Gina writes:

About six weeks ago, we visited our coworker's family in Jeypore, just 1 hour west of Koraput. During the visit, we had a conversation that went something like this.

Afsana: Do you want to come to my brother's wedding? My family would love to have you.
Corey/Gina: Sure, when is it?
A: March 21, a few hours from here, so we will drive there on March 20 and you can come with us.
C/G: OK, cool, thanks! Sounds like fun!

We've adopted the habit of saying yes to pretty much any invitation from an Indian friend and not asking too many questions. We figure that whatever happens, the cultural exposure is better than spending our free time on our computers or reading books in our house. Well, we'll have to rethink that philosophy after this wedding!

On Saturday morning, we left at 11:30 a.m. to get to Jeypore so that we'd be sure to be there by 2 p.m. when they wanted to leave for the wedding location. At 3:15, right on time (Indian time!), we crammed into four hired vehicles to start the drive. Afsana told us that the wedding was 5 or 6 hours away, which was an unhappy surprise to us, but we feigned non-chalance. After we stopped 8 times (literally) for water, tea, cold drinks, and bathroom breaks, our facade was crumbling a bit. We arrived at the town at 1:30 a.m.! Fortunately, we were staying in a guesthouse, so we had a room to ourselves instead of sleeping on the floor in a stranger's house like we'd been expecting.

We slept for 5 hours and then the wedding day started. We made a conscious decision to enjoy the day even though we were feeling tired and frustrated. I brought my new sari to wear, but I was crabby and hot, so didn't wear it, a decision I was glad about later.

The last wedding we attended was a Hindu ceremony, but Afsana's family is Muslim, so we were interested to see how different the traditions would be.

The groom used to arrive at the bride's home on horse. Now he arrives in a decorated car.

The bride's sister and family prepares sweets and other rich delicacies and the bride's sister feeds these treats to the groom.

The groom must ply the bride's sister with money in order to get to his new bride. They entered into a raucous financial negotiation, seeking advice from their friends and family. The groom ended up giving 1,500 rupees to the bride's sister.

The groom is then dressed in a turban and garlands of roses.

The procession to the bride's home was so crazy. There was a band of drummers and a keyboardist on a cycle rickshaw to accompany the 50 or so people walking/driving down the road.

Corey was the life of the party, showing the Indian guys his awesome white boy moves.

Note that the bride has not been part of this whole morning of activity, she's been at home waiting for her groom!

At the wedding itself, the men and the women were separated for the ceremony. The men sat on chairs, the woman sat on the floor. Can you find me in the pic, looking bored and lonely and hot?

The elders wrote up a contract with the groom and then came upstairs to ask for the bride's agreement. Once she said "yes" three times, they were married! Though they weren't even in the same room!

After lunch, the bride and groom were brought together and could only see each other's reflections in the mirror.

At some point, the mirror was taken away and they could finally see each other. Then the bride said an extremely tearful goodbye to her family. In India, the bride goes to live with the groom's family, so the marriage is bittersweet for her family.

The festivities finishes at about 4 p.m. We packed up at the guesthouse and then waited around for what seemed like forever before starting the long drive back at 6 p.m.

On the drive back, we only stopped about 5 times, but it still took 8 hours. At some point, we realized that it would be impossible to get back to Koraput that night, so Afsana booked a hotel for us. We checked into the hotel at 2:30 a.m. only to leave 6 hours later to catch the bus back to Koraput to get to work. So tired!

All in all, it was really interesting to be a part of the wedding, especially since it was a Muslim ceremony. But had we known how far away it was or how often we'd be stopping on the drive, I think we would have declined the invitation. Lesson learned!

Note to Afsana: If you read this, please don't be offended. We were honored by the invitation and enjoyed the wedding itself, but the unexpected travel was just a bit much for us.