Barber at the Wedding

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian
Age: 55
Occupation: Financial Manager
Residence: San Ramon, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/26/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hindi

Main Body:

Informant: This when I was growing up in India, this was still being done. And I’m not sure if it was all of India that was doing this but definitely a lot of Northern India. For some strange reason, when you got married, typically it was an arranged marriage, right? So, at some point, the girl’s dad would talk to the priest. They’d figure out what’s a good, an auspicious day for the wedding. But for some strange reason, and I don’t know what that strange reason is, the barber in the village, he would be the one to take the message about the wedding’s dad across to the groom and his family. It was always the barber. 

Then when you actually went to the wedding, it would always be at the girl’s place. So the girl’s family is already there, the whole extended family. And the groom’s family comes and they all meet and some money is always given or exchanged. So one of the first people who would always be recognized, and don’t ask me why, would be the barber of the girl’s village.

Interviewer: So, no matter what, this is one of you obligations as a barber? No matter if you know the girl’s family or not you have to be involved in the wedding in this specific way?

Informant: Yes, it’s like a village thing, you know?

Interviewer: So it’s a rural thing, it’s not an urban thing?

Informant: Good question, I don’t know the answer. So yeah the barber gets recognized by both families and he gets some money. Barbers typically were lower classes, so he wasn’t treated exactly equal but he would be taken along with the rest of the wedding party. 

Background:

The informant is my father who was born and raised in northern India in the state of Punjab and immigrated to America over 20 years ago. He was raised for a time in a rural village setting which is where much of our family comes from and this tradition is one he noticed being practiced in those rural, village weddings. This did not happen in his own wedding.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my father if he had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones he shared with me.

Analysis:

This is a very interesting tradition. I think it somewhat makes sense that when the two families finally meet that the barber is one of the first to be recognized because it’s the barber that relays the choice of date between the two families. So in a way, this could be recognizing the barber for their part in making the wedding happen. What is less clear is why the barber specifically is given that responsibility in the first place. It could be that a barbershop is typically regarded as a community center. It’s where everybody goes because everyone needs their hair cut. So it could be that the barber, knowing more people than most other people in the village would, is given the responsibility being a sort of “community representative.” Any elected leader of the village would not be given the responsibility as it would be “beneath them.” But the barber, being of lower class, would be the perfect candidate.