When I was little, there was one thing I could count on. Every summer, there’d be at least five weddings I had to go with my parents. Long hot days wearing fancy clothes, playing with other bored kids and waiting for the kulfi. My get-out-of-wedding excuses were never very convincing – I’d usually over-play it by stating I had a tumour, when retching noises into the toilet would have worked just fine.
The reason I disliked them so much, was I knew the day would follow the same pattern. Waiting at least two hours for the bride to arrive, mingling with people who’d not seen me since I was a baby yet voicing huge shock that I’d changed so much, and craning my neck trying to see what the hell was going on inside the mandap once proceedings did start.
OK so Indian weddings have progressed dramatically since, and they’re not all in Town Halls, leisure centres and other spots which fit 1500 guests. But old-school weddings still exist even in five-star hotels and Grade II-listed properties. I used to wish they’d be more like English weddings where everyone turns up on time and if they didn’t, the ceremony would go ahead anyway as another couple would be arriving in an hour for their nuptials. Having paid in advance would ensure no-one, in the wedding party at least, would dare to be late as Indians generally hate to waste and lose money. And besides, the shame of missing your own wedding would be too much to bear.
I also liked the idea of communal singing, the way everyone belts out Jerusalem at a church wedding. Imagine if a big karaoke screen was put up above the mandap and everyone sang along to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or some other Bollywood love song? All the bas and kakas getting into the groove?
Once, at a Sikh wedding, welcome shots of whisky were offered instead of champagne. Nothing unusual except it was only 3pm. This meant no-one thought it was weird to get onto the dancefloor at 4pm and start shaking their booty to Bhangra beats. Although it did mean everyone was merrier than Santa by 5.30pm.
Some customs are best left alone though. Plate-smashing for example, great fun at Greek weddings, would be quite disappointing at a traditional Indian wedding. Compartmented plastic plates just don’t give the same satisfaction. And if it was good-quality china, can you imagine Indian people thinking it’s OK to smash a perfectly good plate?
And as for all the crying at the end, I just couldn’t figure it out as a kid and used to wonder what was so awful about getting married. When I finally do it, I’ll let you know...