USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘saree’
Customs
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Wedding – India

My informant is half Indian and Caucasian. She shared with me some of the rituals and customs that were practiced at her cousin’s wedding:

“For my cousin’s wedding, me and my sister were bridesmaids. It was at the beach last year in April. I wore a hot pink saree (traditional Indian clothing). It’s like a crop top that is all gold embroidery and jewels on it. Honestly I’m obsessed with all the outfits. Like that’s the one thing about Indian culture I’m so obsessed with. Everyone at the wedding wears Indian outfits, so seeing all the colors against the ocean was absolutely beautiful.

 

When my cousin had the wedding she had this thing called a mandap. And what that is, is they have them all decorated and it’s basically just the alter. Like the Indian alter where people get married is always decorated with a bunch of flowers.”

 

Isn’t there something that you guys do with henna tattoos too?

 

“Yes—there’s a ceremony. Everyone does it. Like the most people is all the women in the bride’s side of the family and like also her bridesmaid, so I did it and my mom did it. It’s also a really long ceremony.

 

The Indian ceremonies are really long— when they’re getting married can go on for 2 hours. It’s cause the Indian wedding is very ‘ritualistic’. You know how in Western ceremonies they’re like ok say you’re vows, blah, blah, blah, then you’re done? For Indians, they’ll do things like each of you touch a flower and that symbolizes one thing. Then they’ll put a little dot on them and that symbolizes…it’s just everything the priest does has an underlying meaning. They also bring up people, like my mom will go up there and bless them. Everyone is incorporated in it. It’s crazy because I swear I’ve known these people since I was born, but I don’t know their names because it’s a big extended family. So sometimes we’ll go to weddings and I don’t even know some of these people’s name”

 

Do you think you’ll have an Indian style wedding?

 

“For Indian weddings, a lot goes into it. So for me and my sister, first of all, we don’t even practice any Indian religion. We’re only half—not even full Indian. So to spend all that time and money into something that I’m not really 100% invested in, doesn’t make sense to me. Cause I was raised Christian, I would have a more Western style ceremony. But I still love the culture so it would be fun to still incorporate some Indian aspects into my wedding reception like the outfits.”

 

Weddings are a very sacred ceremony that unites two individuals as one. Because it is such a unique and monumental experience, it is understandable for people to feel pressured into spending an absurd amount of time and money for the occasion. However, there is absolutely no comparison when it comes to Indian weddings. They are by far the most lavish and extravagant events I have ever heard of. It is clear that marriage holds a great deal of importance in Indian culture. It is not just a critical life milestone, but an essential religious practice in Hindu religion. This explains why weddings do not stray, but strongly adhere to ancient customs and traditions. In addition, Indian weddings are not just about bonding the couple. Everyone in the family is incorporated into the ceremony to signify that a bond has also been created between the two families.

Adulthood
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Proper Attire for a Muslim Wedding

The informant is a 58-year old woman from Trinidad, who has lived in the United States for 45 years. She was raised by her parents in Trinidad and lived in a house with her parents, grandparents, and nine siblings. She attended primary school, and then began working as a housekeeper and nanny. She loves cooking, mainly without recipes or set amounts of any ingredients, having learned her recipes “from my mom and aunts and from trial and error.” The following is what she said when I asked about her step daughter’s wedding a few years ago, of which I was in attendance.

 

Informant: “Abby’s wedding was a big one. Oh gosh, it feels so long ago now!”

Interviewer: “It was beautiful!”

Informant: “It was…”

Interviewer: “Do you remember going dress shopping with mom and me before? Can you tell me about it?”

Informant: “Yes, yes. Well for a Muslim wedding you need to have the proper dress. It is not like American weddings where anything you wear is fine. Because if you come to the Muslim wedding and you are dressed improperly, you may be asked to leave. And more than that, it is important to the bride and groom that you wear the proper clothes.”

Interviewer: “What would be improper to wear?”

Informant: “Something short, anything that shows a woman’s legs would be improper. Respect—modesty—is very very important in Muslim religion and culture.

Interviewer: “I understand. Can you tell me more about where we went to get the outfits for Abby’s wedding?”

Informant: “We went to Devon Avenue, a whole street of Indian stores, and we went into the best one to buy a saree. You tried on so many! They all looked so cute on you. We picked a colorful one, I can’t remember if it was purple or blue…

Interviewer: “It was purple!”

Informant: “Yes, it was. And then for your mom we got a green and maroon one.”

Interviewer: “Does anyone wear black sarees? Or white ones?”

Informant: “No. Everyone, at weddings is supposed to wear colored sarees. That is what’s done at weddings. The varna—that means color—means something always! Red is for the bride. Abby wore red. Colorful sarees make for a happier, more festive wedding.

 

Thoughts:

It doesn’t say anywhere in the Quraan that guests at a Muslim wedding are required to wear colorful sarees, or sarees at all for that matter. But it is a custom—a rule, almost—that guests do so. This reflects the modesty of the culture that is expected and has continued to be important to the Muslim people, especially in rituals. While all Muslims do not dress modestly all the time, it is expected that they do so when weddings and other religious rituals take place.

The colorfulness of the sarees at the wedding ceremony, aside from making photos beautiful and bright, makes the ceremony a very festive event. Interestingly, my informant told me that red is often the color of the bride in Muslim weddings, versus the Christian and Jewish white-dress custom. Red is bright and bold; it symbolizes fertility. It is fitting that this would be the color a bride wears on her wedding day, if what she wears is to symbolize the step she is embarking on in her life.

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