Sometimes you receive an invitation, which you just can’t turn down. So when I was invited to a Kashmiri wedding – I SAID YES!
Wow, that kinda feels like I was the one who got married.
Attending a Kashmiri Wedding As a Foreigner
In Kashmir a wedding is not just a party. It’s a gathering. A Kashmiri wedding is a three-day event, in which hundreds of people are invited. Exquisite decorations, unreasonable amounts of food, live music, dancing, henna tattooing, sparkling dresses. You name it and it’s there.
Kashmiri Wedding Food
A huge, huge, huge, part of a Kashmiri wedding revolves around food.
The cooking of the food over huge fires went on continuously for 4 days. Like a well-oiled machine the cooks produced a “wazwan” (wedding feast) consisting of 63 different courses!
The main ingredient to every dish was lamb, cooked in a dozen different ways.
I have never eaten so much lamb in my entire life.
Eating rice and meat while only allowed to use your right hand was – for a beginner like me – a proper mission.
I was spilling food everywhere and my mouth turned bright yellow as I was smearing the curry all over my face. Throughout the meals I did improve my technique by using my thumb to scoop the rice into my mouth. It still looked pretty pathetic though.
What to Wear to a Kashmiri Wedding
As soon as I got the invitation for the Kashmiri wedding, I bought a nice Kashmiri dress for the occasion. Little did I know, the women change dresses twice a day. That means that attending a three-day wedding, you’d need at least six dresses. Oh.
The guests and the bride wore their dresses in a particular order of sparkly-ness. Each dress being more beautifully decorated and bling-bling than the previous. They all lead up to that final stunning dress for the last evening of the wedding.
Obviously the bride was wearing the most exquisite dresses, jewelry, and make-up. Every time she changed to the next dress, she looked more beautiful. She could well have been a Maharaja’s queen – It was stunning.
Handing of Gifts
The gifts from the closest family members were opened straight away, while the other gifts were kept for a later moment. I have to admit I let out a sigh of relief when I heard the bride would not open my gift in front of all guests.
She was receiving sparkling, golden necklaces and bracelets. Beautiful handbags, fabrics, and expensive perfumes.
I had given her a tea set. Everybody was assuring me this was an excellent gift and she would love it. But I felt like my gift-giving was not up to this Kashmiri family’s standards!
In a last attempt to step it up, I added an envelope with money and a hand-written note. Turned out that the hand-written note was appreciated the most. There were even pictures taken of my note as inspiration for future weddings. So I guess I did do something right!
Arrival of the Groom
So far, the Kashmiri wedding was entering Day 3 – and I still hadn’t seen the groom. I was a guest of the bride’s side of the family. All the rituals, meals, dancing, and singing had only been in the company bride’s guests and family.
Simultaneously, there had been similar celebrations at the groom’s house. With his hundreds of guests.
The entire wedding was being celebrated separately so far. Around 80 women of the groom’s family did visit on the second day to bring their gifts, but after that, they’d left again.
Dressed as a true Kashmiri prince, and flanked by men of his family, the groom finally made his appearance on the evening of the third day.
The Kashmiri Wedding Ceremony
Then the Kashmiri wedding ceremony started. They would finally get married!
The groom and his father were sitting on a stage in a large, beautifully decorated tent. The bride was in the room too, hidden behind a curtain. She was invisible.
The priest first read the marriage contract out loud – in Arabic. Then he asked the groom three times if he wanted to marry the bride. After that, he asked the bride three times what her answer was.
The priest then continued with singing verses from the Quran and talking about various things I couldn’t understand.
And that was it. They were married. By now, you shouldn’t be surprised that there was no ‘kissing of the bride’ happening here.
Departure of the Kashmiri Bride
Now came the time for the bride to go – the saddest part of the wedding. The families, of both bride and groom, left together to the house of the groom’s family. The family of the bride then returned home. Leaving their daughter behind.
She belonged to another family now.