Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Indian Weddings | The Bolder the Better

On receiving an invitation to almost any event, after the “where” and “when” questions have been answered, the next thing on most of our minds is the “Dress Code” and what we will wear.

My London-based friend, Vanessa, recently received an invitation to attend a wedding in India. Her neighbour, who is from Bangalore, had chosen to return to her roots to celebrate her marriage in traditional style. 

Having researched at length the dietary issues involved and addressed how her rather delicate constitution might fare - she bought up half of her local pharmacy’s supplies of Imodium - my friend then turned her attention to the matter of what else to pack in her suitcase.

After establishing that the weather in Bangalore (or Bengaluru as it is also known) was pretty hot and humid she lay out her smartest summer cocktail frocks on the bed and called her neighbour - the soon-to be-bride - in to advise.

Although Vanessa was confident that at least a couple of the outfits would pass the Indian wedding dress code test, she was somewhat dismayed when her neighbour gave a resounding “no” to each and every item in her entire wardrobe.

The problem wasn’t only that Vanessa’s selection was an array of LBD’s, even the smart neutrals and English-country-pastels were classified as totally unsuitable for any part of the three-day Indian wedding celebrations. 

The colours needed to be bold, she was told - in fact, the brighter the fabric the better. In order to blend in with the Indian guests, she should wear only brilliant jewel tones. If not a sari, then a dress with a shawl and lots of eye-catching jewellery would fit the bill.

“I refuse to wear a sari !” Vanessa announced.

My friend, who is short and petite, was stubbornly adamant that she would look and feel not only ridiculous but also uncomfortable wrapped up in metres of material however splendid the golden embroidery or brilliant its hue.

I am told that our Bangalore bride was able to assure Vanessa that tunics and trousers - in gorgeous colours could easily be purchased and made to measure at the local shops and she promised to take her intrepid wedding guest shopping as soon as she arrived in India.

That was on Monday.

As I write this, the first night of the wedding parties will be taking place. On this occasion, I am told, a priest performs a special ceremony known as “ganesh pooja”. Tomorrow will begin with a special ceremony for the bride and her female friends when intricate henna patterns will be drawn on their hands and feet. I am looking forward to seeing if Vanessa will return to London sporting a totally out of character array of Henna tattoos.

All the evening ceremonies will involve introductions of the various families, lots of food and dancing. I can’t wait to hear how Vanessa gets on - and see the photos.

Watch this space …

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Family Celebrancy | Sharing Wedding Traditions

We all now live in a multi-cultural society so it is only natural for us to “borrow” customs from each other. As our horizons widen through travel - either with air miles or, virtually, via the Internet - we can cherry-pick appealing cultural ideas and make them our own.

This trend has become increasingly apparent in all areas of our lives - from the expanding selection of food available in even the most mundane of supermarkets, through to the daily language we use. 

Whilst the effects of this blurring of cultural lines, might cause you some concerns, surely we can all embrace the freedom and increased opportunities it gives us to party and celebrate. 

Father’s Day, Baby Showers, Halloween and Prom Nights might all be relatively recent additions to UK diaries, but surely, most of us would agree that each is a fun and joyful event… so, why not? 

It could be argued that those of us who mutter about commercialism and added expense might just be a tad jealous that we missed out on all the fun. Personally I am a little sad to be a member of the generation of Brits who never got to dance at a prom, spend a maternity leave afternoon with girlfriends opening baby presents, or experience a sugar high trick or treating on October 31st. Undoubtedly, those who had these milestone experiences will have more and arguably richer memories to look back on.

But - the good news is - it’s never too late…
Nowadays, everyone can have the celebration they want to mark whatever occasion they desire.

Your wedding can be held anywhere, and it can incorporate elements from any culture you choose. Broom Jumping (believed to have originated in Wales) and the Celtic tradition of Hand Fasting are growing in popularity and you no longer have to be Jewish to break a glass underfoot or to shout “Mazeltov”!

If you are already married and were perhaps disappointed by your original ceremony, or some life changes have made you look again at your relationship, it’s never too late to renew your vows. A Vow Renewal Ceremony can take any form you choose. As with a wedding ceremony, it can incorporate special elements taken from any country or period in history - or, with the guidance of an imaginative Celebrant, you can invent something unique yourself.

My plan this week is to investigate the rich and colourful traditions of India where the weddings are globally renowned for their elaborate ceremonies and opulent celebrations that continue for several days.

The numerous wedding ceremony rituals include an engagement ceremony which officially marks the beginning of the wedding agreement between the two families. It is also known as the “sagai” or ring ceremony and is a great excuse to put on your most colourful clothes and have a party.

More on this next time…

Friday, 13 February 2015

Family Celebrancy | Celebrating Valentine's Day

Pets receive Valentine's gifts too
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Whether rude and crude, romantic and loving, or fluffy and cute, one billion Valentine’s Day cards will be in circulation  around the world this weekend.

You might think that the majority of these cards are destined for girlfriends and boyfriends - the young and in love - but you would be wrong. In fact the “sweetheart” group comes a mere fifth on the table of recipients. 

Based on retail statistics, teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards, followed by children, mothers and then wives… leaving husbands lingering somewhere near the bottom of the list. 

A surprising and uncomfortable trend this year has been a boom in Mistress e-cards celebrating adultery. The UK’s largest married dating site,, claims that 2.6 of these unlikely bestsellers were sold every minute in the run up to Valentine’s Day. Most of this range are aimed at men, although there are some designed for married women to send to their lovers - or Histresses, if you prefer. 

Apparently, the decision to launch the range came after a survey found that married men spent 23% more on Valentine’s gifts for their mistresses than their wives.
Am I the only one who finds it difficult to imagine how that nugget of information was gleaned?

For Valentine’s Day, I prefer the soft and cuddly statistic that tells us that about 3% of pet owners will give a Valentine’s gift to their pets …a bunch of catnip or some doggy choc drops perhaps?

It’s also pleasing to note that, on average, there are 220,000 wedding proposals on Valentine’s Day each year. Congratulations if you received one of them and, if you didn’t, don’t be too sad … next year’s a leap year, so you could always pop the question yourself.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Family Celebrancy | More Celebrations in February, please

February is a bit of a lacklustre month -

With the notable exception of Valentine's Day - with its over-priced flowers and restaurant reservations - there's really not a lot to enjoy or look forward to during its short, cold and dark 28 days.

So here's my recommendation: throw a party or, better still, how about combining it with a proper celebration ceremony?

Should "The Question" be popped along with the cava cork on February 14th, remember that Engagement Ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular. 
Or, perhaps you feel the time is right to renew your vows in front of family and friends.

Could it be that Western Society is in danger of losing its cheerfulness? 

Compare our lifestyle, for instance with those who live in Bali where each person experiences 13 major rites of passage in his or her lifetime ... and each one is marked by an elaborate ceremony. 
It has been estimated that a typical Balinese woman spends one third of her waking hours either preparing for a ceremony, participating in a ceremony or clearing up after a ceremony ... hmm, maybe that is a bit much ... but a couple of extra February celebrations could be fun.