Vaibhav & Parag’s Progressive Indian Wedding
by Raj Desai | 11/9/19
How many of you out there get annoyed when you get pushback for trying to modernize the rules of a traditional South Asian wedding ceremony? We feel the same way, which is why we felt SO MUCH joy when we came across Vaibhav and Parag’s interview (scroll down to see the full video) about their beautiful Jain wedding ceremony. They revamped traditions to not only reflect their love, but to also highlight their values and beliefs. It just goes to show that although some of our more old-school relatives would like us to believe that traditions are rigid and set in stone, that we can and should be fearless in fighting for progressive change and evolution. And what better time to do it then at your wedding?
A lot of the improvements that Vaibhav and Parag made were out of necessity – it goes without saying that traditional South Asian wedding ceremonies don’t naturally lend themselves to LGBTQIA couples. But even if you aren’t having an LGBTQIA wedding, you may be searching for an example of how other couples eliminated gendered, exclusionary, and patriarchal language or rituals. And the good news is it’s easier than you think. Here are the 4 ways Vaibhav and Parag pulled off their progressive Indian wedding.
1. Traditions Are For Everyone
Lesson #1: Just because your love may not look like the Indian generations that come before us, doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy and participate in all of the beautiful traditional aspects of an Indian wedding. Vaibhav and Parag may have modernized parts of their wedding, but they also kept the traditions that were meaningful to them – from the rituals in the ceremony itself to the small details, like wearing mehndi. So while we’re all for switching things up to reflect who you are, if there are certain traditions that you, your friends, or relatives have been made to feel uncomfortable participating in, don’t feel like you have to give that up.
I want to have the same traditions and rituals, and I want to show the world that it is possible to have that whether you’re a straight couple or a gay couple
2. What’s In A Name?
Familiar with Kanyadaan? It’s the part of the ceremony where the bride is given away. Vaibav and Parag changed it from ‘Kanyadaan’ to ‘Vardaan’ – where the groom is being given away. It’s no secret that Indian weddings are super gendered to a fault. Which makes it all the more amazing that Vaibav and Parag found a way to not only keep the tradition, but to also have it accurately reflect them. Sure, it’s way more common to see couples personalize the names of signature drinks and hashtags, so why not do the same for the rites in the ceremony itself?
3. Inspiring Others
Indian weddings can become a show in the most superficial ways possible – like the obscene displays of wealth that scream, “Look at how rich we are!” But it can also be an opportunity to showcase the beliefs that you hold dear, which not only is meaningful for you, but also for the older and younger generations who are attending your wedding. Vaibhav and Parag did this when it came time for blessings given to the bride, traditionally offered by only women. In addition to having women come give blessings and whisper words of marital wisdom in their ear, they also included same-sex couples.
In hindsight, the rigidity surrounding this is something I wish I personally had pushed harder against. Hindu rites were new to me since I’m Punjabi Sikh, and I was told that only married women were allowed to offer their blessings to me during the ceremony. There are SO many women in my family who are divorced, and their blessings don’t mean any less to me then getting them from someone who is married. In the end my relatives felt uncomfortable going against convention and my immediate family urged me not to stir the pot. It wasn’t a sticking point to the parties involved and many have forgotten about it by now, but going against my personal convictions and not fighting harder to get rid of that patriarchal thinking is one of the biggest regrets I have about my wedding.
The right to love and the right to live our lives on our own terms, that is our birthright.
4. Familial Support
The last thing that we love about their wedding is by far the most important – and that’s the support and the love from both sets of parents. They proudly walked them down the aisle, helped them pull off their traditional wedding, and supported them in all of the changes that they made to truly make their wedding ceremony their own. While parental support may be more challenging for some of us to obtain than others, it helps to identify and lean into people, be it siblings, aunts and uncles, or even friends, who will stand in your corner and defend the changes you want to make if your parents become too overbearing. And don’t forget the most important part – finding a progressive officiant who will work with you, your partner, and yes, even your parents, to make the changes you’re dreaming of a reality.
When it’s all said and done, what’s the biggest takeaway from Vaibav and Parag’s big day? The only rules that exist when it comes to your wedding are the ones that you and your partner write for yourselves.
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