People-Oriented Travel (Part 2)

This is the second part of a two part series.  See part 1 here: People-Oriented Travel (Part 1).

We were going to an “Indian” wedding.

You’re probably thinking of the wrong kind of wedding. India is a diverse country. My wife, and her friend to be wed, are both Catholic Indians. About 2% of India is Catholic, and you see a lot of Western influence in Indian Catholic ceremonies.

So, while many weddings in India look like this:

A Hindu Wedding

The wedding we were participating in would look more like this:

A Catholic Wedding (my wedding 3 years ago)

When the bride initially invited us to the wedding, she also asked that we stand up in the wedding party with her other friends and family. For my wife it was a confirmation of her friendship since childhood with the bride. For me it was a chance to participate in a wedding in another country. When would we get this opportunity again? We happily accepted the offer.

One of our first tasks was to buy me an outfit appropriate for the upcoming ceremonies. You find a mix of traditional Indian clothing and modern Western dress attire at Catholic weddings in India. Since I would likely never get the chance again, we decided that I would wear a kurta – a traditional Indian outfit – to one of the ceremonies. We found one at a market for about $25 USD.

My wife and I in our Indian outfits

The rest of our week was comprised of various activities that the bride and groom had scheduled. They did a phenomenal job preparing for the wedding. There were multiple get-togethers scheduled so that everyone could socialize before and after the wedding. They also made arrangements to prepare the bridesmaid’s dress for my wife before we arrived.

One of the coolest activities scheduled was a group dancing lesson with a professional dance instructor. This is a great idea if you are ever looking for a pre-wedding activity to bring the wedding party closer together. It helps encourage shy dancers like me by giving them a few basic moves to work with, and it is a great bonding experience for the group.

There was a Roce ceremony before the wedding.

The Roce ceremony is unique to parts of India. During a Roce, friends and family pour coconut water, representing purity, on the bridal party. It is meant to represent a purification of the newlyweds as they enter marriage. All friends and family participate in the ceremony, meaning the bridal party is absolutely doused with coconut water by the end.

The Roce

During my wife’s friend’s Roce, several people brought eggs to complement the coconut water. Rather then gracefully separating the egg over the bride and groom, family would smash the egg with full force over their heads. Depending on the people involved, things can devolve pretty quickly like this. The bride’s family told me stories of other Roce’s where groomsmen would bring in ketchup and dirt to go along with the coconut water.

The bridal party left to shower and change clothes after we finished the coconut oil. At this point, the Roce turned into a ceremony rivaling a wedding itself. Food was served, an emcee started organizing games and playing music, and we danced for hours. It was close to midnight before we left.

The wedding went off without a hitch.

Being a Catholic wedding, it took place in a church near where my wife and her friend had grown up.  It was a beautiful ceremony. The priest spoke, vows were exchanged, and not 40 minutes later, man became husband and woman became wife.

What struck me was just how similar it was to traditional Christian weddings in the US. My wife and I experienced the exact same process 2 years prior and 10,000 miles away.  It seemed absurd that I could travel to the opposite end of the globe but relive the same ceremony.  Same to same, my wife explains

After the ceremony we took pictures around the Church. The weather was perfect – 75 degrees and not a hint of rain. To cap the evening we ate dinner and danced in a gorgeous outdoor reception.

The Reception

It’s all about people.

I have been lucky enough in my life to have formed relationships with people who have acted as my gateway to other countries. My best friend from high school invited me to Mexico to stay with his family for a week after graduation: years later I ended up living, working, and studying in Mexico for a year. My wife took me to India on our honeymoon to meet her extended family: now I have now been there three times and have great memories with the people there.

These adventures have taught me time and time again that the best way to experience a culture is to live and participate in it. Play a role in the birthdays, attend the weddings, go to the Sunday mass. It is the best form of travel.

Too long; didn’t read

Travel is best when you interact with others. As tourists we fixate on the new foods, the unique sights, etc. But we should not ignore the real beauty of any destination – its people – and should take advantage of any opportunity to experience events and activities with them.

This is the second part of a two part series.  See part 1 here: People-Oriented Travel (Part 1).

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