Saturday, 18 June 2011

A Tibetan Wedding in India

“Same same, but different.”  This is a common Tibetan saying directly translated into English.  This morning I went to my first Tibetan wedding, and while there are many differences from the weddings I have attended, the feelings and thoughts I think when attending a wedding were the same.  A great “consume” activity if we are talking about being a student of Tibetan culture.  

We were invited to this wedding by Elizabeth because it was a member of the host family she is staying with.  The extended family came over to discuss if this girl would be allowed to marry the boy (being a love marriage vs. arranged), and once they agreed it was okay they threw the whole thing together in two days!  Compare that to the countless hour and stress that goes into planning out a wedding in the States. 
In India Tibetan weddings are much different.  My host sister told me that in Tibet they last fifteen days.  This one just lasted all day. 

The program said that it started at 9, but that was far from the truth.  Polychronic time and whatnot.  We were going with the family and did not arrive at the reception hall until 10.  We sat around and ate snacks (Tibetan cookies, rice, and some derivative of trail mix) until it was time for the scarf ceremony.  There was nothing too fancy or formal about this.  The couple sat near the alter of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and people would form a line and drape white scarves over the couple and the members of the family.  There were no vows exchanged, no grand gestures for complex formalities, but you could tell it was still very important.  The bride wore a silk red chupa (a traditional dress), and both her and the groom wore some special Tibetan hats made of fur.  People showed up in jeans and t-shirts of chupas.  It was so much more relaxed in general than the weddings I am used to—the one I have dreaded planning for myself most of my life.  

Since we had a few hours to blow we played some cards that they handed out.  Kristen had us play a silly fortune telling game with different boys we could potentially marry.  It was the perfect setting.  After a few rounds of that we all talked about what is happening in our current dating lives, how these relationships came to be, first kisses, and all of those other feelings that come creeping up when you are at a wedding.  We talked about dream weddings and ideal honeymoon destinations.  I don’t know why I struggle so much coming to terms with any one of these ideas for myself.  Call me crazy, but I think the most romantic kind of wedding is an elopement.  If you could guarantee that my wedding could be as relaxed and enjoyable as this Tibetan couple’s wedding though, I think I could be more than happy with that kind of arrangement.  

After the scarf ceremony there was more eating.  Then more eating.  Lunch was served, but we left shortly after that.  It was good food, but after a pancake breakfast and the snacking I had a hard time stuffing it all in.  I assume that the eating would go on till dinner (which was supposed to start at 6).  While we did not attend the rest of the festivities, I am very grateful for Elizabeth and her family for inviting us.  

Oh love… I’m quite sappy today.

Adela  and Myra


  1. I'll bring ya a white scarf when you get married. =)

  2. Oh, look at us in our cute little chupas.

    The most surprising thing to me was that there was no separate ceremony. I wasn't actually aware that the official wedding ceremony had started until about 10 people had already gone through the line, and I was over there taking pictures!

    What if you did something like Elizabeth's family barbeque for your wedding luncheon or reception? I think that sounds relaxed and enjoyable.

    You know what I just realized? I did not see the bride and groom kiss once during the entire wedding. I don't have any idea if they did. Come to think of it, I haven't seen my host mom kiss either of her husbands (that's weird to say). Hmmm . . . that's a cultural difference!

  3. Kristen, I haven't seen any PDA from Tibetans here at all come to think of it... Definitely a cultural difference. And thanks for bringing up that game. It was lots of fun. ;)
    Rachel, if you elope, can I still buy you a wedding present? :)

  4. Yeah, public display of affection seems to be completely off the market here. It is always embarrassing to see the Western tourists making out on the side of the roads here. It seems very insensitive... I remember feeling very self conscious when Elizabeth, your host mom, was looking through my pictures and stumbled across an old engagement session I shot. I wonder how that is interpreted...

    And really, I love that there is a ceremony, but that it is not so formal. Well, maybe it is formal. It is hard to explain, isn't it? There were no parades, no giant gestures. I remember learning at the conversation lab that H.H. the Dalai Lama is against big spending on marriages. I wonder how much of that plays into it.

    As for my future wedding, we'll all (including myself) be surprised.

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  7. I love the wedding card and will use similar card design in my wedding in Feb. Thank you.