Weddings: The Holy Grail of Cultural Blending

By: Shalen Franchini

Over the weekend, I got to witness the wedding of two completely different cultures coming together. These were two of my favorite people, Champaign, and Akhil. I met the lovely pair through a mutual friend when I was working in Portland, Ore. They both met in Portland as well when they both worked together at Nike. After some brief time in LA, they both wound up in Columbus. You can imagine my excitement to have my west coast partners so close by. Their announcement was no surprise to me because I knew the moment I met them this day would come.

Champaign and her family all grew up with each other on her grandfather’s gorgeous property. She had told me when we were in Portland how they would take the quads to visit one another’s houses. Akhil lived in a world much further away in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. From there he came here to Detroit where he earned his Master’s in Computer Science from Wayne State University. Their love is like a fairy-tale and their wedding would prove to be one for the books.

It’s very clear they both come from completely different cultural backgrounds and these two were able to do what married couples do best: compromise. They picked pages out of each other’s culture and applied it to their wedding for a truly unique and beautiful experience that I am so grateful to have been part of.

In Hindu culture, the highest form of respected marriage is called the Brahm Vivaah. It is a cultural tradition and ritual that combines two people into one bonded unit. That unit then bonds the two families together. Akhil and Champaign blended to very different worlds in the strongest bond that can ever be formed: love. It was like a fairy-tale.

Every girl dreams of what her wedding will someday look like and that dream became my friend’s reality. Champaign arrived with her father in a white horse-drawn carriage that her grandfather was steering. While American culture sees this as a normal girl wedding fantasy in the Hindu culture it can symbolize the story of the Marriage of Surya.

Written in Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages in the world, Surya’s husband must first defeat her father in a chariot race to get his approval of their nuptials. He does and then her father is able to give away the bride. Both a tradition in America as well as in Hindu culture called “Kanyadaan” except both parents give the bride away instead of just the father (again representing this unity in marriage). Akhil had both of his parents walk him down the aisle, one in each arm. At the time, I thought this was a perfect way for the husband to walk to his place before his fiancé’s passage.

After excerpts were read the groom’s mother performed the marriage knot ritual. In Indian culture, the mother or sister of the groom is joined together by a marriage knot as a symbol of their permanent bond. In Akhil and Champaign’s wedding, Akhil’s mother gave him a beautiful gold heart shaped locket that Akhil placed on Champaign.

The bride and groom gave their vows (another tradition common to both Indian and American culture) they said their “I do’s”, kissed and walked down the aisle where they rode off in the carriage still drawn by Champaign’s grandfather. It was truly an awe-inspiring time that left all of the guests in shock of how smoothly everything went. There weren’t any cultural lost in translations or prejudice, just a beautiful coming together of two kind-hearted people who truly are meant for each other.

At the reception, the bride and groom did something that was unique of either of their cultures that just shows how completely admirable these two are and made me feel even more blessed to be part of their special day. Champaign and Akhil both chose a charity and for every person in attendance they donated a dollar to both charities. Akhil’s was to support a charity in back in India and Champaign’s (who is a huge runner) was to support one of her co-workers who is running a marathon for cancer. How completely humbling that even on their big day they still were thinking of others.

When they get back from their honeymoon in India I will be making plans to visit in Columbus and hear all the details of the big day. That drive won’t nearly be as bad as the 12 hours it took to get down to Georgia! Be on the look-out for my next blog article: 5 essential components for a stellar road trip.

 

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