What can I wear to a wedding? It was not such a nerve wracking question until about five years ago. The occasion always meant a kanjeevaram sari and heirloom jewellery. Gold, rubies, emeralds and the eternal rocks. Nowadays those stay locked up in a bank while women of all ages flaunt the nakli stuff that is less stressful to buy, wear and protect. As for the saris? Wow what a change! Toss away those heavy kanjeevarams. Bring on the kotas, silk- cottons, jamavars, benarasi weaves, tussar, kalamkari and mangalgiris. Fancy cholis and bustiers adorn toned shoulders and bare arms. Straightened hair, sculpted torsos, bling kurtis, tunics and Indo -Western wear have become so accepted in even the most traditional affairs.
A wedding and an engagement celebrated last week highlighted the seismic shift in attire and attitude. Gone were the white cotton or silk veshtis for the men. A young musician in designer blue jeans with thumb jauntily slung into the hip pocket was singing a traditional song for the newly weds. Around me all sorts of clothes were on display. Such a variety of saris and other nouveau Indian ensembles! Foreheads were bare or decorated with an assortment of bindi designs. Horizontal ash stripes and vertical red lines segued easily into the atmosphere of both places. I watched in amusement as the groom sat on the pandal sipping tea with a smug smile and remembered my father wanting a sip of water as he was waiting to give me away decades ago with the priest frowning in disapproval.
The two venues could not have been more different. One was a seaside temple and the other a city hotel. One groom was contemporary musician Anil Srinivasan and the other featured Soundarya, daughter of a superstar Rajnikant. The expected bling and zing of the filmi gang disappointed with a very low key and traditional affair. Everyone came in sober whites, pale blues and greys. The bride and her family wore kanjeevarams and except for some of her sakhis dressed in filmi bling, it could have been just another normal wedding for the bystander. Fortunately no ugly gowns were on display.
Both events had surprisingly well behaved priests. No cell phone conversations during important moments and no snide comments about BMWs and credit cards for the new bride. (Yes, this did occur during a recent Arya Samaj wedding) Both couples had chosen their own life partners and so there was a relaxed atmosphere all around.
Which returns me to the question. What can I wear to a wedding these days? I still stick to the silk sari, now contrasted with special cholis. But confusion is rising. Maybe one day women will be so stressed out about the making the right choice that they may just drape a gorgeous wrap coat over a negligee like Elizabeth Taylor in ‘Butterfield 8’ and walk out the door!