Marriage functions were a week long affair in this part of the country, some six or seven decades ago. It was pruned to five days in the 1950s and 60s. It was abridged to a three-day capsule in the later 60s. This continued till the 70s after which a two-day function became the norm. The second day was for the main event and a reception would follow in the evening. Elders considered the main event on the second morning very sacred. When they attended this part of the function, they felt it as a duty performed sincerely. Modern busy life style brought a new meaning to "Wedding Receptions". There are some advantages in such receptions; there is no need to be at the venue at fixed timings. One can go at any time during the time slot of three to four hours. Neither the host nor the guest have time for each other. A mere broad smile and shaking of hands will assure the host that the invitation has not gone a waste. The guest also does not bother about niceties of being taken care of. In such gatherings, everyone takes care of himself or herself. In fact, except the photographers and videographers, everyone is relaxed and comfortable. Or one does so believe and behave.
In many countries, such events are planned in detail and often the job is entrusted to a "Planner" or "Consultant". Even the table at which the guest is to sit is per-planned. There is no place for gate-crashers. "I just came to know that the function is arranged. What is the meaning of formal invitation between us? It is our own function, no?", one does not have the luxury of saying so in these countries. Hosts here believe that they are planning all the details of a "Wedding Reception". The events are certainly planned, but not by the hosts. The Choultry or Hall owner decides what are the decorations to be made. We are allowed limited freedom of selecting from one of the photographs in the album shown to us. The caterer decides what the guests eat. Videographers and photographers decide where we stand and for how many seconds. There may be some excellent music concert by well known artistes, but it is more of a humiliation to the artistes than recognition of their talents in the high decibel level noises in the hall. When the reception is to be held is decided by the rent paid for the hall. This often dictates that the reception is held before the actual marriage ceremony. In the initial days this was frowned upon. Now everyone has reconciled to it. One can even say that families who hold the reception after the main event are still backward and need to become progressive. More important than all, when the bride and groom arrive at the hall and give "Darshan" to the waiting guests is decided by the "Beautician". An answer has now been found for solving the problem of restlessness among the guests. Many wedding receptions now allow guests to have a sumptuous dinner before greeting the newly-weds. If you are in a hurry and the newly-wed or going-to-be-wed couple have not arrived at the venue and held up at the beauty parlor, hand over the gift (mostly in the form of an envelope as it is easy to carry and avoids pains of shopping for an ideal gift) to the parents of the couple. Assuming that they have also not gone to visit another beautician. There is perfect understanding among all concerned and there is no possibility of being misunderstood.
A wedding reception that we attended last week was indeed a reception with a difference. We knew only the bridegroom, one of our students. But the invitation was extended to us by his parents who had traveled some 30 kilometers only to invite us personally. The invitation had a long list of family members of the hosts and indicated that they were from a cultured family. The invitation requested the guests to be present at the venue by 4 PM. Some cultural programs were also planned as depicted in the invitation. When we reached the venue at 4 PM, all the persons mentioned in the invitation were present to receive the guests. Refreshments were served in an orderly manner. Cultural programs started on time. Little children recited "Shanti mantras" to begin the program. They were followed by four young girls who represented the four directions - East, West, North and South. Each one had a message for the gathering; peaceful co-existence, spirituality, patriotism and teamwork. There was a group dance in praise of the Mother Goddess Chamundeswari. Elder members of the family were called upon the stage to light the lamp to inaugurate the celebrations. All of them were given mementos specially made for the wedding reception function. All the teachers of the bridegroom were invited one by one and honoured on the stage and newly-wed couple received their blessings. There were teachers starting from Nursery school to College. Those who taught music and Hindi were also there. There were other items of cultural programs including skits and group dances. The bridegroom himself took part in the events through singing and mono-acting.
At 7.30 PM the newly-weds entered the stage from the two sides, singing and dancing. Thereafter it was a regular wedding reception. The only difference was it was a served banana-leaf dinner instead of the usual buffet fare.
The quality of cultural program was of a very high quality and received wide appreciation from all the guests. It was indeed a "Wedding Reception" with a difference.