A visit to Mumbai would be incomplete without witnessing a traditional Indian wedding. But as a tourist, chances are you won't be flooded with invitations. Should you decide to try your luck and sneak your way inside, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to gatecrashing a Mumbai wedding. With our help, the happy couple might never know…
The late former PM Narasimha Rao had gatecrashed the current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's wedding, so there is an inspiration precedent for such behaviour. With a few handy tips, you will not only be taken for one of the baraatis (guest, part of the groom's procession), but will sample some of the best spreads and could even come away with a return gift (this could be anything from cash to coconuts).
First, for some mental prep - there's nothing subtle or understated about an Indian wedding. Prepare yourself for a raucous celebration, pomp and ceremony, and all the bling that can blind. A wedding is a status symbol in India and the budgets are borderline obscene. A 'small' wedding could mean a guest list of 500 and the ceremonies can stretch on for days. Most young couples combine the engagement or sangeet (singing and dancing, the equivalent of the bridal shower) with cocktails, and the marriage ceremony is followed by a reception.
A wise choice is the cocktail party or reception, as you’ll want a crowd to blend into. Large venues like the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Colaba, the upscale Turf Club grounds and Tote Banquets at the Mahalaxmi Race Course, and Mayfair in Worli, offer natural camouflage. The rooftop bar Aer at Four Seasons is great for panoramic views of the Arabian Sea, or the new Palladium Hotel with its Ballroom, Terrace Gardens and Exo, the country's highest club, are also popular choices. Crystal Springs in Bandra, offers a picturesque outdoor environment, ideal for the winter wedding season.
If you're curious about the wedding ceremony, Iskcon temple in Juhu has wedding halls that can accommodate 700 people. The delicious food is pure vegetarian and the serene temple complex is worth a visit for its architecture alone. In a Hindu wedding, the rituals can vary depending on the bride and groom's community, but the pheras (circling the sacred fire, committing to seven vows) and the exchanging of garlands remains the same.
Now, dress for the part. The Santacruz market has a bewildering array of imitation jewellery, stick-on henna tattoos, diamante bindis, maang-tikkas and even traditional envelopes for gifting. Invest in a salwar kameez, lehnga or a saree, dhotis and kurta pyjamas for men (you might need some help draping the six-yard saree). Haggle with impunity, the shopkeepers can sniff out a gullible tourist miles away.
Everyone is fashionably late for Indian weddings, and sometimes the bride and the groom are the last to arrive so make sure to get there after 9pm - the venues always thoughtfully display the name of the bride and the groom at the entrance, should you need a visual prompt.
Some parties have Bollywood dancing on the agenda. Jump in with the buxom aunties and tipsy uncles (Black Label and Chivas Regal are the popular drink of choice, even in sultry Mumbai). For a degree in bosom-heaving and pelvic thrusting, look up choreographer/ director Farah Khan's videos on Youtube. Many weddings have chaat counters, so make sure to sample some of Mumbai's legendary street food. You can never go wrong with a Muslim wedding - it's a feast of kababs and meat dishes. For dessert, try the divine falooda and rabdi.
It's traditional for the bride and groom to stand on a stage and accept good wishes, and more importantly, gifts. Queue up and offer the surprised happy couple an envelope that contains anything between Rs 201 - Rs 1001 (£2 - £10). The extra rupee is always added for luck. After all, it's only polite to say thank-you before making a hasty exit.
Have you ever gatecrashed an Indian wedding? Let us know in the comments section below!
Written by Namrata Bhawnani
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About the author: NamrataNamrata Bhawnani
Namrata Bhawnani is a London-based freelance travel writer and the co-founder of the ecotravel web magazine www.ecophiles.com.