It had taken a long time for my landlords to find the right match for their youngest daughter. They had scanned the matrimonial ads, made inquiries through their friends and family members and even spent 3 months in the US (where their daughter lives) to screen potential candidates. In the end she found her future husband herself: a former university mate who also works and lives in the US. Finally a date was set!
Though I had been invited to many South Indian weddings, I had only attended the reception which was always a bit of a disappointment. What typically happens is you arrive for the reception and join the long line of people waiting to greet the couple. Once it's your turn, you go up on stage where the newly married couple is standing, congratulate them and hand them your gift. A photographer then takes your picture with the happy couple. You then proceed to the dining hall where you are served lunch or dinner (depending on the time of the reception). Then in true Indian fashion, you leave immediately after having eaten.
My landlords had told me the date of the wedding months in advance and asked us to attend all three days of the wedding. Finally I would have the chance to see what happens during a South Indian wedding!
On the second day the engagement ceremony was held. Here the bride sits beside her father while her mother stands behind her. The priests chant prayers in Sanskrit. This was an Iyer Brahmin wedding which follows special rituals. During the ceremony I asked the women sitting next to me to explain some of the rituals to me. I didn't get a more detailed answer than: "This is our tradition." Finally she admitted that though she is familar with all these rituals, she doesn't really know the significance of them.
When I arrived for the wedding ceremony on the morning of the third day, I found the couple seated on a swing outside! I was told this was another traditional wedding ritual. The bride's mother wears her sari draped in a special way worn by Iyer women on special occasions.
Playing of the nadaswaram during the wedding is considered auspicious. When an important moment of the ceremony was taking place, someone would gesture to the musicians who would speed up the music to a climax.
The groom has already tied the bridal 'thali' (necklace) around his bride's neck. Next they will walk seven times around the sacred fire, after which they are a married couple.