A Wedding in Kerala, India

We have been asked to write about the wedding we recently attended in the state of Kerala in India in November, 2014.

The invitation came from an Indian teacher exchangee friend to come to her third son’s wedding in Kottayam, Kerala, by the famous ‘backwaters’. This teacher, Susan Thomas, stayed with our family in Stanley in winter, 2006, and was hosted by Beechworth Secondary College.

Helen had been hosted in Delhi by Susan and her husband, Ashok, earlier in 2006 and again in 2007. In 2013 Susan came to Victoria again on a program for environmental science teachers. Hence, the friendship between the families.

If you think the name ‘Thomas’ does not sound very Hindu, Sikh or Muslim, you are right.

This family is descended from St Thomas, the apostle, who fled to India centuries ago. Many Keralites followed him and became Orthodox Syrian Christians. Thus, the groom’s family has the surname ‘Thomas’. About 10% of Indians are Christian.

Extended family came to the wedding from various parts of the world, not only because of family, but also because the Syrian Christian Orthodox church has to work quite hard to continue the ancient ceremonies and traditions.

Not only that, but this particular bride and groom come from two different streams of the Syrian Orthodox church in Kerala and therefore there were two priests officiating to integrate both sides, and the Archbishop decided to come too!

The groom and his two brothers (all very handsome) were dressed in long, ivory coloured silk kurtas and matching long sarongs with gold edging. The bride’s gown was made of matching ivory silk with gold edging too.

Helen and Dave in IndiaThe design of these robes goes back centuries. So it was a privilege to see that. They all looked stunning and the bride carried one large pink lotus. She also wore enough gold so that a security car followed the bride’s car to and from the various ceremonies.

The female guests all wore very colourful sarees, even me. A ‘beautician’ was organised to dress me in a sulphate blue and gold saree.

Most of the men wore elegant Indian kurtas including Michael McIntyre. His was a coffee coloured beaded Kurta. David wore a suit with a bow tie to match my saree.

Like Hindu weddings in India, the ceremonies went on for a number of days.

The actual wedding was in a splendid, colourful church on the morning of November 14th. There was a lot of media to record the event and provide DVDs. It was extremely hot in tropical Kerala but the church had big fans.

There was a lunch afterwards and 1500 people were fed! When we arrived from the church with the groom’s family, most of the 1500 were seated and turned to watch us all walk to tables up the front. Bollywood music was playing so that was like being in a Bollywood film.

The Indian food was delicious and the new bride and groom were on stage for all to see, and to be photographed with. The stage was decorated with gorgeous flowers, including lotus.

However, that was lunch. The actual wedding reception took place later that night. It was for fewer guests, about 300, and the format was not so different from a wedding reception at home, with speeches and a digital photo show and so on.

The groom was dressed in Armani by then, and dinked his new bride inside on a bicycle (not an elephant!). It was decorated with lots of red balloons and a ‘Just Married’ sign. The bride had changed into a stunning frock for the reception.

The reception venue was in a magnificent function hall in the grounds of a hotel on the backwaters, similar to Raffles in Singapore. There was a tabla percussion group of musicians, including women.

Guests were seated at round tables and went to choose their meal of curries, Indian breads and dosas from splendidly dressed specialty chefs who lined the sides of the hall with great ceramic urns of their delicious cuisine. The dessert section was fabulous. We loved a dish called payasam (rice, jaggery & spices).

Later in the night the tabla band finished up and a DJ took over with loud contemporary music for the bride and groom and their young friends, including Michael Mc. The oldies (Helen & Dave) were bussed home then, to leave the young ones to quite a wild lot of dancing by all reports next day.

So the wedding was not only a fascinating mix of culture, religion and history – it was also a 21st century event.

Helen, Dave and Michael McIntyre.

 

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