My summer intern, Emily Shapiro, wanted to share this beautiful story from a wedding she attended this summer.
A few weeks ago, I joined my family in celebrating my cousin’s wedding in Philadelphia. This summer has been full of weddings for me, and even in late June it was already the third I had attended in the past few months, all of which were relatively traditional American celebrations. Each had the requisite white dress, vows written by the couple, and a DJ that jammed to top 40 tunes. Not that they all weren’t lovely and unique in their own ways, but I was getting used to the format to which it seemed everyone adhered. That’s why I was so excited when I got the invitation to William’s wedding early in the spring. Though he was raised an Orthodox Jew, Will married Akhila Vasthare, a beautiful and warm doctor in her first year of residency, who happens to come from a traditional Hindu background. Most of Akhila’s family lives in India, while my uncle, William’s father, lives in Israel.
When I told my friends I was attending an orthodox jewish/Indian wedding, most people asked how the couple’s families were handling it. Were my uncles disappointed that Will had his rehearsal dinner on a Saturday night, the day of their Sabbath? Would Akhila’s family have preferred that she have a complete Hindu celebration? The answer: probably a little, but those details weren’t important to anyone involved. Overall, everyone was overwhelmingly warm, welcoming, and so happy to incorporate the religious and cultural customs of the two families into a multi-cultural and very multi-faceted weekend.
As expected, this wedding was definitely different than the others I’ve attended recently, but more than different, it was inspiring. Beautiful patterns and colorful saris were everywhere (even William’s mother and sisters wore them!), and coupled with the more somber traditional tallit and monochromatic suit worn by the groom, the bride stood out even more in deep red on the day of the wedding. The rehearsal dinner morphed into a giddy night of choreographed bhangra dances, and the bright pastels and jewel-toned costumes of those performing swirled together in kaleidoscopic combinations of colors.
The weekend itself became representative of the couple’s union; it was a true joining of different traditions and stylistic details. The dance performances at the rehearsal dinner were combined with a traditional Jewish Havdalah, the food served at the wedding reception was kosher vegetarian Indian, and there were surprising details that overlapped cultures during the ceremony itself. The whole weekend was brightly-hued and unexpected, and I even left with ruby and emerald bangles and a hand covered in henna that lasted a week.
Cookie-cutter weddings are reliably beautiful, but Will and Akhila’s was a reminder that a wedding should truly celebrate the coming-together of two people and all that comes with that; their families, cultural traditions, and personal style.