Words like Lucknowi, zardosi, phulkari, aari work have always felt like Greek and Latin to me. I’m guessing a lot of people who have not had a specific opportunity to explore this world of fabrics feel the same way.
There are two things that Indian households love to prepare for – weddings and examinations. I have had my share of burning the midnight oil for the latter and now it was time to experience the former. The wedding preparations for my brother’s marriage was nothing less than a crash course in textiles and fashion for me. An Indian wedding, however big or small it may be, usually has an extended prequel of a shopping and preparatory phase.
A lot of decisions when it comes to wedding preparations are so inextricably linked that it almost seems like you are stuck in a maze. The jewellery you wear must match the outfit, and your outfit must match your spouse’s outfit and her outfit will depend on the jewellery your parents decide to gift her. You see? That’s just a glimpse of the iceberg of interrelated decisions that seem to be never ending.
Despite the mental churn that these decisions put us in, the fun that comes along with it while you are out on the road all day, visiting shop after shop is unforgettable. While we chose not to hire a wedding planner for the main day events, our mother had assumed the role of the ‘manager’ of the events that advance to the D-Day. She was responsible for the daily itineraries for all the shopping-related tasks and would move around with her small blue diary wherever she went.
Also read: My ‘Monsoon Wedding’ Story
To me, marriage was always a societal concept that is also rooted deep into tradition and customs. However, the fact that it was as time consuming as starting a new business was news to me. Preparations start almost a year prior to the event – right from booking the venue for the main day, the smaller functions and then meeting with caterers, decorators etc – until you have finally reached the phase where ethnic couture boutiques start offering you loyalty programmes and agency commissions for your detailed eye towards the purchase of your bridal/groom wear.
While scouting outfits for each member of the family, not only did I find out the difference between georgette and chiffon but also I learnt the draping styles for Kanjivaram and Gujarati saris. Decisions which I did not think I’d have ever to be involved in had become my departmental responsibilities, such as ensuring my mother’s saree matches her make-up, deciding gifting options for invitees and planning my sister-in-law’s surprise proposal. The one thing that will always stay with me from this crash course in wedding planning is the art of noticing minuscule things. Right from the shwerani’s button’s design to the chaat delicacy in the menu, all of it is a detailed decision that may lead to hours of debate.
Eventually, I did understand the purpose, use and fashion language of the different fabrics that were explored during this time. Thanks to my mother’s technical knowledge and my fashion stylist sister’s degree, I was even able to visualise an outfit for myself. Though it may be pretty easy to assume that colours and fabrics do not matter, they do.
“You cannot wear black on the wedding day since it’s not considered auspicious.”
“You can wear burgundy because it will look good on you.”
“Your mother is wearing pink so you do not want to wear the same shade.”
These were just the initial set of guidelines for me before my shopping spree began for my clothes for the wedding. While I still have not finalised what I will wear on the day, this crash course has given me a sense of what fabric I shouldn’t or rather cannot wear on that day. I had not known that fabrics and colours also hold different meaning for different occasions in one’s life. In our country, white is largely associated with mourning and bright colours are directly associated with celebrations, but well, should these community-based stereotypes prevent me from wearing a pastel colour sherwani? Surprisingly, yes they do, because after all, marriage in our society is definitely not a private affair.
The extensive efforts that have been invested in these preparations make me wonder if we succumb to these societal concepts of beauty, elegance and glamour or do we practice them for our personal satisfaction and joy? From my first-hand experience, it feels like the latter should take precedence, but it doesn’t always. To this end, I do not know when is the next time in my life that I will be meeting more banquet hall organisers than friends in a single day. Until then, I shall go back and finalise the colour of my mojdis to match my yellow pocket square.
Chirag Patel is a curious hospitality undergraduate from IHM, Aurangabad holding an interest in topics of culture, society, economics and strategy. You can reach him on Instagram @chir.pat