Marriages they say are made in heaven but in Kerala India it is more like a Shakespearean play
Note- most of these are typical of a Hindu wedding but some are common to other communities as well
Act 1 - This begins as soon as the girl reaches marriageable age and the neighbours and relatives keep asking awkward questions to the parents regarding when she is going to get married . At this point of time the parents give the details of the girl popularly called biodata along with her photos and her horoscope to their relatives or friends .
In earlier days there were a group of professionals called brokers who had with them the details of all eligible boys and girls in their territory . They were easy to identify as most of them carried a black bag with an archaic umbrella.The bag contained the biodata and snaps along with the horoscopes of the boys and girls . They would be adequately compensated by both sides if the proposal works outt.Their tribe has dwindled now with the mushrooming of so called matrimonial bureaus which do the same after one registers in that
ACT2 After the girls shortlist a few prospective grooms they then go to the next dramatis persona the astrologer . At this point it is the astrologer who holds the whip hand as far as selection is concerned . With a throw of his cowrie shells he can easily seal the fate of any prospective bride or groom irrespective of the fact that they make a good couple the family is well known ,boy is well settled (meaning has steady job). It is most important that the two are astrologically compatible . And god help if yhe girl has a Chowwa Dosham or affliction in her house of Mars which makes her a widow very early in life .(wonder why Christians and Muslims dont have them or do they if so what happens )However if the astrologer senses that the girls family is keen on a particular person and they are astrologically not compatible he suggest propitating the gods by going for some puja at some temple before marriage .(Wonder what these people have to say now that Pluto is no longer a planet and doesnt figure in their scheme of things)
ACT3This is a tricky and one of the most difficult things in this whole drama which is the girl seeing ceremony .After all the photo is good ,horoscopes are matched but the boy and his relatives havent seen the girl .So the boy accompanied by his male and female relatives set out for the girls house and take a long look at the girl .The female members of the boys contingent size up the girl see whether she limps while bringing the tea , lisps or stammers when she speaks and actually look for something which might be missed by the males like for example a bit of flab around the waist (After all they have been through it before.)On the other hand the male members of the boys side see whats around the house and try to assess the wealth of the girls family .As for the boy himself he is often given some time to be alone with the girl so that they get to know each other as it were.
If all goes well the next step is announcing the date for the engagement or Nischayam .On the other hand if the boy doesnt like the girl or some other issue is there the boys side leaves with a remark we will get back to you .
ACT4 Ideally this should be the engagement or the Nischayam but since in most places it has replaced the marriage itself in its show I would not go into it .Engagement is done so that there is some sort of commitment from the boys side to the girls and vice versa
ACT5 - This involves printing and sending the invitations . While it would seem to be an easy task, in many parts of Kerala persons do not attend a marriage until the lady or ladies from the marriage house actually go there and visit them and personally invite them
ACT6 The next is obviously buying the gold and dresses . Kerala thanks to its remittances from abroad has an ostentatious lifestyle when it comes to gold and the number of soverigns a girl wears( she actually bends over due to the weight ) is a pointer to her family status. (Never mind that most of those will be in the locker for the rest of her lifetime)And in many areas there is an informal ceremony in which ladies come to take a look at the jewls of the bride
ACT7 The next is obviously the marriage which is usually held in a temple .The marriage usualy is per se very simple just an exchange of rings , garlands , and tying of the Mangalsutra or Taali ,exchange of bouquets ,and giving the Poduva or dress to the girl but hey wait a minute this process takes less than half an hour so what to do . So the couple are bundled off to a nearby hall where for the benefit of the guests they are asked to go through most of this again except the tying of the mangal sutra,.
The couple also have to be fed glasses of milk and pose for the videographers and photographers (another tribe that owes its existence to the Gulf boom and consequent migration whoch forced many people to miss functions like marriages of their near and dear ones which in turn led them to ask them for the video of the marriage )while the lunch gets ready . Many guests however make a beeline for the lunch and dissapear without even wishing the bride and groom .For them the marriage is a place to meet thir friends andnot necessarily to meet the newly weds .
ACT8 The bride and groom are called by the videographer and photographer to pose for some hot romantic snaps. Never mind that the video or cd will hardly be seen by the couple after their first anniversary
ACT9And they lived happily ever after-----