Intercultural differences and dissimilar socio-cultural values can sometimes cause conflicts. However, there are cases proving that modern people can overcome cultural barriers and unite in the name of love. To illustrate this idea, I would like to describe the wedding celebration of my friend Aditi and her Russian boyfriend Alexander that took place one year ago and helped them to show respect to each other’s cultures and families.
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The Indian-Russian celebration was organized in California in March 2018, and it lasted for two days because the newly married couple wanted to unite their relatives by encouraging cultural exchange. On the first day, the bride and the groom practiced Indian wedding traditions such as the sacred fire and the seven steps to please Aditi’s family. The next day, they changed the location and continued celebrating the wedding in Russian style, with traditional dishes and dances.
Preview: This essay is devoted to the Indian-Russian wedding that I attended as a guest one year ago. Being the representatives of dissimilar cultures, the bride and the groom decided to organize a two-day celebration featuring both Indian and Russian traditions.
Aditi started dating her boyfriend in 2016, and, according to her words, she was afraid of disappointing her parents that were critical towards multicultural couples. My friend told me a few times that their wedding was a difficult decision due to her parents’ willingness to see her with a man of Indian descent. Despite that, Aditi’s parents accepted her choice after meeting Alex in person, and they started making preparations and studying each other’s cultural traditions to choose the appropriate wedding plan. It was a Saturday in March when I arrived at the couple’s house in California to join the celebration. I knew that Aditi and Alexander had already conducted all legal procedures and exchanged their wedding rings.
When I came in, I saw that everything in their room and kitchen was decorated with separate red and orange flowers and long flower garlands, and female guests’ outfits were similar in color. There were twenty-six people in the room, fourteen of which were on the groom’s side. Among the groom’s guests, there were both his Russian relatives (they had immigrated to the United States as a family) and American friends from his university group.
Aditi had asked Alexander’s female guests to choose either red or orange clothes, and the majority of women were wearing long red dresses. The choice of color had a symbolic meaning – according to Pastoureau (2017), red color became popular in India due to associations with fire, “an early object of worship” (p. 23). To support the chosen color theme, Aditi provided the male guests with red flower necklaces.
All people on the bride’s side had chosen traditional wedding outfits typical for Indian celebrations such as tunics and sarees, with women wearing massive bracelets and earrings. Speaking about the couple, both bride and groom were dressed in traditional outfits. Aditi’s saree was red with silver ornaments, whereas Alex was wearing “India’s traditional menswear” – a beige wedding sherwani with symmetrical embroidered elements (Gupta, 2016, p. 1). The Russian guests said that they were amazed by the beauty of traditional wedding clothes worn in India.
On the first day of the wedding, all guests were offered traditional dishes such as butter chicken, jalebi, and snacks with paneer – “a type of cottage cheese that is very common in most Indian cuisines” (Malik, 2016, p. 26). After eating, we became the eyewitnesses of the sacred fire ceremony. According to Indian traditions, the fire is usually created by a bride’s father “to cleanse the union of all the evil’s eyes” (“5 Hindu wedding rituals you must know all about,” 2017, para. 4).
Aditi and Alex joined their hands and sat near the fire; after that, to respect the tradition of “the seven sacred steps”, they tied their dresses together and walked around the fire while accepting guests’ congratulations (Diravidamani, 2019, p. 1285). After the ceremony, Aditi’s relatives started teaching other guests how to dance, and we spent the rest of the evening dancing, singing, and having conversations. I asked Alexander’s friends about their impressions, and they told me that it was the most unusual wedding.
On the following day, all guests met at a local restaurant to continue celebrating. Aditi told me that Alex was a non-believer, so he did not want any Russian rituals with religious meaning. There was a long table, and the room was decorated with LED garlands, fresh flowers in vases, and red ribbons. The guests were dressed officially, in long dresses or shirt and trouser combinations. Also, Alex gave all women white shawls with red roses, whereas men were asked to put on red ties.
With a laugh, Aditi entered the room and asked if we liked her appearance. She was dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt and a red sarafan dress, with her hair french braided. As my friend later explained, she decided to surprise her family. The bride was accompanied by two musicians who were playing the balalaika and the accordion. As Aditi’s parents said later, they enjoyed the music and their daughter was beautiful in her unusual outfit.
After meeting Aditi, we sat down to the table and started eating. Alex mentioned all dishes present on the table and listed their main ingredients for us. Knowing about specific restrictions in India concerning the use of beef (it was “typically considered to be a cause of untouchability”), Alex included baked fish and chicken in the menu (Siyech & Narain, 2018, p. 187). He told us that he wanted the food to represent the traditional dietary choices of Russians and encouraged us to try blini with red caviar and cherry.
Then, Aditi and Alexander asked the musicians to play some traditional songs and started dancing, and his relatives agreed that the bride was extremely good at it. Ten minutes after, other guests joined their hands and formed a circle with the couple in the center (the so-called khorovod dance). The rest of the evening, the guests were dancing, singing, and playing tabletop games.
To sum it up, my friend and her fiancé organized their wedding with respect to both Indian and Russian traditions. The guests were provided with an opportunity to try different dishes, listen to Russian and Indian music, and learn more about religious rituals. In a conversation a week after the celebration, both Aditi and Alexander told me that their approach helped their families to build positive relationships.
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5 Hindu wedding rituals you must know all about. (2017). India Today. Web.
Diravidamani, S. (2019). Cultural disputes depicted in Chetan Bhagat’s 2 states. International Journal of English Language, Literature in Humanities, 7(1), 1280-1291.
Gupta, T. (2016). The influence of British rule on elite Indian menswear: The birth of the sherwani. Web.
Malik, U. (2016). Foods with legal stories. Science Reporter, 53(1), 26-28.
Pastoureau, M. (2017). Red: The history of a color. (J. Gladding, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 2016).
Siyech, M. S., & Narain, A. (2018). Beef-related violence in India: An expression of Islamophobia. Islamophobia Studies Journal, 4(2), 181-194.