My mind soon drifted away from comparisons as I understood that in Kerala, a Christian wedding is all about devotion. It is less a celebration of two lives and families coming together as it is a testament to God’s glory at allowing them to reach this point in their lives. No less than four priests held court before the happy couple, all dressed in flowing robes of white/black/red and suitably official headgear, as verse after verse was recited to the letter. The church itself was grand in that impeccably Christian way: imposing purely for the height of its ceiling, all angles, points and wings, but certainly not wanting for ornate carvings and elaborate stained glass windows.
That age-old desire to flaunt more wealth and status than your neighbour ties into another growing sector of the luxury travel market: weddings. Shifting your son’s or daughter’s wedding to foreign country is still a rare thing, but if you can manage it, you’ll be the talk of the town. This from the Wall Street Journal tells of nuptials in Macau and Bangkok and bills of up to USD$5 million – that’s over 22 crore rupees – with nearly a thousand guests flown from India, along with full catering staff and a host of top entertainers. The location is not chosen only for a hotel’s willingness to submit to the parents’ lofty requests, but also for its attractiveness as a tourist destination, which makes doubly certain that all the guests will return home with nothing but good things to say.
A Hindu wedding is dominated by colour: the red of the bride’s one-off sari, the tint of the gold chains around her neck, the white and green of fragrant jasmine flowers, the black of the groom’s hair and moustache – all illuminated in intense clarity by the camera crew’s megawatt bulbs. My first Hindu wedding was on merely my second day in Kerala, my venerable new neighbour eager to have the new saip present at his second son’s marriage, and the whole experience was utterly intoxicating. Some of that initial sheen has worn off after attending so many more, but enough of the magic remains that my enjoyment of each occasion extends beyond simply paying my respects, or ‘blessing with presence’ as one friend’s elegant invite read.