Incorporating Culture and TraditionJun 01, 2017 ● By Abigail Thrift
Photo by Murtaza Siraj (www.MnMphotography.net)
Indian customs, especially when it comes to traditional weddings, are well-known for being vibrant, beautiful and lively. Bold and colorful clothing, bright, blooming flowers and traditional music make any Indian social event exceptionally memorable. As is similar with all weddings, an Indian wedding is meant to establish a special bond between not only the couple, but also the families of the bride and groom. In the Indian culture, a wedding celebration is typically spread over two to three days and is inclusive of a number of ceremonies and rituals that are particularly special.
On the weekend of August 30, 2013, Rani and Sahil Kurji were married in a traditional Indian ceremony at Embassy Suites Frisco Hotel and Convention Center, right here in Frisco. “They were extremely accommodating and allowed us to incorporate all of our families’ wedding traditions,” Mrs. Kurji shares. “Indian weddings are a guaranteed good time! There are so many unique family traditions that take place throughout the wedding weekend, including delicious food and entertainment, brightly-colored attire and plenty of music and dancing.”
So, what should you be aware of if you receive a coveted invitation to one of these exciting celebratory events? Often, since guests may not have a traditional sari or lengha, they are encouraged to be outgoing in their clothing and jewelry color choices.
“Our wedding was comprised of several major events, including the Mehndi ceremony, the Pithi ceremony, the Sangeet party, the Nikkah ceremony, the Khoba Khobi ceremony, a reception and the Rukhsati send-off,” Mrs. Kurji shares. “Our favorite part of the wedding was definitely the Pithi and the Sangeet. Our closest friends and family gathered around, showered us with blessings and good wishes and closed the evening out by dancing the night away.”
Each of the major events included in an Indian wedding serve a very special, traditional purpose for families of the couple. During the Mehndi ceremony, a professional henna artist applies mehndi onto the hands and legs of the bride, at her home. During the Pithi ceremony, a paste made out of chickpea flour, turmeric, sandalwood powder, herbs, aromatic oils and rose water is rubbed onto the couple’s arms, necks, faces, hands and legs. During this time, loved ones bless the couple. During the Sangeet, a party, which is traditionally recognized in the Punjab regions of India, female attendees celebrate the upcoming wedding. The Nikkah is the religious marriage ceremony. The bride and groom sit next to each other while the mukhi-saheb reads their marriage contract. The Khoba Khobi ceremony centers around sapatia, which are clay plates filled with lentils, silver, sugar and turmeric. Sapatias are placed in front of the bride and groom and they step on them so they break, which is believed to release the various gifts contained in the plates. Then, a coin is dropped inside a bowl of rice between the couple and they each search for the coin. Whoever finds the coin first is said to be the one who will rule the household. The bride passes rice to the groom, seven times, letting go of rice between their fingers to fall onto a tray. Then, family performs the same ritual with the bride. To finish this ceremony, the couple feeds each other sweet milk. Another traditional aspect of the wedding celebration is the Rukhsati, which is a send-off for the bride by her family. Typically, the bride’s mother places her hands on the couple’s heads and puts her knuckles on either side of her own head and cracks them, representing the removal of pain. The bride’s mother often wraps a betel nut in a bandni and makes seven circular motions around the couple. Upon the couple’s departure from their celebration, a coconut is placed under the front wheel of the car. When it is broken by the car driving off, it symbolizes prosperity and blessings for the upcoming journey of marriage.
Shannon Rutkowski, the director of catering and events at Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park, says, “Typically, Asian Indian weddings last two or three days. Friday evening is usually a dinner with traditional ceremonies. Saturday morning is the Baraat (a groom’s wedding procession) leading into the wedding ceremony. The guests have lunch and the ballroom is decorated for the evening wedding reception. Cultural incorporations vary, depending on where the family is from, if the bride/groom are from the same region and if they want to include multiple traditions.”
The Baraat, mentioned by Ms. Rutkowski, is an exciting custom often seen at an Indian wedding. More often recognized in northern India, the groom is adorned with a saafa (a turban, typically pink or saffron colored) along with a sehara (a floral veil), which is tied around his forehead by his mother. Swords are occasionally given to the groom before he is seated on a decorated white mare, as he heads toward the wedding venue surrounded by his baraatis (family members, groomsmen and friends). The groom is then welcomed by the bride’s family.
With every spectacular wedding comes a wonderful menu. Dishes featured at Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park that have become most popular are their baghara baingan (an eggplant curry), homemade naan, chicken tikka masala, chai tea and Chef Vikramjit Katoch’s famous gulab jamun (a milk-solid-based dessert). The nearby facility recently welcomed the new executive chef, Mr. Katoch, to the team, and he shares personal knowledge and experience with the Indian culture and cuisine. He brings life and authenticity to the group’s catering of local Indian events. His skills in the kitchen reach outward to other cultures, as well. Ms. Rutkowski shares, “Chef Vik makes it a point to meet with the bride and groom to get to know a little about them and where they are from. Once he meets with the couple, he customizes a menu that is specific to their celebration. Then, the fun part happens! We all have a tasting to ensure we are matching the flavors they are looking for and go over the presentation details.”
Many local Frisco businesses are working to integrate Indian culture into their offerings. Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park recently partnered with a wedding décor and event design company, Blissful Celebrations, to host a wedding showcase at the hotel. Ms. Rutkowski says, “We learned so much from them and the event allowed us to network with the Plano/Frisco community and hear about trends and what couples are looking for in a wedding venue. It was a well-attended event and a win-win for both Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park and the vendors. It was great to be able to show off our beautiful and spacious ballrooms, as well as different options for décor, entertainment and food.” Ms. Rutkowski has had experience with many weddings and a variety of cultures, but the most important tradition she always sees, in any culture’s wedding, is the role the family plays.
Accepting and incorporating other cultures into your own can be eye-opening, enriching and rewarding, especially for citizens of a fast-growing community. Whether your family has been in Frisco for generations or you are a newcomer, this is an excellent opportunity to embrace and learn from the many wonderful families that live in your neighborhood and city. As you learn about others, oftentimes, you also learn something about yourself. Every culture and custom offers its own beautiful and unique perspective on the world. May we all do our best to remember that every person living in Frisco has a different and important story to tell.