Bengali weddings are a big deal. They are grand, elaborate affairs with several different ceremonies before the main event, each one grander than its previous ones. I have had experience helping to plan one of these big events, and there are so many steps. There are events that are planned by the bride’s family and events that are planned by the groom’s family. I shall now talk about the steps that go into planning the main wedding reception.
Step One: Set a date/pick a venue
Believe it or not, the date is often determined by when the venue is available. The venue could be a hotel or a “community center” which is essentially a big hall available to rent for a few hours. Also, the immediate family of both sides must be available, which is why it often takes months to find a suitable date.
Step Two: Figure out the guest list
A “small” wedding for a Bengali would mean about 200 to 300 people. Why stop at immediate friends and family? Invite your mother’s second-cousin-twice-removed’s in-laws, your uncle’s university friend’s family, and basically everyone you or your family knows. I have personally gone to weddings where more than a thousand people have been invited. Not only that, you have to figure out which people are invited to which event.
Step Three: Book a caterer
You have to book a caterer for months in advance so that they are available on that day. Also, it is very important to ensure the kacchi biryani that your guests have is only of the finest quality. Many people, myself included, only go to weddings because of the amazing food.
Step Four: Shopping
If you have ever been to a desi wedding or seen pictures of one, you will notice the clothes. Everyone is dressed very glamorously. If you are the bride’s parents, you have to buy wedding outfits for the groom and his family — his parents, his brothers and sisters, etc. They also have to get him a few new clothing items, a wedding ring and a watch. It is harder for the groom’s parents. In addition to buying outfits for her family, there are so many things that have to be bought for the bride. First of all, her wedding saree must be bought. She must also be given a lot of jewelry — gold jewelry mostly.
Step Five: Booking an appointment at the salon for doing hair, makeup and henna
The bride can spend up to 12 hours at the salon getting ready for the big event. Mendi (henna) designs are very intricate and take hours. Makeup, hair and getting dressed take a long time. If you are the bride’s family member or close friend, you go with them to the salon and make sure the makeup and hair is being done properly, as well as ensure that she is eating and staying hydrated.
Step Six: The big day
If you are immediate family of the bride or the groom, you absolutely cannot relax on the big day. You have to look very happy, greet guests with warm smiles, be very polite, take the gifts and do whatever the bride or groom asks you to do, all the while looking gorgeous yourself. The bride and groom themselves are not supposed to do any of the running around, so you have to. They are supposed to smile, look good for the cameras and make small take with the guests, while you do the running around. Also, you cannot eat until the guests have eaten, to ensure that the food does not run out.
Step Seven: Afterwards
The guests have left; the bride and groom have gone home to spend their first night together, while the bride’s family is crying about their daughter starting a new life. Your work is not done yet. You have to pay the caterers, the managers of the venue that you have rented and the photographers that you have hired. The countless gifts that the couple has received have to be taken home.
Planning a Bengali wedding is a lot of hard work. However, at the end of the day, it is all worth it because of the memories that the bride and groom will have for the rest of their lives.