This is going to be a long one (and slightly educational :))..so if you don’t like large sneak peeks, skip on to the next..but you really don’t want to miss this :)
For those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook or Instagram, I recently had the experience of a lifetime and photographed my first Indian wedding..in India none the less! I have what is called a ‘Photography Bucket List’ which is basically a list of the kinds of weddings or sessions I’d like to photograph or places I’d like to photograph them in. For the longest time, the top of that bucket list was to photograph an Indian wedding. I love bright, bold colors, which I think is pretty clear in my photography, and any photos I’ve seen of Indian weddings were just that… bright, colorful and beautiful. So to have the opportunity to shoot an Indian wedding IN INDIA…well that just blew my mind… Here’s the story behind it:
The world is definitely becoming a much smaller place, and love certainly knows no boundries. Nick & Somya’s love story is one that spans half way across the world. Nick is from Nebraska, USA, Somya is from Jaipur, India…and they met a few years ago while they were both working in Munich, Germany. After Munich, Somya moved to London and Nick to Stockholm, but distance didn’t get in their way! This is definitely a love story that spans the world, and I love that they decided to celebrate their engagement with an engagement session in Munich, right where their story began :)
Fast forward to the end of February…their wedding!
My boyfriend (also my trusty assistant) and I had just landed in Delhi 2 days before heading down to Jaipur where the wedding would take place. The first 2 days there were pretty relaxed for us…we went to a meet & greet hosted by Somya’s super cute Uncle Ramesh and then a Jack & Jill style bachelor party thrown by Somya’s sister. The 2 days following that were absolutely amazing.
While we had a short introduction to many of Nick & Somya’s friends and family at the meet & greet, I really got a great chance to meet the guests during the afternoon of the Bhaat and Mehndi ceremonies which took place in Somya’s parents’ beautiful yard. The Bhaat Ceremony is in essence a gathering of the bride’s mother’s families.A few days before the wedding, the mother of the bride visits her closest family members and invites them to the wedding. During the Bhaat, they come baring gifts for the bride and her family. The Mehndi Ceremony is the long held tradition of applying Henna to the brides hands & feet. The other female guests also take part and get elaborate henna tattoos. Watching the ladies apply the henna was pretty amazing…they are SO fast and the designs are so intricate..each tattoo really is a work of art.
That nightwe all headed over to the Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh (Sisodia Rani Palace & Garden) for the Sangeet Ceremony which is all about music and dance…basically it’s a huge party before the wedding day :) The location itself was unlike anything I’ve ever seen..there were so many colorful lights, I’m pretty sure it could be seen from space! :) Throughout the evening, there were speeches from several close friends and family members and so many wonderful musical performances put on by the guests..I kind of felt like we were in a Bollywood movie..it was unbelievable! All of the performances were great, but the one that stuck out the most was the dance Nick did with Somya’s mom. Of course I couldn’t understand any of the words, but watching the dance moves you get a pretty good idea what the song is about. But what really stood out was how obvious it was that they already have a strong bond, mutual respect and really love each other. After the musical performances, I grabbed Nick & Somya for a few short minutes for a few portraits and family photos before calling it a day.
The next day was the main event..the day everyone was excitedly waiting for…the wedding! I headed over to Somya’s parents’ house just in time for the Haldi Ceremony. This is a special part of the getting ready process for Indian brides. During the Haldi ceremony, a mixed paste of sandalwood, tumeric, gram flour and rose water is applied to the brides face, arms and legst by 7 married women in her family.This ceremony basically signifies the purifying of the mind, body and soul of the bride (and groom) and once washed off leaves her looking absolutely radiant. Once Somya was dressed in her gorgeous red Saree, hair was done and make up was applied, it was time for the next special ceremony…the Choora Ceremony. This is when this maternal uncles will place wedding bangles (choora) on the brides arms after they have been purified in a type of water/milk mixture. Once the bangles are placed on the brides arms, a few of the unmarried female family members will tie beautiful dangling ornaments, called kaleeras, to the bangles or bracelets.
While Somya was getting ready at home, Nick was getting ready at a hotel nearby. At about noon, Nick, his family and friends started the procession over to Somya’s house…this is known as the Baraat. Once they arrived at Somya’ home, there were musicians and dancing in the street…this is when things REALLY got exciting! I can only imagine that Nick must have felt like royalty at this point..it was absolutely crazy in an awesome way :) At the entrance of the Somya’s home, the Milni Ceremony was carried out in which relatives from boths the groom’s side and bride’s side greet each other. This is also when the groom would usually take his sword or stick and touch the Toran (a decorative door hanging to ward off evil eyes) hanging over the entrance seven times.
Once Nick ‘officially’ entered Somya’s home, it was time for the Jaimala Ceremony in which he eagerly awaited his bride for the exchange of garlands. During this ceremony, the Somya adorned Nick with an absolutely beautiful garland signifying that he is her choice as her husband, and he then did the same to Somya. This also symbolizes the the exchange of their hearts, minds and souls.
After a short lunch break it was time for the main, and most important wedding ceremony, known as the Mandap Ceremony. A Mandap is a covered structure with pillars, which in this case was set up in Somya’s parents’ yard. It was beautifully decorated with strands of flowers strewn all around it, bright colored fabric, large clay pots, 2 gorgeous seats for Somya & Nick and several other items that would be used throughout the ceremony including the holy fire which they were to walk around 7 times while reciting their vows. This ceremony was one of the most fascinating and beautiful things I have ever seen. Between the colors of the decorations, how incredible Somya & Nick looked, the chanting of the mantras, the many rituals, and incredible emotion, it seriously gave me goosebumps…and I almost had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming…it was just that amazing and I just couldn’t look away or stop taking photos. That said, my absolute favorite part was when Somya’s dad ‘gave her away’ by placing her hand in Nicks…the emotion that followed was so touching. Somya managed to stay strong for a few minutes until she was just overwhelmed and couldn’t help crying. Luckily her beautiful big sister wasn’t far and swooped in to dry her tears. And then of course there were the looks exchanged by Nick & Somya…sometimes a simple look can describe a love between two people than words can ever express…and that love is just so obvious every time they look at each other. After they took their 7 rounds around the holy fire, they exchanged wedding rings, bringing a bit of western culture into the ceremony. Then Nick tied a Mangalsutra (auspicious necklace) around Somya’s neck to signify their marriage. He then added a bit of vermillion to the parting of Somya’s hair and a dot to her forehead, which signifies that Somya is now a married woman.
Everything in an Indian wedding ceremony seems to have a special meaning or significance. Evenhe time of the ceremony or the time by which the bride has to leave her parents’ home is auspicious. So, after the final blessings from the priest and the guests, Nick & Somya had to hurry off and make sure they left Somya’s parents’ home by their given time.
Later that evening was the wedding reception. The reception was held on the amazing grounds of the Jai Mahal Palace…a palace that dates back to the 18th century and has now been turned into a luxury hotel in Jaipur. This was a great time for the hundreds of guests to congratulate Nick & Somya and give them their blessings. With that many guests the newlyweds were certainly kept busy. Later on towards the end of the night as most of the guests went home, we had a few minutes for a few portraits of Nick & Somya..and I must say, they looked so glamorous! By this point they were starving since they had to fast all day, and (understandably) exhausted after a long and exciting week full of parties and wedding preparations. After getting something to eat they were able to sit back, relax and have fun with their closest friends and family members for the rest of the night.
I know I’ve already said it, but this was such an amazing experience that I will never forget. It was such a pleasure meeting both Nick & Somya’s friends and families. They were all just so sweet and accommodating always making sure we were eating and drinking and felt comfortable..they really just made us feel so welcomed. I really loved chatting with some of the guests during the downtime, including some fellow photography enthusiasts :) If you’ve followed my blog before, you know how much I love international weddings..and this was just about as international as it gets. Nick’s family flew in from Nebraska, their friends came in from different parts of the US, Germany and the UK and many of Somya’s family members flew in from literally around the world. It was so clear from the first party when we arrived in Jaipur that this wasn’t just a union of Somya & Nick, but of their families as well. It’s pretty safe to say that both of their families have just gotten much bigger! As Nick put it, it wasn’t about Somya’s family losing a daughter or Nick taking her away… it was about the families coming together while Somya’s family gained a son and his family gains a daughter (he said it much more eloquently of course :))
Somya & Nick, thanks so much for giving me this unbelievable opportunity! It was so great to see you guys again and spend a few wonderful and crazy days with you! You’re both so blessed to have such loving and supportive families..if that isn’t one of the keys to a long a beautiful marriage, I don’t know what is :)