THE INDIAN WEDDING



INCREDIBLE INDIAN WEDDINGS

Years ago, I worked with and assisted an associate, one of the best videographers in Tampa Bay, totally professional and with a secure following.  His still shooter was ill, and he needed a shooter and asked me to handle it as we had similar training and work ethics. I was honored. Since I built all his power packs and he was a good client, I accepted.

We met, and he walked me through the Temple and the reception areas (plural) as he was contemplating this becoming a rather large and long Indian Wedding now common in the Tampa Bay area.

Full video and a ton of pictures. He told me to pack for a few days, I thought hmmm… a cruise wedding.  Little did I know it turned out to be three 10+ hour days long and the party had just started. The longest affair I ever attended.  

Now I read up before getting into something I was very naive about. I’m also a lot older and the time wears you out a lot faster than you think so you must plan for it.  I was exhausted.  But then realizing these things can take up three to four days learned the meaning of pacing oneself.  

I have to tell you, Indian full blown weddings require very little Photoshop, they are the most vibrant, beautiful, colorful artistic events you will ever attend.  The clothing accessories, jewelry, body painting and beautiful women vibrant and have eyes that every photographer looks for.   They must all have degrees in makeup application. Stunning is all I can say.

The Lehenga Bridal Cholis are made with exquisite care attention to detail to make the bride look like a goddess on the wedding day.    The groom gets the same treatment complete with sword.  Bring a digital circular polarizer filter for the dresses because they are very shiny and reflecting. You might just need it

PHOTO CREDIT  - Shilpa Shetty, who got married to her NRI beau Raj Kundra last November, wore a traditional saree designed by her favorite designer Tarun Tahiliani. (AFP) In some cases the men in all fairness spend equal time in preparation. The sword is real.

A bridal trousseau has many Lehenga's in rich fabrics like raw silk, satin, crepe, net and georgette, requiring changes over the three days these events can take. Hit google for a glimpse of what you will be looking at… Lehengas for wedding   

The music is mesmerizing, almost hypnotic and the rhythms complex and not something Bruce Springsteen will ever tackle.  It goes on forever… it seems and it goes on at a pace few can keep up with.   

The other women attending the function, also have spent much time organizing "their look" for this affair and you will see a collection of the most beautiful Saris with some of the most incredible gorgeous eye and facial makeup in the world. Sheer perfection.

 

THE FIRST DAY / PRE-WEDDING DAYS
Is all about a warm up for the big day to come. The day and evening before the wedding day, in which the families gather to meet, greet, eat, dance, more dance and carry on for a long time.

It will exhaust you simply because you are overwhelmed by the music, the drums and the beat of the music, which is relentless.  The costumes, incredible dazzling beauty of both the Sari’s and the stunning beauty of the women are almost magical.  Some might be outdoors, a polarizer and possibly a neutral density filter is a must.

THE SECOND OR WEDDING DAY
Signs from the heavens, corresponding to the bride and groom determine the actual wedding day.  Lots of flowers, the bride’s hands and feet are decorated with temporary henna designs far more elaborate than your kids got at Disney.

This is called the "Mehndi" and it is a ritual in which the bride, groom, and other members of the wedding party get their hands, arms and feet painted in rococo patterns with henna paste.  We have been told by those who know the henna takes forever to dry.

The entertainment is the "Sangeet" a big, staged show with participants from the families requiring a choreographer at times. He or she will train dancers from both families to hone their dance skills good enough for the X-factor or Bollywood level. “   

The groom sometimes wears a turban.  Now again just like with other traditionalists, changes will occur based on time, money, availability of the location and so forth.    Other customs you might see involve a lot of the family, these ceremonies involve but not limited to the Brides dress tied with the Grooms scarf, a rope placed around the neck to symbolize warding off evil spirits.

A hand-woven cord, a mangala sutra, having gold pendants, (real gold) is tied in three knots around the bride’s neck. This means the marriage should last 100 years. Great optimism. This is not the time for battery changing with AA cells.

In some situations, their hands joined by a long strip of pink cloth, symbolically of the cloth has much to do with breaking ties to the parents and making new ones to the husband.  


THE PARTY DAY COOKING, TRADITION AND FUN PEOPLE
I was writing about Indian Cooking, which was concurrent with shooting this wedding, and met a lot of interesting people both guests and the caterers.   I found two hundred different ways to cook chicken and the recipes for all of them were secretive. 
Chicken in the south of India is not treated like chicken in the north of India.  Each sect, district, county or parish has its own style or rules and India is a cornucopia of millions of people and many traditions.                                   

 MISNOMER:
Their most common ingredient or spice is not curry, yes curry is a name of a plant or berry,  but the word Curry is used to denote a style of cooking we think of as a stew or slurry.   Simply put, a diversified pungent stew to be served a million ways and combinations over rice.

The “National spice go-to of India is Garam Masala" Which is a secret blend of spices in India and even differs from door to door.  These are closely guarded family secrets. Ask a lot of questions and take notes.  And the same holds true for simpler traditions.  Here is a traditional Punjabi family recipe. Served with chicken tikka masala (a British invention), traditional curries, braised vegetables or lentils. 

The actual masala is Toasted coriander, toasted cumin, black peppercorns, cinnamon, fennel, fenugreek, green cardamom, bay leaves, black cardamom, black cumin, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, star anise.

My associates who do these weddings tell me they just forget about time.  A joke from one of them suggested that Indian Weddings are like the train system in India.  My experience holds this to be true. Some things will be on time and some won't but what you will take away is an incredible experience over a long journey as long as it doesn't have a train wreck. 

Nevertheless, or me it was an incredibly unique affair and one of the ushers was gracious and very literately explained every part of the services. It was a great learning experience about someone else’s culture and traditions. I didn’t have a clue as to how long they can run.  I know now.

Talk about the heartbreak of “de-feet” wear comfortable shoes.  Time wise, get it in writing, forget, they won't care, you can't slow a train down.  Unexpectedly we really undercut ourselves physically, we needed the third helper just to get a break and fast charge batteries, not so much for the stills, because I make High Capacity packs for Digitals, but the bigger Video Cameras suck juice like a Hoover.  Thats why I packed two six volt motorcycle batteries on a small hand cart.

I will start to use my batteries ganged on a cart again soon for these long-term events. I also called my wife to bring me fresh clothes and meds and she stayed with me in Tampa.

That’s why my new contracts were written with time clauses and helper clauses. But I have been told, this is not always the case with Indian Weddings. This particular one was long because of the stature of the individuals in the community. All I’m saying is get it settled up-front as to how long you are needed and explain “overtime”.  They won’t care, it's a wedding.


THREE HINTS
It’s a lot easier if they have a Wedding Planner familiar with their culture and you make friends. Even if it means buying her lunch, heck dinner before you sign on. Notice I said “her”. In many cultures this is a “her” job.

The fellows rarely participate in this planning and don’t wish to be bothered unless you are Hollywood and have a reality show.  Nevertheless, being accepted means a lot of three day referrals and if you do a good job it will be rewarding. First find a videographer you can work with.   I will tell you now they all get a motion pictures made of the affair just like the Indian Film Business in Bollywood.