An Indian wedding is not just an over the top marriage ceremony; it’s an ancient custom to show off your money and to build a standard among relatives. Being a part of a big, joint, Indian family, I have attended a lot of weddings, and I am still always excited to go to the next one. More than the family get-together, I love the wedding food, I love to see the bride and groom, I love daydreaming about my wedding day, and above all I love dancing to Indian music.
Udesi, a student club at the University of Alberta, organised their 3rd annual mock Indian wedding called Band Baja Barat. Usually, the club hosts Indian dance parties but this was supposed to be like a real wedding. They advertised the full experience of an Indian wedding: the food, the entertainment, and the culture, for $35. To make it a genuine Indian wedding, wearing a traditional outfit was mandatory for everyone. The event took place on September 30, 2023 at Ice Palace in West Edmonton Mall starting at 7pm.
I was super excited to attend my first wedding in Canada all alone without any judgy relatives, even though it was only a pretend one. There were no rules for me to follow. It didn’t matter if I was a spinster! I could wear whatever I wanted, eat as much as I wanted, and dance as much as I liked. I took this chance to wear a saree for the first time—an attire that only married women in my family wear. If I know one thing about Indian weddings it is that they all start late; therefore, I showed up fashionably late at 9 pm. I felt at ease when I saw girls wearing lehengas [ankle length skirts] at the mall entry but I felt out of place because a Canadian parking lot did not feel like home.
While I anticipated the late start, I was taken aback when I saw the empty stage. The audience was dressed fabulously in traditional clothing, but there was no entertainment happening except music. The clothing, jewellery, and other Indian businesses had set up their stalls making a U shape market around the seating area in the centre. The stage was set up on one side for the DJ and the dance floor and the alcohol bar was in front of the stage.
I met my friends who had been there since 7 pm and they were disappointed and bored as hell. They got henna done at the henna stall, took a walk around to see the Indian vendors and then had nothing else to do. There were no wedding games, dance performances, or Pani Puri stalls as promised on the flyers. Eating Pani Puri is the first thing you’re supposed to do when you go to an Indian wedding—that is the rule! They didn’t even do Antakshari, which is a musical game where you sing songs that begin with the last letter of the previous song. I had spent so much time memorising the latest Bollywood songs to look cool. I was very disappointed to have no entertainment.
The only performance was a fashion show featuring eight girls dressed as Indian brides and two boys dressed as grooms—which is not even a part of an Indian wedding! At this point, I wanted to give them a crash course on what an Indian wedding is.
Furthermore, the poor speaker quality made it difficult to follow announcements, possibly due to the open setting of Ice Palace. The host was asking the audience to come on stage and talk about their outfits—never saw that happening at an Indian wedding. It’s also awkward to go on stage and talk about your outfit—not everyone is an influencer! The main stage is supposed to show off the bride and groom because they are the celebrities of the wedding. One of my friends was really mad that the host had completely ignored the “compulsory traditional attire” and wore a western skirt.
Gulping the grudge of no Pani Puri, we decided to give the buffet a chance for the sake of our hungry stomachs. The buffet had only one food truck by Masala Wok outside in the parking lot. We stood in the line for half an hour, only to move ahead a couple of inches. I was hungry at that point, and I didn’t even get to taste any of the food, because instead of wasting our time standing in the line, we decided to dance the night away. At least I got to do one thing that I love—dancing to Bollywood songs.
The traditional wedding food: Pani Puri
I don’t want to be a Debby downer, but I hated the DJ for mixing western beats with Bollywood music. The DJs had definitely not attended a traditional Indian wedding. I felt bad for the dhol drummer on the stage whose traditional drumming was overpowered by the DJ music. However, during the brief moments when the DJ paused to let the dhol player shine, I went all in for Bhangra and my saree came undone. Thankfully no one really noticed as everyone was busy dancing and I quickly fixed it.
The Udesi club basically just organised an Indian-themed dance party. It didn’t even come close to capturing the essence of an Indian wedding. Without a bride and a groom, you can’t copy an Indian wedding. With a pretend wedding couple they could have performed many of the traditions of an Indian wedding like ribbon cutting ceremony, Varmala ceremony, shoe stealing ritual, and many more little things that make an Indian wedding the most fun event. The only positive was the respectable crowd—there weren’t any creepy Indian uncles staring at girls with drinks in their hands.
It would be an insult to call this event a mock Indian wedding. The organisers over-promised, and they definitely under-delivered. It was merely another Indian dance party with bad sound quality and a white washed DJ that gave us a chance to wear our Indian outfits that had been suffocated in our suitcases.