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Photo: Lin & Jirsa Photography.
An example of India wedding choreography as shown at Maharini Weddings.

This is a fun story about the way entertainment has taken over weddings. Although our own family’s weddings have included Swedish customs (e.g. when the bride makes a trip to the ladies room, all the woman go kiss the groom) and Egyptian customs (e.g. a belly dancer with lighted candles in her hair), some families in the southern part of India are really going beyond the beyond. Mujib Mashal and Suhasini Raj reported the story for the New York Times.

“Weddings in India’s south, particularly in the coastal state of Kerala, have transformed into a festival of color — and dance, lots of dance.

“Unlike those in the north, weddings in the south used to be subdued affairs centered on a feast that, at best, would occasionally include a live band. Now, the ceremonies draw on the latest entertainment from across the country, including the breathtakingly fast rhythms of Tamil and Telugu dance music, and the colorful costumes and drumbeats of Punjab.

“Dr. Sheha Pfizer’s wedding had something extra. …The ceremonies in Kerala have become so colorful that they are the talk of the town and viral discussions online. There is the favorite Punjabi dhol drumming, but also troupes that perform Egyptian, Mexican and Sufi dances — all with lavish outfits. People hire water drummers, pole dancers and acrobats.

“About 60 percent to 70 percent of the weddings in Kerala now include choreographed dances, said Mayjohn P.J., a former wedding singer who started a wedding management agency, Melodia, a decade ago.

“Mr. P.J. has no doubt about what has fueled the transformation: social media. Couples find inspiration for their weddings on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, before posting their own ceremonies onto the same platforms.

“Wedding planners, part of an industry that brings in tens of billions of dollars every year in India, offer video and photo packages that are tailored to get clicks. The packages, usually costing $2,000 to $5,000, include an ‘Instagram teaser’ and the ‘wedding highlight,’ essentially your own five- to seven-minute blockbuster film.

“The most ambitious ones incorporate the narrative tricks of Indian soap operas for emotional effect, and deploy the latest technology — steady cams, drones and lots of musical special effects — to create the climax of a techno concert. …

The lingering pandemic has also brought changes to weddings in India’s south, where the peak season runs from December to February.

“Health regulations limit capacity to 200 people (as opposed to as many as five times that in pre-Covid times). So families have turned them into multiday affairs of smaller ceremonies — inviting a different set of guests for each so that everyone feels part of the celebration.

“Perhaps the busiest man during the wedding season is the choreographer Manas Prem.

“He has been commissioned to choreograph 500 wedding routines in the coming months. Most of them are small, and Covid has forced much of the training online.

“His frequent challenge is older relatives who get cold feet when they see the audience. ‘They get shy and they don’t want to do it,’ Mr. Prem said. ‘Then I have to fill the gaps.’

“Both Dr. Pfizer, 25, and her husband are Muslims. Their wedding was a display of Kerala’s largely seamless diversity. Her childhood friends performing for her wedding were a mix of Hindus and Christians. …

“Dance runs in Dr. Pfizer’s family. Her mother was a dancer. One of her grandmothers performed with a folk ensemble in the 1960s and 1970s.

“The bride started training as a dancer even before kindergarten — a large stretch of it under the tutelage of Mr. Prem. Pictures of competitions when she was younger adorn the walls of his small dance studio. …

“As the guests took their seats in the hall for the evening ceremony, the dance troupe changed costumes repeatedly — a Sufi entrance with the groom, a Punjabi bhangra number that included a cameo by the bride, a mash-up of the latest hits where the dancers displayed their hip-hop moves. Another group, all women, performed a traditional Keralan Muslim dance, oppana, a hip-hop dance in jeans and T-shirts, and a flamenco-inspired routine.

“In between, the tall wedding singer, wearing a turtleneck and chic glasses with transparent rims, entertained the crowd. He announced the bride’s first entrance.

“The heads turned to the back, where Dr. Pfizer, surrounded by the female troupe of dancers, beamed with excitement in a dazzling ocean-green dress paired with stunning jewelry. Mobile phones came out for pictures. Music blared as the dancers shimmied and snapped their fingers, parting the aisle for the bride.

“But before the bride had climbed the stage to take her seat, someone realized that the main camera that films the ‘wedding highlight’ for YouTube and Instagram wasn’t set up yet.

“The bride and the dancers had to go back to their starting point at the entrance and do it all over again.”

More at the Times, here. Lots of great pictures.

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff
Jen Andonian and Matt Shearer, both epidemiologists, recently got married at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Many group events are being put off because of the war against coronavirus, but recently I’ve been learning how weddings, Passover feasts, funerals, conferences, and the like are probably managed in other kinds of war.

Here are two wedding stories from the Boston Globe.

Liz Kowalczyk reports on Jen Andonian and Matt Shearer, who “had it all planned: her burgundy floral dress, his matching checked tie. They live in Cambridge, but chose Ann Arbor, Mich., where they met as graduate students, for their simple courthouse wedding ceremony in March with immediate family. A reception for 75 guests would follow the next day at her parents’ lakeside restaurant.

“Then the fast-moving coronavirus began spreading through the world — and the United States. Andonian and Shearer, both epidemiologists on the frontlines of COVID-19 — she at Massachusetts General Hospital, he at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security — knew they could not ignore the risk of a large celebration. …

“When she told her coworkers at the MGH Center for Disaster Medicine the next day, a colleague joked: What about just getting married at the hospital? Her co-workers turned the offhand remark into an actual plan, executed in the midst of exhausting 12-hour workdays.

During quick breaks from setting up coronavirus testing sites and expanding intensive-care units, team members ordered flowers and vanilla cupcakes and devised a music playlist. Nurse Eileen Searle applied for a one-day state certificate to perform a marriage ceremony. …

“On Friday, Andonian, 30, and Shearer, 36, were married before a small group of disaster medicine colleagues, all wearing surgical masks and sitting six feet apart to prevent the spread of germs, as the sun streamed in from the windows high in the light-blue dome. It was a welcome but brief break amid the relentless arrival of patients ill with a relentless virus; the number of patients sick enough with COVID-19 to be admitted to Mass. General had more than doubled over the course of the week, to 61 on [March 27] alone.

” ‘This may not have been the wedding you wanted, but it is clearly the wedding MGH needed,’ began Searle, whose job includes training nurses to properly put on protective gear. ‘Thank you.’ …

“When they told their families about the plan to marry at the hospital, Andonian said they had mixed feelings. ‘Everyone was sad, but after seven years, they were ready for us to get married,” she said. …

“The couple arrived about 15 minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., walking past a long table outside the Ether Dome set with cupcakes to share, a cake for them to take home, tiny colorful containers of bubbles, and a gift bag hiding a bottle of champagne. ..

“As Andonian waited in the hallway, Shearer stood between a white plaster statue of Apollo and a glass case containing an Egyptian mummy, part of a small collection of artifacts [in the MGH museum].

” ‘You ready?’ Searle asked.

” ‘Let’s do it,’ he said.” More.

Another Globe story detailed how a photographer that a couple had never met was determined to put together all the traditional pieces so that a soldier could “elope.”

Megan Johnson writes of bride Victoria Pass, “ ‘If you still want to get married, I definitely want to get married,’ said Victoria. ‘We gotta figure this out.’

“The couple decided they’d wed at Chicopee City Hall. But with none of their family and friends in the area, Victoria wanted to have a photographer capture the moment. They started making phone calls, and stumbled upon Dani Klein-Williams, a Northampton-based photographer.

‘They said they were just planning a very quick, no-frills elopement at Chicopee City Hall,’ said Klein-Williams. ‘I was like, “Okay, can you give me two hours? I’m gonna put something even more spectacular together for you.” ‘

“Klein-Williams called Blantyre, the Tudor-style Relais & Châteaux property in Lenox, Mass. … Within two hours, she got approval from Blantyre, which was already shut down for their annual winter closure. …

“Next, Klein-Williams called her favorite wedding planner, Tara Consolati, who also happens to be ordained. Though she had never performed a ceremony before, she was on board to officiate. Carolyn Valenti, a Berkshires-based florist, offered up a blend of snapdragons, hyacinth, and other blooms. ‘She said, “I have all these gorgeous flowers and they’re just going to rot and die,” ‘ said Klein-Williams.

By the end of the conversation, she discovered that Valenti had a house guest who could bake. Without her baking equipment on hand, however, they dumped the contents of an oversize can of tomatoes, sterilized the can, and used that as a frame for a small wedding cake, topped with berries and flowers.

“[Klein-Williams next] … reached out to Mike Murray of Summer Wind Wedding Films, who volunteered to live stream the event, so Victoria and Jerrod’s family and friends could follow along.” More.

Oh, the kindness of strangers!

Photo: Dani Klein-Williams
Victoria and Jarrod Pass eloped in the Berkshires after having to cancel their 60-guest wedding in Las Vegas. A photographer they hadn’t met, Dani Klein-Williams, was determined the couple should have all the traditional features of a wedding.

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Here’s a heartwarmer about how a groom raised by his grandfather got a hospital’s help to make the perfect wedding.

Shandana Mufti writes at the Globe: “When Danny Weaver and fiancée Paula Hatch-O’Loughlin set a wedding date for Aug. 10 at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, they never imagined that they would say their vows on June 25 at Emerson Hospital in Concord.

“But that was before Danny Weaver’s grandfather, Donald Weaver, who raised Danny Weaver and whom he considers the ‘greatest man and friend I have ever known,’ fell ill. And when Donald Weaver’s condition rapidly deteriorated on June 25, Danny Weaver, Hatch-O’Laughlin and the nursing staff at Emerson Hospital came together to organize a wedding in fewer than three hours. …

“ ‘They had the huge courtyard all blocked off,’ Danny Weaver said, describing the event. ‘They had 50 chairs lined up outside, they had music going, they picked songs for when she walked down the aisle. They literally wheeled my grandfather outside – poles, IVs, they brought it all outside.’ …

“Perhaps most importantly of all, Donald Weaver loved the ceremony. Danny Weaver said that even the next morning, his grandfather couldn’t stop talking about the beauty of the wedding.

“Donald Weaver died peacefully on June 26.”

More.

Photo: Emerson Hospital
(L-R) Joey O’Loughlin, Jarrod Hatch, Jillian O’Loughlin, Daniel Weaver Jr., Kylie Weaver, Paula Hatch-O’Loughlin, Danny Weaver and Donald Weaver gather after Paula and Danny were married at Emerson Hospital.

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Siblings

When Suzanne and Erik got married, it was a great occasion for photographs of family members who are seldom all in the same place at the same time. My sisters-in-law are especially good at seizing these opportunities, and Lisa made sure I lined up with my siblings at the rehearsal dinner. Here we are.

The brother on the left is usually found in Wisconsin, where he does research on retention of organ transplants. I’m the short one. The next brother lives in California and writes business books. My sister is an MD in New York City. I can’t remember when was the previous time we were all together.

I used to tell stories about one Sammy Seal to the boys. (They were older than my sister. She got other stories.) For reasons that have become clearer over the years, the stories were mostly about Sammy escaping from his pen at night and having adventures and then coming home. Recently, I saw a cute video that reminded me of those stories. I call this short clip “Freedom? Freedom!”

 

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