The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nirbhika and Dinesh, June 8, 2008

Last weekend I went to my first Indian wedding! Nirbhika Parsani and I became friends when she worked at my company, after which she moved back to India to be closer to her family. While she was back in India she met (and apparently fell in love with) a man who lives in LA, so she recently moved to LA and married him. Their wedding was a spectacular, 3-day extravaganza in Orange County, California.

Our mutual friend Caitlyn just moved to LA as well, which worked out well because I had a place to stay, a date for the wedding, and of course good times since I hadn’t seen Caitlyn in a while! I arrived on Friday at Orange County’s frighteningly named John Wayne Airport:

Caitlyn picked me up. The wedding festivities began that night in Laguna Beach, so we headed there early to kill some time. Here’s Caitlyn enjoying a Starbucks on the boardwalk:

Then we went to a classy hotel to get dressed in their bathrooms (now that’s classy!) and have a drink. Called The Montage, it was a very nice place:

Then we headed to the Mehndi and Sangeet at a place called Seven Degrees in the canyon near Laguna. The Mehndi was on the roof. Traditionally this is the event where the bride’s hands and feet are covered in henna, as are other women. There was a tent under which several artists were giving Mehndi (that’s Nirbhika welcoming her guests in red, and Dinesh in maroon):

Ironically, Nirbhika had had her Mehndi in advance so she could enjoy herself better (rather than sitting around waiting for it to dry!) but that didn’t stop Caitlyn:

Typically only women get Mehndi, but Nirbhika made me get some too:

The lady gave me a nice sun design. Another guy who was there thought it was a cool idea so he got one too—only the lady gave him a design of hearts and flowers! He was less than pleased. Anyhow, Caitlyn’s came out great…but was nothing compared with Nirbhika’s!:

It was nice to see Nirbhika again. She was always one of the kindest, sweetest people I have ever met, and I think she truly appreciated the people who came such a long way to be with her. As the sun fell, more and more people came. They gave out bracelets and bindi (forehead jewels) and had custom cocktails. There was music and appetizers (though truth be told, there was so much and they were so good that I thought it was dinner!):

A beating drum announced that the Sangeet was about to begin. We followed the drummer inside, where there was a whole second party all set up!:

Nirbhika and Dinesh:

The Sangeet is a very musical pre-wedding party. There were performances by dancers and singers, both professionals and people from Nirbhika’s own family:

The Ladies’ Auxiliary?:

Dinner was delicious: traditional Indian fare. And luckily for us Westerners they had these handy labels to identify the more exotic items:

But wait…there’s more! As we were at the Sangeet, they were changing over the roof for hookahs, tea, and dessert!:

I was only going to pose with the hookah for a photo, but I tried it and it was delicious! It’s nothing like a cigarette or cigar—it was smooth, cool, and sweet like candy! My former coworker Brett Meeker and his wife Margo were among the other guests. Here’s Brett and his hookah:

For Caitlyn’s exotic experience, she decided to try paan, which is a “digestive” or spiced wrapped in a betel nut leaf:

As you may be able to see, she was not as happy with her new experience as I had been with my hookah. It took about 20 minutes to chew, during which another guest pointed out that betel nut leaves cause cancer. Good times, good times. Then the tea service was an event unto itself:

We finally called it a night, and what a night it was. So much fun, so many new things. It was already more extravagant than most weddings I’ve been to—and they weren’t even married yet! On the way home, Caitlyn had to open her car door to reach a toll. I just wanted to share her humiliation with the world:

We spent the night at Caitlyn’s apartment in Santa Monica. Caitlyn has a great apartment in a great location. Here she is in front of it…

…and it’s on a street that’s just so California:

Yummy brunch place:

We had the day to rest up from one set of activities and get ready for another, so we spent it hanging around Santa Monica, including a loooong walk on the beach (on the same path where Jack Tripper falls off his bike during the opening credits of Three’s Company…a random fact, use it as you wish):

It’s also the site of the historic Muscle Beach, where I took the opportunity to show off my new “ink”:

Talk about over-packing:


Caitlyn’s car:

Caitlyn’s paranoid neighbors:

Sunday morning we headed back down to the O.C. (that’s Orange County to you) and, more specifically, the St. Regis Monarch Beach. This was the hotel where the wedding would take place, and we had reserved a room so we could both party to our hearts’ content. It’s a lovely place, and Caitlyn sweet-talked the front desk into giving us an ocean-view upgrade!:

We had some time to relax by the pool before the wedding began:

Then we got dressed and headed to the gardens for the wedding. We got there just in time for the Baraat, or procession where the groom comes in to much fanfare to be welcomed by the bride’s family. I must admit I was a little disappointed that he didn’t come in on an elephant, or at least a horse—but maybe that was against St. Regis regulations:

The ceremony was a somewhat modified version of the traditional Hindu ceremony, which would normally take days. The groom has a coconut in his sash to show that he carries the weight of the world:

Then he is hidden by a sheet as the bride makes her entrance with her family:

They each hold a handful of rice and throw it at one another when the sheet is removed:

They each wear a varamala (sacred garland) and are seated:

Nirbhika’s parents and a statue of Ganesh:

There are many other parts to the ceremony: prayers, burnt offerings, sprinkling and the such. Here Nirbhika and Dinesh hold fingers and walk around the altar 7 times:

Talk about tying the knot…in a Hindu wedding, it happens literally:

In the Satpadhi the bride and groom hold hands and take seven steps on seven piles of rice, each of which confers a different blessing:

The couple bows to and is blessed and congratulated by their family and elders:

And then exits in a shower of petals:

It was a beautiful and interesting ceremony. Everyone who participates has to take off their shoes, and there are some traditional shenanigans with stealing shoes and making people buy them back. I took just a few seconds of video, which you can watch by clicking the little triangle in the lower left corner of this box (they played Clare’s favorite song!):

Caitlyn looking hot during cocktails:

The reception was more traditional—even the wedding party changed into more western attire. Here’s Nirbhika’s parents and then the happy couple making their entrances:

First dance:

Ma and Caitlyn toasting:

After the toast we both got toasted, so there’s not much else to tell except that the party went late into the night and was a blast and a half. The next morning we had brunch at the hotel and Caitlyn brought me back to John Wayne Airport (still scary) for my flight home. It was a quick but fun and jam-packed weekend. Dinesh seems great and he is lucky to have someone as sweet as Nirbhika, and I’m luck to have friends like Nirbhika and Caitlyn. Now it’s back to the daily grind for a few weeks before The Next Big Thing…my trip to Russia! Stay tuned…


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