Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the mehndi II

My godmother found the fastest mehndi artist in the west to do my designs. She didn't take any breaks longer than 30 seconds, either, and we both were sitting there for a little more than four and a half hours. I had henna on the front and backs of my arms, from elbow to tips of the fingers, as well as around 75 percent of my legs and the tops of my feet. She didn't even skip the backs of my heels.

See all those tiny dots? Each one done by hand. She was really good. 

My mom has always said my most beautiful feature is my feet. I get them from my dad, who got them from his dad. I always meant to take a picture of all our feet together because they're all so creepily the same. My hands are my mom's and my nani's in the same way. I can't get that picture anymore, either.


Tradition calls for the name of the groom to be hidden somewhere in the mehndi of his bride's hand. Then the guy has to try to find his name. My mehndi artist was very clever and Jon wasn't able to find his name for more than seven minutes until I had to drop some pretty big hints. But then again, she had thrown in an extra H to make it "Johnathan" instead of Jonathan.

It's in the curve between the fingers and thumb of my right hand, and way easier to spot before she did the top of my hand.

Arms done. Shiny. They put this sugary stuff on to keep the dried mehndi from fallling off, so it would stay in contact with the skin and give a nice deep color. 

I liked the feet the best.

It was great to be able to get up and walk around after nearly five hours, trust me. But I still couldn't move too much. EB fed me a bunch of watermelon and another heaping helping of fried rice at the end of the night. People had been coming and going all day, and at the end of the night Jon left to have pre-Bachelor Party dinner with his family. My family trickled back home bit by bit until it was just my mom and I, EB and a couple of their other family members and my godmother's house, sitting around and resting after a wonderful day. There's that bit of time at the end of your party where you sit back and take in just how great it went. To me that's even better than the actual party, which I usually spend worrying about how everything is going. I was so overwhelmed by everything people were doing for me, I couldn't do anything but just absorb it. Sort of like the henna dye on my skin.

It's hard for me to believe I didn't take any pictures of the mehndi right after I washed it off, but there were still about 50 bajillion things left to do, so it's easy to think it slipped my mind. They say that the darker your mehndi comes out is an indication of how much your man loves you.


I already know how lucky I am to have Jon, but it's nice to get a little confirmation. This photo was taken the day AFTER the wedding--a full three days after the mehndi party.  And it stayed nice and dark until about a month after the wedding.

Jon had set up a tripod with his camera to take a photo every minute. My friend A.A. also took a bunch of supplemental photos with his other camera (a lot of which were in these last posts). Thanks, A.A.!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the mehndi

Two days before the wedding, after I was showered and fragrant from my Ros, we headed over to my godmother's house for the mehndi*. My mom had bought a very lovely outfit from Devon for me to wear to the event, but it was obvious this was the first mehndi in our family, because it was floorlength and would have been a huge hassle to keep up over my knees with both my hands and legs unable to move. Good thing my godmother's daughter-in-law had the perfect short and pretty kameez at the ready for me to wear with leggings. Problem solved.

My godmother and her family rounded up a ton of saris in varying shades of green and blue, big paper decorations, and they even put up a tent on their front patio by the water fountain. It was so beautiful, I was sad that the weather was chilly so we couldn't set up our stations outside. And she had a ton of food--including this fried rice my godfather makes that I can't seem to get enough of. I knew that I wouldn't be able to use my hands or even move that much, so I was inhaling as much of everything as I could before I had to take up the spot I'd be in for the next four hours.

I love plants almost as much as my godmother does. I don't know how she knew that I love gladiola (gladiolas? gladioli?). So pretty. I really wish I had taken more pictures of the decor. It must have taken a lot of work and the whole place looked wonderful.

For years when I'd go to their house, I saw loveseat-like bench that has an indoor arbor over it and thought, "Self, this would be an awesome seat for a bride and groom." Guess where Jon and I were sitting? My godmother's 89-year-old mother said a prayer for us and then we all got down to business. Personally, it means a lot to me to have her blessings, and of older people in general, mostly because aside for that one year I had with my nani when I was seven, mine have always been so very far away. And now they're all in Heaven, where I'm sure they're sending their blessings. But it's always nice to hug a grandma in real life.

My godmother hired two mehndi artists--one dedicated to do mine--to do the mehndi for most all the women. A lot of my family, friends and parents' friends came at different times throughout the day and evening. You want to let the dark green paste dry to black and let it flake off to get the best dye on your skin, and the palms have more keratin (thanks, s, for that tidbit) so the color comes out better there. But it's a huge inconvenience not to be able to use your hands for so many hours, so many of them only got a design on the back of one hand. You know, so they could drive home.

Here are some highlights of their mehndi:








Tomorrow: Jon made a time-lapse video of mine.



From wikipedia: "Mehndi is a ceremonial art form which originated in ancient India. Intricate patterns of mehndi are typically applied to brides before wedding ceremonies."

Monday, November 28, 2011

the ros II

After all the praying and the crying, we got down to the business of anointing. In the back yard.

Each person dipped their hand in the ros and put some on me with their blessings. It started out very subtly.

 
Then they busted out the raw eggs. To be fair they really weren't sure about this, but I remember how wonderful my hair was after my cousin's ros and I demanded the eggs in the hair. I had just forgotten how weird and slimy it felt. 

My cousin took the whole "preparing the bride for her husband" thing very seriously and wanted to make sure my skin was soft "all over," ha ha. If you can't tell, this took me by surprise. Mostly because the stuff had come right out of the fridge.

I think my brother-in-law (in India, your cousins are considered your sisters and brothers) had a lot of fun with this, too. He dumped what was left of the ros on my head.

Jon was busy taking photos, but he didn't totally get out of it. I must say they went really easy on the guy; this was the worst of it, by my dad.

After I showered, my hair and skin felt AMAZING throughout my wedding festivities and for about a week into my honeymoon. And it smelled good, too. My brother couldn't get off work and fly in until that evening--otherwise these photos would look a lot more like Nickelodeon.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

the ros I

Not a lot of Americans know that--beyond that stupid "red dot or feather" differentiation Jay-Z made famous in "Girls, Girls, Girls"--there are a LOT of different types of Indians. As you cross the border into different states, you may as well be in another country because each has its own language, food, clothing and customs. And that's not even taking into consideration Indians who have settled in different parts of the world. You know, like the Midwestern part of the United States. 

My mom and dad are from different places in the Motherland, so each brings their own wedding customs to the table. Where my mother is from, they prepare a bride and groom for their wedding with a haldi ceremony by having family members give their blessings then put turmeric paste on their skin (supposed to condition it and make you "fairer"). Where my dad is from, they do a Ros, which is the word for the coconut milk/paste they use to do essentially do the same, but with a lot of signs of the cross. Also, coconut makes your skin soft and smooth and your hair lustrous. And it smells great, too.

From wikipedia: "The Ros anointing ceremony, conducted one or two days before a wedding, celebrates the last day of virginity of the bride and bridegroom and involves the parents' blessing of the bride and groom, who are anointed with ros, a mixture of coconut milk and coconut oil, while a cross is inscribed on the bride's forehead."

I was so thankful to have my dad's sister and her family (husband, daughter, daughter's husband and their two kids) here for the wedding. We've never had a wedding over here, let alone a Ros. Without them, we would have been totally lost. They flew in from Mumbai and Dubai, respectively, and did a lot of shopping* for the wedding. Originally, they were going to buy my wedding sari, but while I'm sure I would have loved whatever they had chosen, I found one I liked here so I let them off the hook. My cousin found complementary jewelry for the set I was to wear, she had dresses made for the three flower girls (including her own 4-year-old), and also brought a bunch of other stuff for everyone. 


My aunt brought the sado I would be wearing to the Ros, a hot-pink sari that my cousin wore to hers in 2003 (I was there, too), and my paternal grandmother wore to hers, way back in 1942. It was pretty fragile. I was honored to wear it.


It's worn a different style than what I'm used to, so I needed a lot of help. Later, they added a garland of jasmine and some other flowers to my hair. You can't see it well, but I'm also wearing a long gold necklace that my grandmother had given to my mother. It's the one thing of hers that I have. 


If you've ever seen a Bollywood movie, there's pretty much always a wedding (seems to be the main plot point--and usually the climax--because after the wedding, there really is nothing else to life, if you believe the film industry). And in almost every wedding, there is a scene where the girl's family is beside themselves with sobby sadness because traditionally the girl goes to live with her in-laws so the family is literally giving her away. This is called the bidaai, and sometimes includes sad singing. We didn't have that at the wedding, because we were very busy breaking it down. Besides, Jon and I live about six minutes away from my parents and I'm still at their house all the time. They're going to have to do much more than bless our marriage to get rid of me that easily.


But that didn't mean there was no crying. 


My parents had to give us their official blessings. I have only seen my dad in tears twice before this. It's so unnerving, I freeze, not knowing what to do. On the day of my Ros, I was pretty much paralyzed. Both of them were a soggy mess, shakily making the sign of cross in front of me and praying for long lives of happiness for both me and Jon. And when I saw them crying, I lost it too. It was a sobfest. Poor Jon, he didn't know what to do either, so he took pictures. Thank goodness for my relatives, who made a few jokes and offered them a little solidarity; they went through this too with their daughter. If they hadn't been there, I don't know what we would have done. 


I'm glad we had this opportunity to get the major sobbing out of the way before the wedding. I gave both my parents strict instructions not to cry on my wedding day. And they did amazingly well. Most of the tears that day were streaming down my face.

*One of the times my aunt and cousin were shopping for my wedding stuff in Dadar, just ONE day before the 2011 Mumbai bomb blasts. SCARY. Thank God they weren't there one day later.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

our song

Thank God for email. I have such a faulty memory, which is probably why I like to document everything. Apparently, Jon and I decided "our song" was Paul Simon's "Something So Right," over one of our daily marathon emails--we would essentially be having a triple-thread instant-message-like correspondence via gmail. Those missives are hard to make sense of later, by anyone else. Within that same message (which was on April 6, 2006), we were also discussing the latest episodes of The Amazing Race and LOST, and how unhappy we were with Libby, Lori and Dave. And some fratboys, apparently. The only downside to living together is that we still have these awesome conversations, but no way of preserving them or looking back to resolve disagreements later.

So what we would dance to during our first dance as husband and wife was a no-brainer:


The lyrics are so true of both of us. Which makes it even more amazing that we were able to find love from another person so different and so far away.

There was so much to pack into the reception. I wanted as much dancing as humanly possible, but I knew that neither Jon nor his mom cared for dancing. I would have loved to have dance to "Teri Pyari Pyari Surat" and then BROKEN IT DOWN halfway through, Mando-style with my dad, to "Galyan Sankli Sonya Chi" with the moves of his people. But that would take more time, and Jon's mom hadn't yet chosen what she wanted. In the end, we decided to combine the parent/child dance to one song that nearly everybody likes--we all danced out there at the same time. It's by a band that Jon's mom, my dad, and the two of us all love:



Of course it's the Beatles. I wish there were more bands out there that appease multiple generations at once. Our kids will definitely be listening to them, too.

For kicks, there's "Teri Pyari Pyari Surat." My dad loves that song, it's my nani's all-time favorite song, from her favorite movie, Sasural, and it plays every time my father calls my cell phone. I love it because it makes me think of him.


It loosely translates to "let your lovely lovely face never attract someone's evil eye," which sounds sort of silly, but some people believe that jealousy toward a successful/beautiful person/baby will end up causing some kind of harm to that person. The lyrics are both a compliment and a protective statement. Hindi just doesn't translate sometimes.

And bonus, here's a Bollywood-ized version of the Konkani classic "Galyan Saankli."


This is totally a Bolly-sampling of the original folk song trying to mimic the oldschool village-style dancing and outfits. The main phrase, "Galyan sankli sonya chi, ee poori kona chi" roughly--and I could be wrong, my dad is sleeping--means, "that girl with the gold chain around her neck, whose daughter/girl is she?" It's a CLASSIC.

It was the right decision: Jon and Mrs. M didn't have too much on the dancefloor, while my dad and I still danced our socks off the entire night anyway. Everybody wins!

Friday, November 25, 2011

blessings

Above all else, Jon and I wanted this wedding to be a reflection of us. We were holding it in my hometown, and nearly all of his guests would have to travel to attend. Plus I was trying my best to get in as much Indian stuff as possible. So we were thrilled when the pastor at the church Jon grew up attending (where his parents still are very active) agreed to fly all the way out here from California to officiate.

Pastor Dave has known Jon well for a long time--his son is one of Jon's childhood best friends and former roommate. He and his wife were the ones who started asking Jon when his "bride" was coming back to town after that first Christmas party back in 2005. While my family knows several great pastors, the close ties Pastor Dave has to Jon made him a natural choice.

With the craziness of planning, we really weren't able to spend that much time discussing our ceremony with the pastor. He sent us a packet with sample services and we hemmed and hawed about it right up until the week of the wedding, which is when we chose our readings as well:

First reading (read by my dad's sister's daughter, who came out from Dubai)
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three brands is not quickly broken.
--Ecclesiastes 4:9-12*
Second reading (read by one of Jon's very good friends from college, whose husband--also a very good friend--was in our bridal party).
Calvin: What's it like to fall in love?
Hobbes: Well... say the object of your affection walks by...
Calvin: Yeah?
Hobbes: First, your heart falls into your stomach and splashes your innards. All the moisture makes you sweat profusely. This condensation shorts the circuits to your brain and you get all woozy. When your brain burns out altogether, your mouth disengages and you babble like a cretin until she leaves.
Calvin: THAT'S LOVE?!?
Hobbes: Medically speaking.
Calvin: Heck, that happened to me once, but I figured it was cooties!
--Bill Waterson
Pastor Dave is a consummate professional. He didn't know which readings we'd chosen until we rehearsed the night before the wedding. Instead of judging us for my commitment to practicality or Jon's unbridled love for Calvin and Hobbes, he smiled and even worked it into his sermon at the actual ceremony. He made us all feel at ease with the big-ness of the day. But he won my heart forever when he calmed my mom's nerves before the wedding, saying prayer with her before it began. He's a great guy, and very good at what he does.

Later, we realized that Pastor Dave came out for our wedding even though it was the weekend of his only grandchild's first birthday. And even though they were flying out the next morning at 6 a.m., I think I even saw him out on the dancefloor.


*The Bible from which my cousin read was one that Jon found on his doorstep many years ago--it's monogrammed with his name. He's pretty sure who sent it, and he hopes that person realized it was a part of our wedding.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

no words for this thank you

You know how there are certain people in your life whom you don't see very often, but when you run into them at the grocery store or see them at a party, you can feel there's a deep and important connection? I have that with my godmother. Whenever I see her and the way she smiles at me when she sees me, it just seems very comforting, like that feeling you get when you show up at your childhood home after it's been awhile.

***
In August 1977 my father got on a plane to the United States from Kuwait, where he had been working. My mom had already been here a few months, and the two were getting married shortly after he arrived. Not much of that--the visas, the travel, the wedding--would have even been possible without my godmother, who (with her family) was their ally and their support through some of the toughest leaps of faith two twentysomethings can make: Leaving everything they knew and loved to make a life for themselves on the other side of the world.

***

Several years before that, my mom had come to the Dairy Capital of India to study nursing. She'd had to learn Gujarati and did so fairly easily, the superstar she is. Her feisty roommate kept things interesting, but there wasn't much to do outside of training. A bookstore nearby would rent books for a week, a per-book-fee-library of sorts. After awhile, my mom realized a girl who lived down the hall from her in the dorm was taking out the same books. They started splitting the cost and sharing the rentals. Soon they began hanging out, and it didn't take long for before they were great friends. A few years later, my future godmother went to America. And she invited my mom to come and join her.

***

On my mother's wedding day, not a single member of her rather large family was present. And, except for his bride and my godmother, my dad had only met everyone two days before. It was a foreign place where everyone spoke their second language, so far from the comforts of home. I can't imagine how scary that must have been. My mom said she cried the entire day. 

My godmother and her family arranged everything. It was a simple ceremony at the Bretheren Church in town (the first Indian wedding there, I believe). People brought food. My mom made her own wedding sari from white fabric, a bronze-brown/red/green border she attached and lacy appliques she sewed on by hand. And my godmother and her sisters were at her side the whole day. They helped her get ready, did her makeup and hair and pleated and pinned her sari, surrounding her like a warm, comforting circle, stepping into the spots her sisters would have had on such an important day. I have no doubt they wiped away her tears. 

I know this because they were there on my wedding day, too. They showed up early, armed with no-nonsense expertise and vivid memories. None of my mom's sisters were able to make it for my wedding, either (not for lack of trying, stupid Visas). Even though cc and pp arranged for coffee, breakfast snacks and bottled water for everyone, Mom mentioned to my godmother's sister, who was in the car and almost there, that she had a headache from not sleeping the night before and that auntie turned around, made breakfast and a thermos full of tea. She showed up with all that stuff, wearing the same sari she'd worn to my parents' wedding 34 years ago and a solid gold necklace with a flat, wide charm that spelled her name--decades before it became a trend in the '90s. My dad had them made in Kuwait all those years ago, and brought one for each of them two days before his wedding.

When the bridal party and I were beautified and ready to leave for pictures, I went back up to the suite to grab my lipstick. I opened the door and saw them all, half laughing and half crying, standing around my mom. Same warm circle, fussing with pleats and pins, cracking jokes. I could just see how it was 34 years ago.

***

After I was born, my godmother was always there to help. From what I've heard, she came over every day to help with the laundry, cooking and taking care of us while my dad was at work because my mom had surgery to remove the grapefruit-sized cyst they had thought was my twin (before ultrasound was so common). She even washed my cloth diapers (I was allergic to disposable). Later, apparently I would only eat if my godmother was feeding me. 

She is vivid in my memories. I can still feel the warmth of her hug, and remember sitting in her lap pulling on her long long fingernails. I remember her old house, on the street that has the same name as her oldest son; hunting around in the backyard for fallen walnuts and peeking through the posts of the banister; only liking drumsticks the way she made them.

***
I have only one regret about my wedding day. After an awesome performance by my godmother's sons, nieces and nephews as well as the speeches, I grabbed the microphone to say a few words. I started by thanking everyone for coming, some from as far as Hawaii and Dubai, not to mention my dad's sister and her husband from Mumbai. And then I turned to look at my parents. I attempted to thank them for all the sacrifices they made so my brother and I could have the amazing lives we have today, but I could hardly get any words out. And as soon as the tears came, my brain went blank. My voice started crackling and sort of faded out. Just like my mother, I cried throughout my wedding day, but my tears were from being overwhelmed by feelings. 

For months I had envisioned what I'd say at that moment; I'd allotted time to tell my godmother how much I appreciated everything she's done for me and my family, in front of everyone so they would all know just how amazing she is. I mean, there's a chance I wouldn't even exist without her--my parents could have lived out their lives on different continents. On top of that, her extended family was so generous with their time, their talents, their love. They gave me a gift that day that I have always dreamed of: A boisterous, big-family celebration. We're not even technically family, but no one could tell. I cannot express how much that means to me. When I had the opportunity, microphone in hand, I blew it. 

Later, in the disco-light darkness and bumping music, I found where my godparents were sitting and said the thank-you that everyone really should have heard in my speech. She said she didn't need for me to have said it in front of everybody. She knows how I felt, because I'm her daughter, too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

the singing

My mom grew up as one of seven kids. As it goes with every family, each person is known for their special qualities. There's the artist, the actress, the one who loved to play with dolls, the mischievous one, the stick in the mud, the momma's girl, the baby, etc. But they each have special talents, too. And while they're all excellent singers, my mom's is known for her gorgeous voice. 

In India, most of the movies are musicals. They put out three a day, and when one is released the soundtrack is EVERYWHERE. I can pinpoint my trips to the Motherland more easily by what movies were out at that time (Mohobbatein was popular during that winter after college). Back in the day, my mom's family didn't have a tv. They didn't even have a radio until later. But they had my mom. Nani loved the movies, so they'd always see the new release right away, and then my mom would memorize the best songs and perform for the family. She started winning singing competitions. The principal would even pull her out of class just to hear a little something in the office. 

When she was a teenager, my oldest aunt snuck away to Bollywood and was actually featured in a couple of movies before my nani made her come back home. Someone heard my mom singing and was begging nani to let her train to be a playback singer (almost none of the Hindi film actors do their own singing, just lip synching to a few very talented playback singers' soundtracks. It's weird, but it works). She said no, my mom was still a kid and had to finish school. 

Even in nursing school, my mom would distract people from studying just by puttering around her room and singing with the window open. Everyone knew her for her voice, and there may have been talk of a proposal from one of her many fans on campus.
  
***
When she moved across the world to the United States, there weren't many opportunities to enjoy Indian things, but my mom was always singing. Her beautiful voice has been in my ears since before my ears were even formed. She sang when she cooked, she sang when she cleaned. And I can't even describe how unbelievably warm, safe and blissful it feels to lay my head on her lap and fall asleep to one of her lullabies. Maybe that's why I never want to go to sleep.

She sang at Indian church, often up at the front but almost always in a group. It was always easy to pick out her voice; she could hit those impossibly high Hindi notes so sweetly, like a violin. I've never admitted this to anyone, but not once have I sang along to the benediction at the end of the service in all my life--I love to bask in the the way she does it. And I may not be the only one--sometimes it felt like she was the only one singing. So many invitations to perform, but she never took it to the next level.

Unfortunately, my mom doesn't sing so much anymore. She's fallen out of practice the last several years. Of course she's still good, but obviously not the same as when we were both much younger. For decades now, I've been begging her to record her voice somewhere so I can hold onto it forever. I'm obsessed with these kind of things, like photographs. But she never has. And that breaks my heart.

That didn't stop me, however, from making one more request. That she sing at my wedding. She didn't say yes right away, but she gave in.

 

Walking down the aisle with me and my dad, she was stoic, her jaw set so she wouldn't cry. She seems almost angry in those photos. And she wouldn't look at me the entire time she was singing. It was a church song that I had never heard, but one she grew up singing back home, "Aashishon ki baarish (showers of blessings)." She did, however, turn toward my brother right before she started. He smirked and got her to smile.

She began softly, her voice wavering, and it was a little shaky the entire time. But she made it through the whole song without a single tear. I wish I could have said the same for myself.

I was so proud of her. I am so proud of her.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

dresses

Early on, we decided that a trip to India to shop for the wedding was just not going to happen. We figured cost of trip/time off work would easily trump the markup--ridiculous as it is--on what we'd buy here. Plus it's been established that when I have more than several things to choose from, I become paralyzed (I stand by my statement that I would gladly plan anyone ELSE's wedding so I could do all the fun creative stuff but not have to make any decisions--or pay for it).

So we made several trips to Devon Avenue, or "Little India" or the "Desi Corridor."

All I knew was that I wanted everyone to wear Indian clothes. Hey, my family is Christian, so I wasn't going to be tied to Jon and get to walk around a fire or other Hindu* stuff everyone assumes you'd have if you're marrying an Indian. So I had to get the Indian in wherever I could get away with it. Which was apparently in the clothing, but only for the girls. Ah, compromise.

My mom and I had been to Devon several times looking for my own outfit, and we quickly realized that getting six of the same sari--the most universally flattering of all outfits, in my opinion--was going to be really difficult. I had been combing the online shops, and every real-life shop kept saying they'd order for us, but I didn't feel comfortable ordering something I hadn't gotten to see in person. You just never know what you're going to get when you find something on the Internet, right?

We decided to get *complementary* saris in the same color family. I'd seen it done and it was awesome. But finding six individual pieces that went together without looking disjointed was a near-impossible task. We started with one that had thick gold stripes of flowers, but the next one wasn't nearly as blingy. So then who would get which one? I could smell the disaster coming a mile away.

One place we kept going (and making the shop guys dig out everything in any sort of blue-green color time and time again, two of which we ended up buying for the backdrop), finally had enough with us. They knew my mom and I as soon as we walked in after a few months. On our third trip, when I was in the dressing room trying stuff on, cc and pp started talking to the girl our age behind the counter. She pulled out some bright pink saris with peach borders that had been special-ordered and just arrived from India. We were sold in about five minutes.

Granted, it was pretty hastily wrapped (there was hardly anything hanging off the back), but you get the idea. The detailing goes really well with my wedding dress, to boot.

A sari has three parts: the blouse, the petticoat (skirt you wear underneath and tuck it into) and the actual sari, which can be six or nine yards. People wear them all sorts of ways, too. The blouse and petticoat are handy in case of a wardrobe malfunction, which is always a possibility (and quite possibly may have occurred,) when there is alcohol at an event. We were going for the pinned-over-the-left shoulder look with the end hanging down the back.

We decided that because there were going to be girls and boys on both my side and Jon's, it might be nice to differentiate by color. So I went with a royal blue that I thought would go well with the lighter hair and bring out the blue eyes in Jon's sisters, and a "peacock" not-green/not-teal that went really well with the girls on my team. Because I was feeling so productive, and we were getting a deal, I also picked up all the petticoats and the jewelry for the girls, which included necklace, earrings, bracelets and a maangtika (a jewel that hangs from your hair onto your forehead). I made some really sophisticated drawings to share with the girls who couldn't make it out to Devon.

I know, I have mad drawing skills.

Each sari came with a little extra on the end, from which the tailor** makes the perfectly matching blouse. All of the girls got to choose their own blouse styles, of which there are OH SO MANY. This drawing doesn't even come close to the books the tailor had to choose from.



I also sent them a video on how to wear a sari so they knew what they were up against. Then I followed that up with a promise that a whole team of Aunties would be present to help them.

I know you just scrolled through to look at the pictures [insert TLDR here], which is fine. Here's what you really wanted to see anyway. Photos are cropped to protect the innocent, but it really is a shame, because we had the most beautiful bridesmaids I've ever seen. Keep in mind that I'm only going off the few photos so generously shared with us, so I don't have all the angles.

 Team Cadiz, minus the captain.

 Team Jon, including the captain. 

 Team Jon from the back.  

Trust me, these people looked AMAZING. I know I'm biased, but everyone keeps telling me. And five out of five doctors agreed; that's better odds than toothpaste.

*Hindu is the religion, and Hindi is the language. You can speak the latter without being the former. Or vice versa.
** By the way, our tailor, Dilip Uncle (not my real uncle), was great--for no extra, he found this great georgette fabric for the long-sleeved blouse that not only matched perfectly, it was light enough that she wasn't going to be hot. At least I hope she wasn't hot. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

chandelier

To say I like Internet browsing is a serious understatement. I'm the type of person who will find a blog I like, and then go back to the BEGINNING and read every single post. Granted, because I have no time, this happens rarely, but I wish I could do it more often. So it's not an exaggeration that I spent a LONG time looking around the Interwebs for wedding inspiration.

Months before the wedding, I stumbled upon a photo of a beautiful flower chandelier. Granted, it was all fresh flowers and crystals, but I thought I could put my own spin on it, and not have to break the bank--or hire a professional florist. Of course I was going to make it out of paper.

Remember those paper and pipe-cleaner flowers we used to make in girl scouts back in the day? You know, the ones where you take tissue paper, fold it up accordion style and then pull apart the layers?

Yep, just your everyday gift-bag stuffing, all dressed up.

Jon and I were conceptualizing this chandelier for quite some time. He made a wonderful schematic, got the supplies (chicken wire, pvc pipe) from the hardware store and put it all together. He even made a wooden stand of sorts so make it easy to take the pipes apart and get them in/out of a car--there's one thing you learn after living in the Midwest for awhile: It can rain at any time, and at any severity.

Unfortunately, while he and my dad were assembling the pieces out in the backyard, a pvc/chickenwire piece got entangled in the drill, spun around sharp-edge out and nearly took off one of Jon's fingers--the fourth finger on his left hand. It was a deep and gory cut, but I thank God it wasn't worse. It healed before the wedding, and now his wedding ring covers the scar.

Looks innocent, but chickenwire can be deceptively deadly.

As you may remember, in August we were in the throes of paper-rose sweatshoppery. I was beginning to realize that even if I pulled 15 allnighters in a row (like that's even physically possible), I couldn't get everything done without some serious assistance. Lucky for me, I have fabulous friends who kept offering to help. I took them up on it, and threw myself a Sweatshop Birthday party.

Cc, pp, angel07, ri, mfm and a few others who I don't have cool blog-code names for (feel free to request one in the comments) Madelyn, my parents and my godmother came to my parents' house on my birthday and made 200-some paper flowers of all sizes in varying shades of blue and green, with a few hints of orange here and there. And if their manual labor wasn't enough, they brought me presents! Pp even brought her laptop and was sharing potential songs for the wedding playlist. She had to come later, but eb attached nearly all of them to the wire frame. We never would have been able to pull off such a feat in a week, let alone a day!

The venue for the wedding said we could only use magnets to secure our chandelier. Good thing my man is very handy and creative. The chandelier only weighed about 25 pounds and he ordered high-powered magnets--four did just the trick. 

 We positioned it around a *real* chandelier right above the center of the dancefloor.

I was very happy with the way it turned out. Sadly, the day after the wedding (as well as the day before) it was pouring outside, so we didn't even bother bringing it home.


This would be a much better picture if I didn't have to crop out so many beautiful faces (you know, to protect the innocent). We were going for a The Cosby Show season 5 "island" opening vibe.


Samosas, presents and ice cream cake (my mom always gets me an ice cream cake)? Check.
Being surrounded by awesome friends and family? Check.
Making something out of a random concept that Jon and I dreamed up based on something we saw on the Internet? Check.
Getting a big project done in one Sunday afternoon? Check.

The greatest birthday gift was being able to cross that chandelier off the list. It was so much better than I had hoped.

Best birthday ever.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

the club can't even handle me right now

The best thing I have in my life is the love from family and friends. Because I really do think I have the best anyone could ask for. I've always felt lucky to have them, but throughout the chaos of this wedding, I was overwhelmed by how generous and thoughtful these people are. There's a very good chance I don't deserve them. But there's no way in hell I'm ever going to give them back.

Just one of a hundred examples? The Bachelorette Party

My team, captained by my brother as the maid of honor (whose ideal idea of Vegas is surely spending the weekend with his sister and a bunch of her girlfriends), put together an amazing weekend in Las Vegas. While I cannot divulge details of what happened (keep your minds clean, people), I will give you some of the highlights:
  • adjoining suites at The Venetian
  • fabulous pools
  • phenomenal food at Mesa Grill
  • chilling at Tao pool (apparently the same spot they took Kim Kardashian for her bachelorette the weekend before)
The deejay at TAO pool started playing "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO and when it got to the chorus, they launched all these beachballs (probably about 50) off the roof of the cabanas onto all of us in the pool. It was a very nice touch.
  • walking around the strip
  • the spa at Encore--omg 
  • Cirque du Soleil's Ka
  • a very interesting scavenger hunt at the clubs (let's just say I had my picture taken with a guy wearing a pinkie ring and managed to find an off-duty police officer) of which I got 95% of the items checked off the list
  • Tabu*
  • making international friends from places as exotic as Canada
  • grilled cheese at 6 a.m.--next to a table of passed-out asian boys who wouldn't even sit up for their eggs
  • Bloody Marys at Mon Ami Gabi (at Paris), with the second-best server I've ever met
  • Doritos mac n cheese and Philly cheesesteak dumplings with a view of Treasure Island fireworks
  • JABBAWOCKEEZ (awesome surprise, and even better than I thought they'd be)
  • scandalous peoplewatching at brand-new Brand (let's just say that VIP is a section I'll be passing on in the future, thankyouverymuch)
  • more hanging at the pool
  • Deep-fried oreos on the biggest ice-cream sundae I've ever seen
  • Dim Sum, with congee (everyone except my bro was a good sport about trying new stuff


AMAZING. I cannot convey just how spoiled and loved I still feel just thinking about it.

    People flew in from all over just to celebrate with me, and some who weren't able to make it set up another trip a few weeks later, to New York. It was considerably different, what with Hurricane Irene and all, but also a wonderful time. And while I was freaking out about missing a weekend of wedding prep, I think the mandatory break saved me from a breakdown of other sorts.

    Spoiled. And very very grateful.





    *In Las Vegas we discovered a delicious drink that didn't *taste* that strong, called L.A. Water. It may or may not have played a part in the festivities. Let's get a look at the ingredients, shall we? 
    1 1/2 oz Absolut® vodka
    1 1/2 oz gin
    1 1/2 oz white tequila
    1 1/2 oz white rum
    1 1/2 oz triple sec
    1 splash sweet and sour mix
    1 1/2 oz Midori® melon liqueur
    1 1/2 oz Chambord® raspberry liqueur
    It was a great time.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    elephants

    Jon's older sister, M, in all her crafty genius, made the decorations for our gift table. All I had said back last year sometime was that I'd love to have some elephants somewhere around the place. She said she'd take care of the gift box.

    They're a lot bigger than they look here.

    Originally, I believe, they were supposed to be glued to the box, but I think they are way better as a background--that way you can see them both at the same time. The details are really where the awesome is. And everyone knows how much I love details.

     
    Sheer dupatta-like fabric, detailing. little stars.

    The gold ribbon helped distinguish them--I love the way it twists and folds over itself.

      Those little elephant-toe mirrors are so Indian.

    On A's recommendation, M glued this golden rocky stuff all around the edges. The elephants are now standing sentinel in our room, but I can't manage to keep the stuff from falling off. Unfortunately in the transport back home they got a little bumped around, but they're still beautiful, and obviously made with a lot of love. Thanks, A and M.





    Friday, November 18, 2011

    If there's any doubt, give instructuons

    For the end of the ceremony, we didn't want to use rice or bubbles--Jon's cousin did sparklers but we were getting married in the afternoon and they're somehow suddenly illegal in Illinois.

    EB had an idea of using dried jasmine instead. I would already be wearing jasmine in my hair (a very Indian thing), so we thought it'd be a nice touch of continuity. So I bought a couple big bags of the dried stuff, some tulle in different shades of blue and asked my dad to make little bundles tied with ribbon for guests to throw as we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. He got tired of it pretty quickly so my mom helped him get the job done.

    On the day of the wedding, I assumed people would be told what to do if they didn't know already, but we were so busy, everyone sort of forgot. People held them in their laps, reverently. Not a single dried jasmine bud flew in the air that day.

    After we got back from the honeymoon, one of my friends from work asked me on Facebook what those little bundles were about--if they had some sort of cultural or religious significance. I told her nope, people were just supposed to throw the stuff at us but it was an epic fail in our part for not having a sign or some kind of instructions.



    They don't smell very strong, but if you sniff up close, there's a very nice fragrance.

    I'm keeping one of these pinned up to my bulletin board at work as a reminder of how people are not mind readers and I have to make sure and communicate what I want or risk disappointment. Another reminder is the basket of 200 tulle bags of jasmine flowers sitting in the basement.

    But not all of them went to waste. Pp's boyfriend has been keeping them in his shoes.

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    escort cards

    When Jon proposed, we didn't set a wedding date right away (savings draining away into the condo on the market). You'd think I would still be thinking about it, or at least gathering ideas, right? Nope. Through the end of 2009 and most of 2010, before we actually started planning, I had only decided on one thing: How I was going to make sure Jon's mistress got a prime spot at our wedding.

    Sports, people. SPORTS IS HIS MISTRESS. Between work, hanging out with me and friends and fueling the devotion to his teams, the man doesn't have time for an actual mistress. And I like it that way.

    Escort cards are generally how people figure out where they're going to be sitting when they show up to the reception. They differ from placecards in that placecards tell you which specific seat you'll be occupying at the table. Some people make one big sign, some people combine the cards with favors, some people skip the numbers all together--some friends of ours named their tables after places around the world that they'd visited together.

    Here's what we did: Each table was named after one of our favorite professional sports players. We put the jersey icon displayed at a table on the back of the name card for people sitting at that table so they could match it up. Jon was worried that because the numbers weren't going to be sequential, people would be confused. But when we made our grand entrance, it looked like everyone got to where they needed to sit just fine.
     
    Henry Ellard is Jon's favorite athlete of all time (Rams). He wore the numbers 80, 85 and 17. Anyone who has emailed Jon will note the significance. Michael Jordan (Bulls)? Well, duh.

    Kai came over a couple days before the wedding to help us get some "conceptualizing" done about how we were going to decorate the space. She and her husband have been gutting their new house and re-doing it for the last two years, so she's pretty practiced at mocking up her vision. I wanted the escort cards pinned up on glassless frames with a fabric background* kind of like this. Here's the mockup for the escort card table, just outside the doors of the reception area. I designed a poster based on our wedding invitation so that we'd have a nice even number of frames. I think that was a nice touch.
     My brother and his M couldn't stand the frames up against the wall because of some pillars, so they just laid them on the table. Honestly, I didn't even get to see what it looked like. I hope it was nice.

    Three nights before our wedding, I was typing out all the guests' names and printing out the little cards. Jon and my sisters-in-law and Steve were wrangling it all together, gluing the correct tables with the correct jerseys, punching the holes and making sure everything was going to work out, mathwise. 

    Steve (Jon never goes without socks) did a great job with quality control.

    My mom had helped me figure out the whole who can sit with whom thing (very tricky when you're dealing with the Auntie Patrol, in which some people cannot be sitting at the same table together). I agree, this is clearly the hardest thing to do when you're planning a wedding, floral tape notwithstanding. As you can see, we had a very sophisticated method of  Post-It Notes cut into strips to designate who was sitting at which table.

     The batik fabric was not half bad, though.
    These are the escort cards. The table numbers were simple orange cardstock with a jersey image. Each of those was meticulously cut out by my dad, my cousin's husband, my dad's sister and her husband. You know, because when you fly all the way here from Dubai and India, you really want to be sitting at a kitchen table in suburbia with a pair of child safety scissors all night. God bless them all.


     
    Thank goodness some of my friends took pictures of the decorations/elements--we have about a billion photos of ourselves, but slim pickings of the rest of the stuff. Which is why there aren't a lot of detail shots for me to put up here. We haven't gotten photos back from the photographer yet, and we want him to take his time with editing.

    During the reception when Jon and I were sitting on a raised platform and looking out into the crowd, I realized that I hadn't really given my crew much direction as to where to put which table. Our parents and immediate families were very close, but everyone else was sort of scattered around randomly. I think it's funny that the two people involved were the ones with the least idea of who any of these people are, my brother's M and Jon's sister's husband. But I guess it doesn't matter; there wasn't a bad seat in the whole place. 


    Oh, and if you're wondering which players we chose, here they are in no particular order:

    Jon's guys: Henry Ellard (Rams, 80), Kobe Bryant (Lakers 24), Derek Fisher (Lakers 2), Marshall Faulk (Rams 28), Eric Gagne (Dodgers 38), Steven Jackson (Rams 39), Earvin "Magic" Johnson (Lakers 32), Matt Kemp (Dodgers 27), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers 22), Kurt Warner (Rams 13), Lamar Odom "Kardashian" (Lakers 7)


    My guys: Michael Jordan (Bulls 23), Walter Payton (Bears 34), B.J. Armstrong (Bulls 10), Scottie Pippen (Bulls 33), Andre Dawson (Cubs 8), Patrick Kane (Blackhawks 88), Derrek Lee (Cubs 25), Greg Maddux (Cubs 31), Jim McMahon (Bears 9), Mike Singletary (Bears 50), Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks 19), Brian Urlacher (Bears 54)


    *When I made a quilt for Ale's baby at the beginning of the year, I just fell in love with one particular square: the not-teal-not-green-sort-of-peacock-feathery one. Of course, when I went to the store to get it for the escort frames, I found out that they stopped printing it. I had to settle for some Indonesian batik print that was nice, but not nearly as cool as the original. Oh well.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    the cake

    There's a girl at work, Brenda, who bakes. In fact, back in the day she made cakes for events until it wasn't fun anymore. Her stuff is AMAZING, guys. I pretty much love most any type of dessert, unlike some people [cough, mom*, cough] whose praise peaks at "it was okay" for pretty much anything. Even she says Brenda's stuff is "pretty good" (read: blue ribbon!). It's sweet without being cloying, fluffy but still has substance and it's just all-around scrumptious. She makes her own frosting that's so light I never want to scrape any off before digging in. And the cakes look amazing, too--she's got a fat binder with all these "Ace-of-Cake" type photos and letters from people who love her stuff as much as we do. I've known I wanted her to make my wedding cake long ago, even before she created that awesome underwear graduation cake for my brother.

    I'd seen Brenda turn people's requests down. She's in nursing school and working and has a family and lots of stuff going on. And I can only assume that the kinds of cakes she makes take a LOT of tender loving time. I was worried she'd say no. Somehow, my mom got her to do it.

    Unfortunately Jon and I like things very simple, which can come off a little boring. We were thinking a really small, one-tier cake with maybe a ribbon around it for us to cut in front of everyone, and then a couple of sheet cakes the back (made by her, of course). We wanted to make the least work for Brenda as possible. But she wanted us to have a much bigger and fancier cake, with different layers in different colors. She convinced us to go with a three-tier cake featuring a white-on-white design that Jon liked. And then she made two extra sheet cakes as well. Yellow cake with strawberry filling. If anyone knows about the Jewel strawberry shortcakes around this area, it was better than that. And she made chocolate cake, too.

    Before the wedding, Brenda had gone with me to the floral shop at the hospital. In a flash of reality a few weeks before the wedding, when mfm was trying to explain to me how far gone I was, I made the smart decision to have the florist make our boutonnieres and corsages because we were teetering on the precipice of too much DIY (before this wedding, I would have said there was no such thing, but I HAVE SEEN THE EDGE, PEOPLE, AND IT IS TERRIFYING). I had picked out some orange spray roses for Brenda to work with.


    From the four or five bites I was able to inhale that day, this cake was every bit as good as I had hoped.

    As per Syar's request, here is a clearer view of the detailing on the cake. I hope it's a little better.

    You noticed the oddly misshapen stick figures on the front of the cake's middle tier? Yep, another sign the DIY train had been way too close to the cliff without a guardrail. My plan was to make a stick-figure caketopper out of floral wire as a callback to our invitations. It was a decent idea--just not one I should have been executing THE DAY OF OUR WEDDING WHILE SITTING IN THE MAKEUP CHAIR. I rave about my photographer not only because he does awesome work and has a great personality; he whipped up the "bouquet" the stick-figure bride is holding while I had to put down the pliers and look to the ceiling for mascara.

    I realize that caketopper is not my best work. Another lesson I learned with this wedding is to just let things go, so I got over it. In fact, I'm just happy it was on the cake all: Jon and I were standing behind the cake when we cut it, so when I didn't see it on top of the cake, I assumed it wasn't there and was sad. I never should have doubted my sisters-in-law, cc and pp; they made SO much happen that I didn't even hear about until later. I only realized the stick figures had been on the cake all the time when we went to pick up the top tier and they were there in the box.

    Don't take my word for it: There was a three-tier cake, plus two sheets in the back. And, aside from the top we got to save for next September 17, there wasn't a single piece of cake left over.

    Brenda, if the nursing thing doesn't work out, please open a bakery.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    now wouldn't that be something to talk about while we cut the cake?

    My parents are from India. And one thing Indians know how to do are MUSICALS. As luck would have it, my parents enjoy Hindi music, and my father in particular loves him some Bollywood jams*. So the stuff was always on at my house growing up. And LOUD.

    Ever since I can remember, on the weekends my parents would play (read: my dad would blast) Hindi music videos while making breakfast. If you want to give me a perfect Saturday morning, wake me up with the smell of fresh parathas and the sound of "the Indian show." Then follow it up with an episode of "Saved By The Bell." I'll be your best friend. For life.

    One of my favorite songs of ALL TIME is this 1980 gem from Qurbani, sang by 15-year-old Nazia Hassan:

    Dude, this was NINETEEN-EIGHTY. Before the Internet. And 1980 India was more like 1973 in the states. 

    I distinctly remember being about three and singing this song ad nauseam at the top of the stairs with a hairbrush. A lot. In 1995, I taught my friend Kai how to sing it, even though she's Taiwanese and doesn't know more than a few Hindi words. She can still sing it to this day, but I'm pretty sure she's forgotten that it loosely translates to "If someone like you were to come into my life, that would be something to talk about/make news." Hindi never translates well. Which just adds another layer of entertainment when you stop to read the subtitles.

    I wasn't sure how to go about asking Jon if we can have this cheeseball Indian Disco jam play as we'd cut the cake. I mean, in all the episodes of "Namaste America" I've made him sit through these last six years, I'm pretty sure "Aap jaisa koi" was not featured (though it REALLY SHOULD BE. Are you reading this Obaid?). I finally managed to make my request and Jon says, "Ok, but on one condition, okay?" [Dramatic pause.] That this is the final answer and we WILL NOT BE SECONDGUESSING THIS DECISION."

    We didn't. And I was happy.

    People came up to me later professing their love for the song, too. You like it? Maybe you'll also enjoy this:


    The part that anyone can ever remember starts at about 0:55. And ends at about 1:10. I didn't even bother watching the rest.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    unexpected

    I'm sure you've noticed, but I never talk about work. A) Maybe I would if I were an astronaut or cowboy or pirate or something that warrants a "way of life" B) It's a liability C) I don't really share this blog with that many people (unless you count the 260-ish people who came to the wedding*).

    Anyway, so I don't talk about what I do. But I will make an exception today.

    I'm sort of a middleman, a fixer, a person whom they send in when people are angry and screaming and they're pretty sure are going to write a letter. I run around among many departments to try to solve some of the problems. And for some reason, they think I can. But here's the secret, which I learned in my old career: You don't actually have to know anything. You just have to know whom to ask.

    There's a department I don't technically work in; it isn't even in the same building. But they call my office a lot. And while I haven't even met many of them in person (and those I did meet, just for a few minutes when I wanted to build credibility and went over there to introduce myself), I know all their voices. They called me over to their department the day before I went on vacation for the wedding to give me this:
    It's a wedding cake. 

     Made out of bath towels.

    I think I love the little white flowers the best. 

    The woman who made it was fairly new to the job. And look at how much work she put into this; gluing down all the little flowers and pearls and the ribbons. Some of them were on recon, trying to figure out our wedding colors and when I'd be there. It was very very sweet. They all chipped in and got us the towels plus a giftcard to Macy's. You know I'm a sucker for thoughtful and handmade. I don't even work in their building.

    I was so surprised and touched, I can't bring myself to take it apart.


    *Please don't count all those people, because we shared the blogs with all of them and in the week after the wedding, I believe ONE new person visited it. Yes, we're lame enough that we checked. How could we not? This is how we met, for goodness' sake.