Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Bridal Make Up & Hairstyle

As all my wedding day outfits were red and most of them were Indian, I imagined myself in a Bollywood-style makeup that would emphasize my eyes and use strong colors. I was not sure if I would be able to apply such makeup myself, therefore I decided to hire a professional makeup artists to do it for me.

I picked Chris Scott from Makeup Gourmet as he had amazing yelp reviews and also his studio was located close to my house. Around a month before a wedding I scheduled an appointment with Chris for a makeup trial, and I was very pleased with the results. He convinced me that I should wear as delicate makeup as possible, and only "play my eyes" a bit. It was not what I was initially looking for, but upon seeing myself in the mirror after Chris finished applying the makeup, I got convinced that the natural makeup is the way to go.

Chris also convinced me to hire a professional hairstylist to do my hair. Initially (to save money) I planned to do my hair myself, but then I decided that it was more convenient to have somebody else do it for me. I hired a hairstylist recommended by Chris (Nicole) as that would simplify the process even further: they worked with each other before, and both of them could work on me simultaneously at Chris's studio, which would save me some time on my wedding day.

I scheduled a trial with Nicole and I was reasonably happy with her. She was not as interesting to talk to as Chris was, and I did not think that she did an outstanding job, but it was not bad either. Though I have to say that I think she did a better job with my hair during the trail than on the wedding day itself, which was a bit disappointing.

All in all I could definitely recommend Chris's services, but not Nicole's.

Makeup trial:

Hairstyle trial:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Dresses

Hindu wedding tradition dictates that a bride wears a sari during the religious part of the ceremony. In most parts of India the wedding sari is red, as this color is considered to be auspicious and joyful. However in some families (e.g. Anil's mother's family) bridal sari should be white.

As you could see on the pictures that I posted here earlier, my wedding sari was red... We did not want to contradict Anil's family tradition, we simply did not know that it should have been white. And by the time we found it out, we had already bought a gorgeous red sari for me, as well as matching jewelery and bangles, so we decided to stick with it. And to be completely honest, I did not regret not wearing white on my wedding day. White seems too traditional, and I also think that red much more suits my personality (and my complexion).

I planned to wear my beautiful red sari throughout the whole wedding day, but I was told that it is common (and expected) for Indian brides to have several different outfits on that day.

One of my Indian friends told me that she wore 4 different saris on her wedding day: she arrived to the wedding location in a green sari, she wore a purple one during the first half of the ceremony, changed to a red one half way through, and after the ceremony she switched to a blue one! (I would like to point out that wearing several different colors of saris also means changing bangles and other jewelery, so it is at least half an hour process.)

Also Anil's uncle insisted that I should have had several different saris on my wedding day. He argued that "it is my day" and that "I should be in the center of attention" (I would hope that any bride on her wedding day would be in the center of attention, no matter what she would be wearing...). Moreover, the uncle told me that there was a high chance that my sari would have gotten ruined anyway during the ceremony: it is customary that during Hindu wedding both a priest and guests throw a turmeric-stained rice at the wedded couple, and that may cause permanent stains.

I had to argue extremely hard to convince the uncle, priest and even Anil, that I do not want any turmeric-stained products to be thrown at me, and that we did not just spend a fortune on my wedding sari so that it can get ruined within an hour. After several lengthy discussions I managed to convince everybody that changing a sari in the middle of the ceremony is not feasible, and in the result, the uncle suggested that instead of stained rice the flower petals could be used.

I was very happy about that and for a few more days I considered wearing only my bridal sari during the whole wedding day. I changed my mind as soon as I realized how difficult it was to walk in a sari, especially when it is as heavy as usually wedding saris are. I convinced Anil that I need one more outfit, and again we made a trip to University Avenue in Berkeley, where several Indian shops are located.

I looked at and tried on around 20 lehengas until I finally found the one that I liked. Completely by chance I picked gold-red lehenga, which was great as keeping the same colors made it easier for me to change outfits on my wedding day: I did not need to worry about changing the jewelery, shoes or bangles. As soon as the religious part of our ceremony was over, I disappeared for a couple of minutes and reappeared in the lehenga. I wore it during the photo session and throughout the reception, but just before we left for the wine tasting at the nearby vineyard, I changed my outfit again...

I thought that it would be nice to wear something from Poland as well on my wedding day, so I asked my parents to have a red evening gown made for me by my favorite tailor. I wore my Polish gown during the visit to the vineyard, but immediately afterward I changed back into lehenga as I thought it would have been a much more appropriate outfit for a Bollyweird festival that we were attending in the evening.

The moral of the story is that despite the initial resistance, in the end I behaved like a typical Indian bride. But I do not feel bad about it :)

This is the sari that I wore during the religious part of the wedding ceremony:

Sari from up close:

Here is a lehenga that I wore during the reception:

Lehenga from up close:

Here is my Polish tailor-made dress:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Decorations

All bridal magazines tell you that one of the first steps during the wedding preparations is "establishing your color scheme". We skipped that step as we were determined to keep the decorations to the minimum and we hoped that our guests would not mind that. In the end, they were coming to our wedding to share our joy, not to admire the centerpieces.

In accordance with Hindu wedding rituals, wedding ceremony should take place under a structure called "mandap". Thanks to the existence of a large Hindu community in the Bay Area, there are several companies that rent them here. I contacted almost all (if not all) of them to find out what kind of mandaps they offered and how much they charged for renting them out. Quickly I got frustrated that nobody was willing to tell me their prices and they all insisted on meeting in person. "Madame, it is better to discuss prices in person" - may well be, but I do not have time to visit five or six places spread out over the whole Bay Area just to pick one item that I need for the wedding!

Luck was on our side and during one of the subsequent visits to the Livermore Temple we witnessed a wedding under a beautiful gold-red mandap. I sent Anil to find out from where that mandap was rented. Again lady luck smiled on us: the very first person that Anil stumbled upon was a brother of the bride. He gave us a contact info for the Hayward-based company called "Prime Party Rentals".

A week later we visited that company and decided not only to rent a mandap from them, but also all other items that we needed, such as silver stools, banquette table clothes, chair covers, and so on. We also asked them to make garlands for us.

Prime Party Rentals did a decent job, but I'm not sure if I can recommend their services as they messed up several things for us. For example they put on marron ribbons, instead of red, on all the chairs. Luckily I noticed that in time and they managed to exchange them before the ceremony started.

Second thing that they messed up was a set up of the mandap. During Indian wedding ceremonies fire is used extensively and hence the wedding halls have special fume exhausts under which a mandap should be placed. The people who were setting up our mandap failed to notice the fume exhaust and they placed it in the wrong place. Because of that we had to have a fan on throughout the wedding to avoid a risk of activating a fire alarm... (That would be fun: sprinkles starting in the middle of the ceremony...)

Third, the garlands they made for us were unacceptable. Most of the flowers were wilted and looked utterly sad. We only noticed how bad they looked at around 9:30pm on Saturday evening (12h before the start of our wedding ceremony), so we were doubtful if we would manage to find a florist that could make new garlands for us. After our uncle intervened with Prime Party Rentals, they took care of making our garlands look somewhat better. Still, they were not of the quality we expected and paid for.

As for other wedding decorations, we decided not to have flower centerpieces and instead have a nice selection of fruits that our guests could munch on before lunch. We also decided against renting plates, glasses and silverware, as the rental price was close to the price of buying those items! So we thought that it made more sense to pay a little bit more and own the items, rather than rent them. Of course that meant much more work for me as I was the one that was washing it all, by hand, before the wedding. And let me tell you, it takes a lot of time to wash 120 wine glasses, 120 juice glasses, 120 plates, 120 knives, 120 forks and 120 spoons.

The knives, forks and spoons were brought by Anil from India, whereas wine glasses, water glasses and plates we bought in IKEA. After the wedding we gave half of these items to our friends and family, and we kept the other half for ourselves. So even now we could throw a party for 60 people :)

While shopping in IKEA, I noticed a nice big elephant and convinced Anil that we should buy it and bring to the wedding. According to Indian wedding customs, the groom should arrive to the wedding location either on a horse or on an elephant. I really wanted Anil to arrive on an elephant and I was willing to pay a lot to see that happen, but arranging it in the US would not have been easy. So, as a compromise, I thought that at the very least we should bring a little elephant toy with us in the car.

Anil with an elephant in IKEA:

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Menu

We were extremely fortunate that one of Anil's "uncles" decided that we needed help with the wedding organization. He was terrified by our lax attitude about it, and decided to guide us through the process. One day (around two months before the wedding day) he invited us over to his place and presented us with a list of things that needed to be organized before the wedding.

We embarked on a long discussion with him as he wanted to make our wedding as grand as possible, whereas we wanted to keep it as small and simple as possible... After long and hard negotiations we managed to achieve a compromise satisfying both sides:

(1) We agreed to have a wedding cake (even though we do think it is ridiculous to pay so much money for a cake, just because it is a "wedding" cake)

(2) We did not agree to spend fortune on a jewelery for me (a diamond necklace was mentioned several times)

(3) I did not agree on changing sari in the middle of the wedding ceremony, but later I did come around to the idea of having more than one outfit on my wedding (I will discuss this issue in a separate post)

(4) We did not agree on extravagant decorations of the wedding hall (e.g. except for garlands, we did not have any other flowers)

(5) We agreed to have wedding favors (it is an auspicious thing to do in India, and it is a traditional thing to do in the US too), even though I'm convinced that 90% of guests trash the wedding favors as soon as they leave the wedding...

(6) We agreed on having mango leaves imported from Hawaii for our wedding, as long as we did not have to be involved in importing them (again Indians consider mango leaves to be auspicious)

(7) We did not agree on hiring a professional photographer or videographer, as I felt that the ones that would do a decent job would be outside our financial range (I do not think that any of the San Francisco-based photographers who charges ~$5'000 would have done a better job than my photographer friends did.)

I think Anil's uncle must have been very frustrated with our stubbornness and was clearly overjoyed every single time we surrender to his ideas. I'm very grateful to him for all his help, and that he was always gracious, and in the good mood - even when we were disagreeing with him.

The uncle also recommended to us a cook for the wedding reception. Initially we were thinking about getting food from one of the Indian restaurants in the Bay Area, which would have been easier for us as they would have also provided the plates, glasses and silverware. But in the end we decided to hire a private person to cook for our wedding (a wife of the temple's official cook), even though it meant much more work for us (it became our job to buy/rent all the eating utensils and dishware), as we felt better about giving money to a "real" person vs a restaurant. It seems that it was a good choice as many of our guests complemented the food.

I forgot to mention that as per rules of the temple all the food we served was vegetarian, and also no eggs, onions or garlic were used in its preparation (those items and meat are considered to be impure). In case you are wondering, we also could not serve alcohol.

Here is our wedding menu:

As some of our guests have food allergies and others are simply picky about the food, we also decided to print out a list of ingredients for each dish that was served:

1) Idly
Ingredients: Urad Dhal (Black Lentils), Rice

2) Coconut Rice
Ingredients: Rice, Coconut, Chenna Dhal (Split Chickpeas), Urad Dhal (Black Lentils), Cashew, Green Chilly, Curry Leaves

3) Pulav Rice
Ingredients: Rice, Mixed Vegetables, Onion, Green Chilly, Masala Powder, Spices 

4) Eggplant Curry
Ingredients: Eggplant, Urad Dhal (Black Lentil), Mustard Seeds, Asafoetida, Salt, Oil, Curry Powder, Turmeric Powder

5) Potatoes Curry
Ingredients: Potatoes, Peas, Tomatoes, Chilly Powder, Turmeric Powder

6) Cucumber Raita
Ingredients: Cucumber, Green Chilly, Coconut, Curry Leaves, Coriander Leaves, Curd

7) Sambar
Ingredients: Toor Dhal (Yellow Pigeon Peas), Turmeric, Tamarind, Asafoetida, Capsicum, Yellow Pumpkin, Carrots, Curry Leaves, Coconut, Tomatoes, Coriander Leaves

8) Payasam
Ingredients: Vermicelli, Sugar, Whole Milk, Cashew, Cardamom Powder

9) Cashew Burfi
Ingredients: Cashews, Sugar, Ghee

Here are a few photos of our wedding buffet:

Additionally, on each table there was a plate with variety of fruits (grapes, bananas, kiwis, mandarines). And since we could not serve alcohol, instead we had a non-alcoholic apple cider (for which we forgot to bring a bottle opener, so our guests had to improvise...)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Formalities at the City Hall

A few weeks before our Hindu wedding ceremony we went to the City Hall in San Francisco to deal with all formalities associated with getting married. We decided to make a small celebration out of it and we invited Anil's brother with the family and my friend Shiva to join us.

To get married in California one first needs to get a marriage license (or a license to marry, as I like to call it). The license has to be obtained - in person - from the County Clerk's office.

The only document that is needed to get it is any government-issued photo I.D., e.g. a passport or driver's license. I was positively surprised that no other document is needed, even if you are a foreigner. The license costs $95 and is valid for 90 days anywhere in the state of California.

Once you have a license, you can be married by a county clerk, judge (active or retired), priest, minister or rabbi of any religious denomination who is at least 18 years old.

Even though Livermore Temple priests could issue legally binding marriage certificates, we still decided to deal with all formalities before our Hindu wedding, as we did not want to spoil that day with any paperwork. (And, to be completely honest, we also wanted to have all the headache of getting married over as soon as possible after we decided to get married).

To get married at the City Hall in San Francisco one needs to make an appointment(*), pay a fee of $72, bring a marriage license and one witness (though two witnesses are also allowed). We asked both Anil's brother Gautam and my friend Shiva to be our witnesses. As their signatures are present on our marriage certificate, it is also their responsibility to make sure that we have a good long-lasting marriage :)

We got a license and got married on the same day. Even though both Anil and I considered it a formality, still we were both a bit nervous about it. (It might have been because of yet another drama that Anil's mother initiated a night before we were going to the City Hall). Still, everything went pretty smoothly, though it did not feel romantic. I guess you can see how it would be difficult to call romantic a marriage ceremony that involves signing a lot of papers... But the presence of our loved ones and gorgeous weather still made this day special to us. Thanks to them we have many fond memories of that day.

A few pictures taken in the City Hall:

(*) Appointments to obtain a license and/or to get married in San Francisco County can be made online through the County Clerk's website (they can be scheduled up to 90 days ahead of time). The website has also all forms that need to be printed and signed before one goes to the City Hall. It is also possible to pay all the fees online ($95 for a license, $72 for a civil ceremony).

(**) Total of up to 6 guests may attend the ceremony (that includes kids as well!). But if you really want to, you should be able to smuggle in a few more people.

(***) A certified copy of the marriage record can be obtained no earlier than two weeks after the civil ceremony (there is no expedite service). It can be obtained in person or by mail, and it costs $14 for each copy.

(****) If you want to change your name after the marriage, you can do it at the time when you apply for a marriage license. In the US you can opt not to change the name at all, you can change it to your spouse's name, you can add your spouse's name as your middle name, you can have two last names and those can be connected by hyphen or not, and finally, you can invent a completely new name based both on your and your spouse's last names.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Guestbook

I thought it was a good idea to ask our guest to RSVP if they were planning on coming to the wedding through a guestbook on our website, but apparently it wasn't as only around 40 people used it for that purpose... Still, some of our friends used it to send us wedding wishes, which was very nice :)

Here is a text that we had on our webpage under a link "Guestbook":

Dear Guests,

Please let us know how many people are in your party and if you are planning to attend the ceremony, the reception, or both, in order to help us with preparation.

Please tell us if you have any special food requirements. We plan to have a buffet-style lunch with Indian Vegetarian dishes and sweets, as well as a variety of fruits and non-alcoholic drinks.

Also, please do not hesitate to use this site to tell us how much you love us and how happy you are for us! :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Gifts/Donations

Even though we requested not to receive any gifts and asked our friends to instead donate money to one of the charitable organizations that we support (see the list below), some of them still decided to shower us with gifts.

During the wedding in the Bay Area we got several bottles of good wines (among them a bottle that we should open on our thirtieth wedding anniversary!), "Lazy Suzanne", a few books (always greatly appreciated), a wonderful gift certificate for a private architectural walking tour through downtown SF, a few lottery tickets (unfortunately none of them winning), as well as many gift certificates to the shopping malls (we finally exchanged them for the kitchen appliances in January this year...) and some cash.

Interestingly, Indians think it is bad luck to gift round numbers, like e.g. $100, so instead we got many checks and envelops with $101. At first, I though that it was some sort of a geek humor (in the end we do live in Silicon Valley), but as it repeated several times I asked Anil about it, and he explained to me that in Indian culture $101 is more auspicious than $100. (Other auspicious number is 1116, as I learned this week in India.) Something to remember if you go to an Indian wedding.

Gifts of clothes to close family members are also traditional according to Hindu wedding customs. The bride and the groom receive clothes from their family members, as well as they give clothes to them. For example, during our recent stay in India we had yet another small wedding-related celebration for the closest family members of Anil. To all of his aunts we gifted saris, whereas to all of his uncles we gifted a shirt and trousers material (luckily Anil's mom took care of picking and buying all of those). Traditionally, we should have received similar gifts, but as our luggage space was limited, we requested cash or other smaller and easier to carry gifts. Unfortunately, not everybody understood our luggage constrains and most of the gifts we received we had to leave behind in India. (We got several pretty but heavy statues of elephants and of God Ganhesh, we got a couple of photo frames, a beautiful carpet, a few kitchen items, a reproduction of a famous Indian painting, sari and pearls for me, and a couple of shirts and a tie for Anil.) Even though we will not be able to enjoy most of those things in SF, we still had fun unpacking all the gifts. They made us feel like kids on a Christmas day :)

In accordance with this Hindu wedding custom, we also gave gifts of clothes to all my close friends and family in Poland. I'm proud to report that all clothes that we gifted we had brought from India.

To all guests that attended our wedding in the Bay Area we gave ceramic angel-bells that my parents had shipped from Poland. It is not only an Indian custom, but also American, to offer a small gift (favor) to all wedding guests as a way of saying "thank you" for coming to the wedding celebration and hence making it even more special.

Here is our little army of angels before they got packed:

And here are packed wedding favors:

Here is a text that we had on our wedding webpage under a link "Gifts/Donations":

Since we have each other, we have everything that we could possibly need.

Therefore, in lieu of gifts, we kindly ask that you donate to one (or more) of the following charities close to our hearts:

1. Asha for Education is a secular organization dedicated to change in India by focusing on providing basic education to underprivileged children in the belief that education is a critical requisite for socio-economic change.

Donations to Asha are tax-exempt in the US and can be made via credit card or check.

2. The Great Orchestra Of Christmas Charity is probably the best known and the most reputable Polish foundation that collects money to buy medical equipment for the pediatrics departments of hospitals all over Poland. It also supports health promotion and preventive medicine.

You can donate money (tax-deductible in Poland) to this foundation via bank transfer:
IBAN: PL 58124011121111001009449739

3. Child Rights and You (CRY) is an indigenous Indian movement working towards restoring to underprivileged Indian children their basic rights to: survival, protection, development and participation. The foundation provides link between the millions of Indians who could provide resources and thousands of dedicated people and organizations at the grassroots-level who are struggling to function for lack of them.

You can make donations to CRY either through their original Indian website (tax-deductible in India) or through their American counterpart (tax-deductible in the US).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Our Families in Photos

On our wedding website we also posted five photo galleries with pictures of my and Anil's families, as well as some other pictures of Anil and me, to help our families and friends learn more about us.

Anil's Family and Childhood:

Monika's Family and Childhood:

Monika and Anil Conquest California:

Monika and Anil's Adventures in the Bay Area:

Monika and Anil in India:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Indian Wedding - About the Bride

Here is a text that I wrote about myself for our wedding website:

Four years after the world-altering event of Anil’s birth in India, I was born in Poland. It must have been a ground-shaking event for my parents too—a few years after I showed up in the world, they decided not to have any more kids. Based on the stories they’ve told me about my childhood, I cannot blame them for that.

One of my favorite stories goes back to the time when I was 4 years old. My parents asked me to put away the toys scattered all over my room to their appropriate places. I refused to do that, claiming that the mess was not created by me, but by my visitors. My parents tried variety of both verbal and non-verbal arguments, including blackmail and physical force, to make me clean my room to no avail. In the end, my father gave up and packed all my toys into two huge suitcases. He brought them down to the basement, at the same time informing me that I am not going to get any new toys, and would only be allowed one of the toys from my old collection when I was exceptionally good. Even that did not make me surrender ☺. I am not sure if I should be proud of myself or not, but I definitely wonder how my parents managed to survive so many years with me (and stay sane and grey hair-free), and why Anil, out of his own free will, plans to spend the rest of his life with me ;).

In general, I have extremely fond memories of my childhood and teen years. During those years, I met some of the best friends who have helped define who I am and who are still present in my life, even though we live thousands of miles away from each other.

My parents still live in the city where I was raised. Pila is a quiet suburban city located in the north-western part of Poland, close to the border with Germany. I was raised in a loving and supportive atmosphere, for which I will be eternally grateful to my parents. They are still the most important people in my life. My mother, Zofia, is a chemistry teacher. She teaches mostly at the local high school, but also a few classes at the local university. My father, Marek, is a professor of ethics, sociology and philosophy at one of the best universities in Poland (XXX). Both of my parents are excellent lecturers, greatly appreciated by their students.

When I was in high-school my parents got divorced and recently (just before I moved to the US) my father re-married. His new wife, Lidia, is an extremely kind-hearted person and I am very happy that my father met somebody as exceptional as she is. Lidia has one son of her own, who is 7 days younger than I am. So, as my father likes to joke, now I have a twin brother ;) Hereby, I would like to thank my twin-step-brother, Dawid, for putting together this webpage and also for designing (with minimal input, but a lot of demands, from our side) our wedding invitations. Thank you, Dawid!

When I was 18 years old I moved to Poznan, one of the biggest cities in Poland, with a very good Medical University. There I studied drug analysis and biochemical pharmacy for five years until I obtained a Masters degree. In 2001 I moved to Dresden in Germany, where I worked at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics. 3.5 years ago, after completing my PhD thesis on the subject of molecular medicine and lipid cell biology I moved to San Francisco. Currently, I work as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, studying mechanisms of aging.

Science is definitely my greatest passion, but I enjoy doing other things too. I love traveling, and everything that it brings with itself: meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and their associated cuisines, enjoying beautiful nature, and documenting it all through the means of photography and writing. I can imagine myself living anywhere in the world, but the Bay Area will definitely be one of the places that I will always consider my home. I met many wonderful people here who are very close to my heart, including the love of my life.

The bride on the wedding day:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Indian Wedding - About the Groom

Here is a text that Anil wrote about himself for our wedding website:

My parents got married on XXX and the world-altering event of my birth occurred on XXX. My childhood was spent mostly in India, on the campus of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, where my dad used to teach. Most of my childhood involved playing evening cricket with other kids from the neighborhood, climbing mango trees in our backyard, biking around campus, and keeping busy with homework. Fortunately, then as now, I never developed a habit of watching any TV as reality was more interesting! Growing up on the college campus was an idyllic, sheltered, and slow paced life. There was an abundance of wildlife: cows, parrots, monkeys, peacocks, migrating cranes, hornbills, hyenas, and a whole assortment of snakes, including cobras!

Apart from a few years in Columbus, Ohio, Rio De Janeiro, and Bombay, I spent most of my childhood and teen years in IIT Kanpur till I graduated from my Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering at IITK. I got hooked on playing tennis and became good enough at the game to be on the college team. I love the sport and I always enjoy getting on the tennis court, although the knees are not what they used to be!

On XXX I set out to the US for grad school in Atlanta. Fortunately I had my brother to show me the ropes as I settled into a new country and figured things out. I stayed in Atlanta for a couple of years, finished my Master’s degree, dropped out of my PhD, and was excited to get my first job in San Diego in XXX doing chip design. I have been geeking out ever since and moved around quite a bit and lived in a number of places: Atlanta, San Diego, Philadelphia, Boston, and India, till I finally moved to and got thoroughly hooked on the Bay Area.

I moved here on 14 February 2003 and have been here ever since. I’ve been working on my company, with my brother, for the past couple of years and getting a chance to geek out even more. I enjoy being in the Bay Area as this is where I met Monika in August 2007 and this is the place I think of as home. I love the Bay Area for its climate, natural beauty, proximity to beautiful nature, great food, and many fond memories.

Anil during our wedding ceremony:

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Indian Wedding - About Us

Here is a text that I wrote about Anil and myself for our wedding website:

Neither of us planned to get married, yet here we are!

Our first date took place almost three years ago, on 28 August 2007, in District, a wine bar. You probably would like to hear that we fell in love with each other at a first sight, but there were no sparks, thunder and lightning.. In fact it was almost lights out: I nearly left before Anil showed up as he was a few minutes late.  I was raised in a culture in which women are used to old school chivalry (think about all possible stereotypes you have about a chivalrous male: kissing hands, opening doors etc - you get the point) and with the expectation that men show up on dates not on, but actually before time...

Anil was the very first person I went for a date with after moving to the US a few months earlier, so I did not have any personal experience with the American style of dating. But based on all the romantic Hollywood movies that I saw before coming here, I was expecting him to swoop in on our date on a white horse wearing a perfectly tailored  Armani suite holding a bunch of red roses in one of his hands: a romantic knight in Armani armour! Instead, Anil walked in a few minutes late, without the horse, without the flowers and wearing "Crocks"...

Still, our first date was perfect - much better than any I ever saw in the movies :). I was laughing all the way through it. Anil was doing the majority of talking (this is still the case in our relationship even today) and he was extremely witty, charming and entertaining. After asking me a few questions, he "analyzed" my personality and I was surprised that almost everything he said about me was correct… Clearly, he had me all figured out by then and at the end of the evening he used this knowledge to setup a second date.

Our second date took place a whole month later as in the meantime I had been traveling with my friends. I was very impressed that Anil contacted me precisely on the day that I told him I would be coming back from my trip. Clearly, the man knows what he wants and how to get it :).

On the third date Anil spontaneously took me to Treasure Island and I think soon after that I realized that I was falling in love with him. And somehow, with time, he also fell in love with me. There were many obstacles on our way to where we are today, and several times we considered splitting up, due to the cultural differences and other challenges. However, the more we tried to move apart, the closer we got to each other. Being together feels very natural to us and it is difficult to even imagine how life would be if we had never met.

When we started talking about getting married around a year ago, Anil told me that in Hinduism people believe that one gets married not for one, but for several lifetimes, and whom we meet in this life stems from our past assosciations. When I heard that, I immediately wanted to say that clearly we have had several lifetimes of practice already, since we fit with each other so perfectly. At the same time, it still feels like there is a lot of shared joy ahead of us.

Thus, on 9th of May 2010, our adventure will officially begin again and we would love for you to be part of it. Please stop by at our wedding ceremony and/or reception, or at least say hi through the guest book if you can not make it in person.

Here we are on 9th of May 2010:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Wedding Location

We decided to have our wedding at the Shiva-Vishnu Temple in Livermore, as it is the biggest and the prettiest of the Hindu temples in the Bay Area. Also, it is the only one that I had visited a few times before the wedding, so we felt the most comfortable getting married there.

Here is a picture of the Temple:

And here is a text we had on our wedding website under a link "Wedding Location":

Our wedding ceremony will take place in the Assembly Hall of the Shiva-Vishnu Temple, 1232 Arrowhead Ave, Livermore, CA, USA.

The Assembly Hall is located directly behind the Temple.

Directions to the Temple:

View Larger Map

Do not hesitate to visit the Temple before, after or during our wedding ceremony.

If you plan to visit the Temple please follow their rules:
  1. Dress modestly (short skirts and shorts are not advisable.
  2. Remove your shoes or any kind of footwear before entering the Temple. On the left side in front of the Temple you will find racks for your footwear. (You can wear your shoes in the Assembly Hall.)
  3. Do not photograph or film any of the Deities.
  4. Switch off all cell phones prior to entering the Temple.
  5. No smoking, no alcoholic beverages, no drugs, no weapons anywhere in the Temple premises, including parking lots.
  6. Do not eat any food inside the Temple. (Again, after the ceremony we will have a buffet-style lunch in the Assembly Hall behind the Temple. There is also an infant feeding room available if you need one.)
  7. Avoid noise of any kind. Please keep your voice down and promote an atmosphere for worship.
  8. Children are requested to refrain from running around, screaming or shouting in the temple premises. Please avoid giving loud instructions to your small children, especially when you are close to Deity.
  9. Usage of strollers is restricted in the Temple.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Wedding Webpage

My step brother - Dawid - not only designed our wedding invitations, but also our wedding website. The website was kept in similar style to the invitations. It had a mostly blue background, our picture in the top left corner, and a picture of Ganesha (the Remover of Obstacles) behind the text.

The primary purpose of the website was to provide our guests with information on timing of events of our wedding day, as well as on how to get to the temple and what kind of food and drinks would be served. Additionally, since many of our guests had never attended an Indian wedding, we decided to also have there a detailed description of Hindu wedding rituals. Lastly, for our families and friends from abroad, we assembled several photogalleries with pictures of Anil's and my families, as well as short texts describing the two of us and development of our relationship, so that they could get to know us a little bit more before we would have a chance to meet in person.

All texts that appeared on our webpage were proofread by my super-kind and super-patient friend Tadhg. Dearest Tadhg - THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Here is a text that was featured on the main page of our website:

Dear Family and Friends,

We're getting married!

We’d be delighted if you joined us to witness and take part in our celebration.
The wedding ceremony will start promptly at 9:30am on Sunday, May 9th, 2010, in the Assembly Hall, Shiva-Vishnu Temple, Livermore, CA, and will follow Hindu tradition. Please feel free to join us in the middle of the ceremony if 9:30 is too early for you or your kids ☺.

After the ceremony please join us for a buffet-style lunch. The lunch will also take place in the Assembly Hall and will start at around 12 pm.

We know you're all eager to give us presents and flowers, but please don't!
Instead, we would truly appreciate donations to charitable organizations. Alternatively, we are willing to accept lottery tickets :)

Please use our guest book to let us know if you are coming to the ceremony and/or reception.

We hope to see you all there!

With love,
Monika & Anil

What:        A Wedding
Who:         Monika & Anil
When:       9:30am, Sunday 9 May 2010
Where:      Assembly Hall, Shiva-Vishnu Temple, Livermore, CA, USA
How:         Following Hindu tradition
Why:         Love!
RSVP:       Through the Guest Book
Attire:        Casual and modest
Food:         Indian Vegetarian, same location at around 12pm
Drinks:       Non-alcoholic
Gifts:          No gifts, please! Instead, we would appreciate charitable donations.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Invitations

As soon as we decided to get married, we informed our families about it, and the preparations for the wedding ceremony officially started.

We decided to get married following Hindu tradition, and have a party for all our friends from the Bay Area immediately after the ceremony. We invited our families and friends from all over the world, but because of short notice we did not expect too many of them to show up. Indeed, none of our friends from Europe and Asia made it.

The date of our wedding was picked by Indian astrologers, based on our dates of birth. Apparently, there are more and less auspicious dates in the Hindu calendar, and 9th of May 2010 happened to be one of the more auspicious days, which should guarantee us a long and happy life together.

As soon as the date was picked and the temple was booked (by one of Anil's uncles who helped us tremendously with the wedding preparations), our wedding invitations got sent to a printing house in Poland.

They were designed by my step-brother Dawid, with a minimal input (and lots of demands) from our side. Dawid definitely did a great job not only with designing the invitations, but also coordinating with a printing house, as well as picking the right paper both for the invitations and envelops.

It pays off to have a graphic designer in a family :) Thanks again, Dawid! (Special thanks also goes to my dearest friend Tadhg for proofreading all texts.)

The front page of the English version of our invitations (we also printed around 100 invitations in Polish):

The middle page (I removed our last names from this one):

And here are some other invitation designs that we could have picked from:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Indian Wedding - Why We Decided to Get Married

The funny thing is that neither Anil nor I had ever planned to get married.

I did not see a point in institutionalizing a relationship, and it was always my believe that people should only be together as long as they want to, and not because once in a spur of a moment they made a promise to stay with each other "no matter what".

Anil was also disillusioned about marriage, though likely for slightly different reasons.

So how did it happen that we got married?

We are not really sure :) Anil says that I tricked him into getting married, and I say that he tricked me ;) You can judge for yourself which of us, if any, is right on this one:

Around two years ago, Anil was moving from one place to the other, and in between he stayed at my place for around two weeks. Before he moved in, I remember being somewhat scared about how it would go, but this feeling went away quickly as we had fantastic time together. It felt like being on holidays, and we both thoroughly enjoyed a chance to share daily activities with each other.

Few months later, the situation repeated and again Anil stayed at my place for a few days. I believe that this is when I raised the question whether he would be (potentially, one day) interested in moving in together. His answered shocked me: He said that we would have to get married first before we could live together.

I definitely did not expect such answer from my open-minded boyfriend, who, as far as I knew, had never planned to get married. And at that point in our relationship, I do not think either of us was ready to make a such big commitment. 

I tried to convince Anil that it makes sense to live together before marriage to see if our lifestyles and expectations were compatible, but he was inconvincible. He claimed that the fact that I wanted to first live together meant that I was not sure about our relationship (which was not true), and that I wanted to "test him" (also not true). From my point of view, moving in together would simply be a next step on the way to being together forever.

Anyway, all those discussions got me started thinking about a possibility of marriage, and one day I concluded that if one does not get married, one will always think if one should do it or not (which I consider to be a waste of mental energy). So I decided that it is a lesser "evil" to get married.

I asked Anil what did "getting married" mean to him and I again got shocked by his answer. I vividly remember asking him that question while we were watching a movie, as I was expecting him to say "Oh, I would not make a big deal out of it, I would simply go to the City Hall and sign all the necessary documents". Instead he said that he wants to have a typical Indian wedding ceremony... When I asked him what precisely it meant, he could not tell me as, even though he attended quite a few Indian wedding ceremonies, he never paid attention to what was happening during them... (Later, I got shocked even further to find out that there were 5'000 guests at his brother's wedding ceremony. Quite different from the simple City Hall marriage ceremony I imagined...)

We dropped a subject for several months, during which our relationship got stronger and stronger. We reached a phase during which we both felt that the most important thing in our lives is to be together, and everything else is secondary to that. And this is precisely when our problems started.

Anil's mother flipped out when she found out that he is planning on getting married with a WHITE WOMAN and she started a massive campaign aimed at convincing Anil to break up with me. For the longest time (I guess around two months) I had absolutely no idea about it, as Anil did not want to burden me with it. I do not remember how it happened that one day he finally told me what he was going through with his mother (she was calling him several times every day and whenever he picked up the phone they were having hours long arguments about me).

When I found out that his mother was not happy about us being together and that she was making his life a hell, I asked Anil if he wanted to break up. But he said he didn't. We had several more discussions on the subject, and each time we were close to breaking up - either because he or I couldn't stand the tension. During one final conversation, we decided to stay together, and subsequently I introduced Anil to my parents who were visiting the US, and we planned a trip together to India, so that I could meet Anil's parents.

Many people think that we made a mistake by not getting married before we went to India. In general, I would agree with this statement and to any Indian - Westerner couples who have "problematic" parents, I would recommend getting married BEFORE you introduce your partner to them.

However, in our case despite the pain and drama that we went through, I think it was better that I met Anil's mother before we got married. Thanks to that I saw her at her worst and I could make a conscious decision that I still wanted to be with Anil, despite his "baggage".     

The other positive thing that came out of that whole situation was that both of us had to fight extremely hard for our relationship, which I think will be good for us long term. Many psychological studies support the notion that the more difficult it is to get something, the more we appreciate it. In case of human interactions, it usually translates to stronger and longer-lasting relationships.

The time we spent in India was so difficult and painful for both of us that after we came back from there, we even ended up splitting up for a couple of months. But in the end we realized that even though we could, we did not want to live without each other. So around year ago, we made a final decision that we want to be together and we picked the nearest date that worked for both of us on which we got married. It all happened so fast, that likely some of our friends had to question if we were doing the right thing. I think we did, but only time will show if I am right.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Indian Wedding

As we are approaching our first wedding anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to post here about our last year's wedding celebration and wedding preparations.

We got married following Hindu tradition, which was a very interesting experience for me, a Westerner. I will try to share with you some of my insights into the Indian wedding customs, as seen from a perspective of an "outsider".

Below is our "Welcome" poster for the wedding celebration. In the background is a picture of Ganesha, the Remover of Obstacles, without whom no Indian celebration can take place:

Here is an outline of the posts that I plan to publish within next two months (one post every two days):
  1. Why We Decided to Get Married
  2. Invitations
  3. Website
  4. Wedding Location
  5. About Us
  6. About the Groom
  7. About the Bride
  8. Our Families in Photos
  9. Gifts/Donations
  10. Guestbook
  11. Formalities at the City Hall
  12. Menu
  13. Decorations
  14. Dresses
  15. Bridal Make Up & Hairstyle
  16. Bridal Mehindi
  17. Pandit/Priest
  18. Hindu Wedding
  19. Evening before the Wedding
  20. Morning of the Wedding
  21. Ganapathy Pooja
  22. Kankana Dhaarana
  23. Kanya Daanam
  24. Muhurtam
  25. Mangalya Dharanam
  26. Pradhaana Homam
  27. Laaja Homam
  28. Saptapadi
  29. Aashirvaadam
  30. Blessings at the Temple
  31. Reception & Photosession
  32. Cake
  33. Visit at the Vineyard
  34. Bollywood Party
  35. Happy 1st Anniversary to Us!