looked like. They were playing this fun sounding tune, sort of like a march, but happier. Right behind them were ladies all dressed in red, dancing their heads off, right there, in the middle of the street. They were looking up to the roofs waiving to their curious spectators (everyone got a bit confused when they saw me, so no one waived at me). Behind them were men with an obvious urge to succumb to the happy music, but instead acting cool and proud. Then came a decorated car with a groom. Cars here are covered in flowers. Not like one big flower arrangement on the hood, like in Croatia, but totally and completely covered in flowers. Everywhere. I have no idea how people even get in and out of these cars. Car was followed by yet another band! Yes, another band. This one was smaller in number, less loud, and not dressed as nicely. But it had bagpipe! A bagpipe! That made me squeak in delight!

March away, my orchestra

No bagpipe!? What kind of a band is this!? Well this obviously wasn’t the band that I saw in the street, but you get the picture.

I was so happy I got to see that. It was really an amazing procession. So I went back to my book in the kitchen, when again I heard the band with a slightly different tune. But, interestingly enough, pretty soon I heard another one, and another one. And the following day more of them. Wow, people really like to get married here. Our street is pretty small yet so many weddings were going on here in just two days. I can only imagine what the rest of Kathmandu must’ve looked like. I guess that’s what the wedding season is all about.

Our wedding did not have a procession. In fact, our wedding had to be postponed to a later date, maybe in the following wedding season, but even then I doubt we will have a procession. The purpose of it is for the groom and his entourage to go and get the bride in her house. Since I am already staying with the groom, that might be a little hard to arrange. But I’m sure the wedding will be special in it’s own way, even without a Nepali guy bagpiping behind our back.