One more journey, another early start and a couple of sicks later and we arrived at our 5th stop in India; Jaipur.
As soon as we left the station we immediately felt much more positive about Jaipur than any of the cities so far. Firstly, the just the air in Jaipur seemed slightly cleaner and there seemed to be some kind of order on the roads, or at least drivers gave each other more space!
I don’t want to bore anyone with the finer details of getting around or what our hostel was like yada yada (it was cute though!), so I’ll skip straight to the part where WE WENT TO AN INDIAN WEDDING!
The couple who we met on the previous train (Rahul and Aditi) texted us to re-invite us to her cousin’s wedding ceremony that evening and although we weren’t feeling 100%, we’ve made a pact to say ‘yes’ to any new opportunities that come our way whilst we’re on this adventure. Our hostel manager, Mahul, practically leapt with joy when we told him about it and offered to lend Ed his suit jacket for the occasion and arrange for a lady to dress me in the sari that we bought in Varanasi!
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2 was pretty much the extent of our knowledge of what an Indian wedding entailed, but Mahul led us through a rough description of the proceedings and told us to expect a lot of food and dancing before putting us in a tuk-tuk and sending us on our way.
Not wanting to arrive empty handed we asked our driver, Khan, to take us to a gift shop and advise us on what a good wedding present would be. He took us to his 14 year old cousin’s shop and pulled a few tacky cup sets from the shelf and gave us the choice – we opted for the least broken and least dusty (but still disgusting) and gave it to his cousin to wrap. I can’t imagine they were on their John Lewis Wishlist but it’s the thought that counts right?
On our way to the venue we passed a number of other wedding processions moving along the streets (some even led by elephants!) and we learned that it’s currently wedding season in India, so this may not be the last wedding we crash!
We met Rahul and Aditi at the entrance of the venue which was set in the grounds of a hotel called Chandi Gardens, before following them through to where the main wedding was held.
It’s difficult to describe quite how exquisite everything was but I’ll try and give you an idea…
We rounded the corner to find a huge open space, dressed in vibrant orange and pink drapes, ribbons, table runners and flowers and lined with over 50 food stands. Music played as the groom and his groomsmen were live streamed onto big screens as danced their way slowly to the main stage (Ed joined them at one point!) where the groom begins the ceremony, making it seem more like a Bollywood filmset than a wedding!
There were bright lights and cameras everywhere, but the main attraction was the main stage situated at one end of the square space which displayed a beautiful 5m high temple-style backdrop, lit up in the colours of the wedding. On stage left (throwback to my acting days) was a long walk way connecting a smaller stage where the bride would first appear under a crescent moon, among hundreds of assorted flowers.
This stage is where the marriage ceremony itself takes place, as the bride and groom place flower wreaths over each other as a symbol of their bond, before traversing back over to the main stage on an electronic chair together to symbolise returning home, where they are congratulated by and photographed with literally everyone at the wedding for hours – including us!
The whole thing looked and felt more like a festival than a wedding. With over 1,000 guests there, we were overwhelmed with the scale of the event and how spectacular everything looked. We wondered between ourselves how much money it would take to host a wedding like this!
Rahul and Aditi introduced us to what felt like hundreds of members of their families throughout the night, all of whom were incredibly kind and welcoming to us. It felt strange to be at a wedding of someone we had never met before, but we were assured that it’s normal in Indian culture, and it’s a good opportunity to meet new people.
At around 11pm and after we’d danced and worked our way around as many food stalls that our sensitive stomachs could handle, people started to disperse. It’s tradition for the closest family members to stay and pray with the new bride and groom, but this process can go on until the early hours and our friends were more interested in taking us out for a drink elsewhere. So we piled into a taxi and continued the party at a rooftop bar overlooking Jaipur.
Not your average Monday night but one that we will never forget and definitely an experience I would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity in the future!