If there's anything more colorful than a wedding in India, I'm not sure what that would be. It's uncommon for a group of tourists to be invited to a wedding celebration; this unique opportunity arose because our tour guide was a good friend of the groom, hence the invite.
Indian weddings are still mostly arranged affairs, the parents picking appropriate mates for their children. I personally believe that marriage for love is better, but the Indians are happy with their system and it seems to fairly work well for them. Marriages in India are as stable as those anywhere in the world.
We arrived at the rented venue, part of a total of about 250 people ultimately attending. We were invited to partake in a delicious buffet meal, drinks (including hard drinks if you wanted them), and to enjoy the music. The most striking feature about the evening for me were the many colorful saris the ladies wore -- a rainbow of splendor. Simply beautiful!
While there seemed to be no rule to this effect, it seemed the ladies grouped together and the gentlemen also formed small cliques. Many of the men wore elegant turbans to the event, these tied with long "tails". Our tour group of 12 mostly huddled together around a few small tables, and just took it all in.
I'm far from an expert, but my understanding is as follows: a wedding celebration in India is more than a one-day affair. The celebration goes on for a week or so before the final event. We attended on the second to last day of this wedding, the day when the groom's parents give gifts to the bride and her family, and then the bride's family gives gifts to the groom and his family. The bride herself does not appear on this day, but the groom does and we were lucky enough to meet him.
The gifts were expensive looking and elaborate -- including gold, diamonds, silks and sweets. The gifts the bride received seemed more plentiful and valuable than those the groom received, which makes sense as it provides financial security for her.
India has an elaborate social structure and caste system, and these were two wealthy families. The cost of that one day of celebration alone was significant, but it did provide me with a memorable experience.
(The musicians who provided background entertainment for the evening)