The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘N’. Explanations and translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 67-year-old Punjabi father, raised primarily in Gujarat.
N: When the baraat (wedding procession to bring the groom in, think loud music, think showy) comes to the girl’s house, then, let’s say opposing side relatives, like the bride’s brother and the groom’s brother, will come close to each other and try to lift each other. It’s part of this tradition called milni (meeting), I think, it has a name, it’s called milni. But, it’s more than that, because milni is just the greeting, this is like… something that’s evolved from it. You have to lift the guy, and everybody gathers around and kind of cheers it. So, first the brothers will go, then the mamas (uncles/mother’s brothers) will go, the cousins will go, so equivalent relatives on both sides. It’s like a friendly contest, a sort of thing where the idea is like… to get to know each other, but it is a big thing. A coming together of the families. But people will do all kinds of things, like some guy will sit on the ground so the other can’t lift him up, some guy will… you get it. It’s like a thing with the younger relatives, especially. It started off as just a milni, where you would just greet each other, the fathers would garland each other, but now it’s become this big thing, friendly competition between the younger guys. Women don’t lift each other, or really have milni at all because they don’t all come out to do the greeting, to receive, they will stay in the home. This happens just before you enter the house.
This part of the wedding process in India has to do primarily with an introduction of the families, so some of the bride’s relatives welcome the groom into their house (and thus, their family), and they do so in both a gracious greeting ceremony, and this fun, loud game. Weddings are a joyous occasion, but inherently a very serious thing because they are all about lifelong commitment of not only two people, but the coming-together of two families. Therefore, along the way, there are many such games, jokes, and customs essentially built to just be fun, along with the other basic purpose, in this case allowing the families to meet, get familiar, understand and welcome each other, in a lighthearted way. North Indian weddings are very expansive, long processes, with many steps and many days, each for a different ritual, custom, or meeting, but each has grown into something more fun as time has passed — the mehndi (henna) ceremony is no longer just carrying out the rituals of beautifying and applying mehndi to the bride and wishing her the best, it has become a time for all the women of both families to bond, give each other advice and their own, simpler mehndi patterns, and have fun and make night-before-your-wedding jokes. It’s like a bachelorette party of sorts, except the bride has to stay in the exact same position for a while because her very elaborate mehndi is drying. Essentially, while Indian weddings are big, serious things with many traditions, rituals, and customs, each has grown with time to become more fun, much like this one!