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anuja iyer


Take any Indian wedding reception's photo album and you'll have all the guests posing with the bride and groom on stage in stand-at-ease position that was taught in our PT / scouts class. Behind these predictable pictures with just the faces changing in each photograph, the guests would've waited in queue for at least twenty minutes holding their wrapped gift boxes in hand waiting for their turn to wish the couple on stage. And the more important guests will just cut across the queue or take the other side of the stage where people exit after wishing. While clicking pictures of guests is more to record their attendance and keep the album as an aid to memory recall, it is such a mundane and painful exercise not so much for the guests but more for the couple to stand for three to four hours continuously (sometimes more when the guest list is longer) and flash that courteous smile in equal smiling installments with the photographer repeatedly saying 'Smile Please'. The names of the guests would be introduced to the bride or groom depending on which side has invited you and I'm pretty sure it won't even get registered for either of them. The most common line that the parents of the wedded couple would say after the photo clicking is 'Saaptu Ponga'. And by the end of an arduous three day stretch including pre-wedding ceremonies, the newly married couples are so exhausted that the only thing most couples do after the wedding (as per research estimates and google records) is to sleep through their very first night. Welcome to the big snap Indian wedding.

Being the season of 'muhurthams', I've been attending quite a few marriages and receptions and quietly observing the entire proceedings much to my amusement. Giving full credit and credence to the rituals and mantras that are recited during the marriage ceremonies including the Sapthapathi, the tying of Thaali / Mangal Sutra as per tradition and custom of the concerned families, I sometimes wonder if this reception in the evening with a static stage and frozen poses are warranted at all in our weddings. Can it be done differently with the guests being invited at a particular time where everyone gets assembled together and the couple can address everyone by a warm welcoming speech, talk a few words about their new journey, about their spouse, introduce the new family by calling the close ones on stage and just let everyone mingle with one another off stage while the couple can walk around and chat with the guests casually. That way, the photographers with get the opportunity to click candid moments of interacting with the guests and if sharp enough, can also get a few shots of genuine laughter captured on camera. The album will actually have natural pictures of moments during the reception than the boring shots of people standing like statues.

This format is followed in most weddings in the West with specialized wedding photographers who plan photo shoots for the couple prior to the wedding by just making them comfortable enough to be their own selves and interact with each other. Even the wedding pictures are quietly captured without making anyone conscious about the presence of a camera. If you've noticed, the moment you make the person aware that they're on camera or being clicked, they suddenly tighten up their posture or smile artificially. A few weddings in Bangalore and scattered parts of Delhi have already given this format a shot. May be more such weddings in more Indian families need to be planned in such a way that the clichéd format can be done away with. If we can all reach for a movie show at a set time, if we can all plan to attend a theatre play or catch a train at a fixed time, we can plan to attend a wedding reception too at a specific time (not a time band stretching for a few hours) when the couple can address all the guests in one go. We're so used to a set pattern that a slight deviation from our comfort zone may make a few disagree with this arrangement but it does make the function more interactive, personal, casual and less tiring for the couple involved. Otherwise the only way to pass time is to wait in queues, check out the outfits that guests are wearing, the glittering gold and diamond jewellery, the slightly decent-looking guys / girls out there as the gender may be, wish the couple, sit for awhile passively listening to the Carnatic Kutcheri or light music troupe playing amidst the already chaotic ambience, proceed to the dinner hall, eat and leave with the 'Taambulam' bag.

In an age where pictures are clicked at parties and other outings where the sole aim is to upload it on facebook, tag friends and show off the exciting time you had and share with the rest of the world to get a hundred likes, it might just be a good idea to pan out and see the larger picture of freezing the wedding moments in a more meaningful way. It's so much more fun to attend the Mehendi function, Oonjal event with maamis showing their singing prowess as laddus are thrown around, garland exchanges with the bride and groom evading the other, Kaasi Yaatrai, the Ammi-Mithithu-arundhathi-partha ritual, the nalangu function etc. And so are the other customary practices in other cultures / weddings. If only this reception was made a lot more entertaining, each picture can be a postcard sent as a return gift to the guests for making it to the wedding. And for those who don't wish to be married anytime soon, let alone planning for the wedding reception differently, it gets quite annoying when those aunties pinch your cheeks and say 'You're next'. But if you want them to stop doing that, just pinch their cheeks when you see them at a funeral and say 'You're next'.

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