Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dan and Sejal's Wedding

A long-standing item that was on Laure's and my bucket list was to attend one of those legendary Indian weddings that you see in the movies. I wouldn't say this was the main reason we were friends with Dan, but I must admit that we were putting all our bets on him.

Last November, our bets paid off.
Thanks, Sejal and Dan.

As soon as we got in New Jersey, Laure hit the floor running by going to Sejal's family's party where the ladies got their hennas done. As far as I know, Laure's previous experience with hennas was with the type that you can buy from Hot Topic and apply yourself at home. The henna artists at the party provided significant upgrade from anything Laure had previously had.
Laure's first legitimate henna.
Henna art is made with a dark paste of crushed leaves and twigs of a plant that goes by the same name.

Following others' advice, Laure waited until the next morning before washing her hands. This helps keeping the henna dark.
Final product after washing hands the next day.

On the second day, our friend Peter, Laure and I rented a car and checked out the surrounding area in New Jersey. The best part was seeing the the fall colors on the trees. Yes, I know it's a bit cliché, but the fall colors in the northeastern United States are really something special. And I hadn't seen them since I had moved out of Pennsylvania years ago.
The fall colors of New Jersey.

To balance out the beauty of the leaves' changing colors, some ridiculously rude guy screamed at us at a gas station because he incorrectly thought we were blocking traffic. He turned his back and walked away as we were trying to reason with him. That left a sour taste in our mouths.

But something that sweetened Peter's tastebuds was the cronut knock-off he got a Dunkin' Donuts. For those not in the know about the latest food trends, a cronut is a mutant half-croissant half-donut pastry. Dunkin' Donuts (a fast food pastry shop) caught wind of this fad and decided to sell it too. But they had to name it "Croissant Donut" in order to avoid a trademark lawsuit.
The cronut knock-off tasted about as good as anything else you'd get at Dunkin' Donuts.

We then went back to the wedding venue and joined our friends for another night of partying. Dan and Sejal had set up an amazing variety of delicious vegetarian Indian food. Coming from Switzerland where it can be tough to find authentic Indian food, Laure and I were very excited about this.
This dish named Raj Kachori Chaat was amazing.

The main part of the night was comprised of performances by Dan and Sejal's family and friends. They varied from traditional regional Indian dances to more modern Bollywood style performances.
Dance performance for the wedding couple. 
My favorite was this traditional performance by Dan's cousin.

After the performances, the dancing experts taught us the basic routine of Dandiya Raas, which is an Indian dance where each person dances with two sticks. Dancers line up in two rows facing each other and perform a routine that involves hitting the sticks together and rotating positions.
The Dandiya Raas "stick" dance sounds complicated, but it only takes about ten minutes to learn.

The dance kind of feels like a group bonding exercise because everyone needs to be well synchronized. It only takes a couple of people to stumble out of sync in order for the entire thing to fall into chaos, which happens fairly often. So it is to everyone's best interest to help out the newbies. That was us.

After the party, a few of us temporarily invaded Dan's room with a bottle of champagne. We reminisced on days past and daydreamed about the future.

The next day was the main day of ceremonies. The groom's and bride's sides celebrate separately for the first part. That's when we witnessed Dan's awesome arrival on a white horse.
Awesomeness.

I won't claim that I actually understood everything that was going on, but I enjoyed that nearly every part somehow incorporated dancing. What better way is there to celebrate long term happiness among family and friends?
Dan dancing on his white horse to the live music.
Don't know what's going on? Just dance.

Next, we followed Dan's side of the family to meet with Sejal's.
Something important happened here.

Then came the main ceremony, which was comprised of many traditional and spiritual rituals.
Both sides were presented with spiritual items.

My favorite part was when Dan had to put a flower garland around Sejal's neck while others lifted her away to complicate the task.
Sejal playing hard to get.

An important ritual was the Mangal Fera, where Dan and Sejal walked around the fire four times.
Mangal Fera symbolized the cleansing of Dan and Sejal's souls as they united into one.

Finally, the most important ritual is Saptapadi, when Dan and Sejal made seven vows to each other. That's pretty much the "I do" of Hindu weddings.

After the ceremonies, we enjoyed another night with lots of performances, food and dancing. The most notable performance was the re-enactment of Dan and Sejal's love story by Sejal's family.
Dan and Sejal's love story. Bollywood style.
More awesome food.
During the party, everyone was impressed with Dan's and Sejal's dads. Those two were dancing machines -- I picked up a couple of moves from them.

After Dan and Sejal left the throne on which they were sitting, a few of us stole it for the photo opportunity.
How much did we drink, again?
Naturally, the ladies look much sexier than the men.

We had a ton of fun at Dan and Sejal's wedding. We wish them an awesome future.