What to expect at an English countryside wedding and how you should pack for one
What’s a Punjabi girl to do when she is invited to her sister-in-law’s English countryside wedding? Panic, of course. When the purple-themed invite arrived in the post, a thousand questions raced through my mind. What should I wear? How much will this trip cost me? How cold is it going to be in October? Do I have to buy presents for everyone? And oh God, the visa.
I took a quick look at my bank balance and austerity measures were immediately put in place. The first thing to sort out was the flights. Here’s a useful tip—set up price alerts on kayak.com. When you find a number you like, take the leap of faith and unsubscribe from the alerts, lest the prices fall further and forever taint your trip. Qatar and Etihad Airways are your cheapest bet at around 45-50k, if you don’t mind the long airport stopovers. If your company has just been bought out, by all means indulge in British Airways’ new Dreamliner flights or Lufthansa’s super luxurious seats that will cost you anywhere between 70k and 1.5 lakhs, depending on when you book.
“You can wear a sari if you like,” said my kind MIL, having sensed my anxiety over wedding wear. But as every woman knows, you never, ever do anything that has the slightest potential to divert attention away from the bride. I decided that a bright silk sari would definitely spell disaster. So I began my monumental dress hunt and foraged through Flipkart, Myntra and a host of other sites. While they help you understand different styles, I always find it best to walk through the shops and find one that fits well. If you feel it needs to be altered, abandon it and move on. I settled for a dark blue lace Latin Quarters dress, matched with a cream belt and embroidered cream wedges, a simple bracelet and drop earrings.
What to gift
Next there was the question of presents. The English, it turns out, are not impressed by gold coins and silver Ganeshas. The bride and groom suggested cash or John Lewis vouchers. But keeping my austerity measures in mind, I bought light-weight bits and bobs—cushion covers and batik tops from KalpaDruma, knick-knacks from Victoria Technical Institute, souvenirs from chumbak.com, printed jammies from Cotton World and colourful scarves from all over. To win an eternal place in a Brit’s heart, buy them an assortment of teas!
The big day
On the day of the wedding, we drove to the venue for the afternoon ceremony—a stately home in Northamptonshire. As the Irish lady on the SatNav system guided us through ‘roindaboits’, I admired the fields dotted with grazing sheep, cows and the occasional horse. The stone mansion stood bold and beautiful in all its vintage glory against a picturesque background of meadows. Of course, the English weather lived up to its miserable reputation and it rained that day.
The bride wore a stunning off-white full length dress—layers of finely tailored fabric, with sheer straps, and beads and sequins at the waist. She matched it with a tiara, studs, a simple necklace and white stilettos. While the mothers wore beautiful knee length dresses—complete with jackets and elaborate hats—the men were in morning suits, purple patterned waistcoats and cravats. The bridesmaids made a pretty picture in off-shoulder purple gowns with matching hair accessories. While the bride was relaxed and composed, the groom was rather stressed—he attributed it to people not taking their places quickly enough.
During the civil ceremony, everybody sat in respectful silence. People did not chatter, chairs did not move and cell phones did not ring. So unfamiliar. This was followed by photographs—minus the glaring lights and makeshift stages—the ‘wedding breakfast,’ speeches, toasts, tears and free flowing champagne. If you are vegetarian, brace yourself for copious amounts of bean burgers, lentil salads, margherita pizzas and bland pasta. The celebrations concluded at 1 am the next day, with the bride’s grandmother swaying to Oasis’ Champagne Supernova as everyone devoured slices of the tiered wedding cake.