“The wedding is going to take place tomorrow. It will be a very private and closed affair. We have managed to arrange clothes and makeup for the bride and groom, and the food will be prepared at home. The Pandit lives nearby, he has agreed to drop by and perform the wedding from a “safe distance”. Don’t worry, we are following all the safety measures.”

I got this news about my cousin sister’s wedding through a call on the 3rd of May. I had mixed feelings about this news.

Of course, I was happy for Dollie– my sister, but I was also worried sick due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis– how will they manage everything? What if something goes wrong? I was also sad that I would not be able to be with her on her special day – a day we had been planning for since our childhood.

To ease me of my worries, my family explained to me that they were being extra cautious about following the social distancing norms– that everyone would be wearing protective face masks and sanitizing their hands. They told me that barely five baratis would be attending the ceremony and that was a little comforting to know.

Here’s how my sister got married during a global pandemic and national lockdown:

Mehendi

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That night ladies of the house sung our regional folk songs, which beautifully describes the strong emotional bond of the bride with her family while ‘Mehndi’ was being applied on Dollie’s hands.

I prayed to God to keep my family safe & sound, protect them from this deadly virus, and to bless the couple who was going to tie the knot the next day. After all, it was happening.

Bride loading

Finally, the day was here and we were all very excited. Members of my family, relatives and friends who were currently at different locations had their smartphone batteries charged, Jio sim cards and internet connections up & running, ready to witness the wedding from the comfort of their living spaces.

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Since I was going to attend the wedding virtually, I got myself dressed up in a decent salwar suit, put some makeup on and applied a bright coloured lipstick.

I have to say that my family was really-really happy to see my face all painted up and glowing, especially the lipstick! It gave them a sense of relief and satisfaction that I’m not heartbroken or crying my eyes out on my pillow for not being there. Honestly, it was quite an activity for me, I was too excited.

My elder sister sent me Dollie’s picture where she was all covered in ‘haldi’ & oil. It was now time for her to take a shower and get ready for the ceremony.

When I called her thirty minutes after, it was already happening – I wanted to see her every 10 minutes! All my sisters were with her, except me. She looked gorgeous in the red saree that my eldest sister got for her.

I witnessed her doing the ‘solah shringar’– the quintessential Indian bridal makeup, even helped her pick the Bindi to complete the look. She looked so beautiful, I had tears of joy in my eyes.    

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Exchange of real emotions in a virtual landscape

Everyone was emotional as many of our family members weren’t there. Everyone wanted to see her through video calls and as a result, soon enough the batteries of everyone’s smartphones started to run out, and I panicked. I asked them to take a break and put the phone on charge so that I can be there with them until ‘Vidai’.

In the meanwhile, I tried to keep up with my other relatives who we couldn’t invite due to the lockdown and made sure to keep them posted about the wedding.

The baraat

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The groom and his family arrived. Only five people accompanied the groom– they came one-by-one on 2-3 motorcycles. Thankfully, they lived not very far from our place and once they arrived, they were immediately shifted to a room where they could get themselves & the Groom ready.

Everything was homemade

Due to the lockdown, they did not hire a professional photographer, decorator or caterer, just the Pandit ji. We used our family camera & smartphones for the photoshoot (you could judge that by the amateurish pictures included), and my brothers-in-law cooked the food for gharatis & baratis.

The family picture

I managed to be a part of the group family picture of my sisters by being on a video call with them and getting the mobile phone’s screen clicked too, it felt awesome; it was as if I was there with them!

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Can you see that beautiful girl’s face on the display of the phone the bride is holding? Well, that’s me. Brilliant idea, I know. 

The groom also took a picture with his sister who couldn’t make it using the same ‘Ninja technique’!

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 Jaimaal

The groom waited for his companion patiently while one of my sisters welcomed him and the other one got the bride ready. I’m sure this is not how the couple thought it would happen– without a stage, without decoration – the only flowers present at this wedding were those in the ‘Jaimalaas’ they were about to exchange! However, guess they understood that in the end what mattered was their love, and coming together with the blessings of their families.

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The bride now came with an aarti thali to welcome the groom. She applied a tilak on his forehead, and then they exchanged the wedding garland as everyone present virtually as well as in-person clapped their hands with joy maintaining social distancing.

The wedding

The rituals started- Kanyadaan followed by Sindurdaan, and then finally, the seven feras. Meanwhile, the family members in our WhatsApp group kept receiving videos of how each & every milestone was being achieved and we all had so many questions – people kept checking their phones every 5 minutes. They kept it low; they kept it quiet – only the chant of mantras could be heard which filled the air with positivity, as the two souls united.

Kohbar and bidai

With the Blessings of God, my Late Grandfather & Grandmother, parents, family, relatives & friends, the ceremony ended and they were announced as wedded couples. Dollie was married and we all prayed to God for the couple’s beautiful future together and congratulated them. I finally got a chance to talk to my new Jiju face-to-face (on a video call of course) and congratulated them both.

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I have to say, with the Sindoor filled in the partition of Dollie’s hair and the Saree Palla that she wore over her head, she looked surreal, like a Goddess. I could just kiss her if I was there.

Needless to say, they were famished. According to Bihari Hindu rituals, the bride and groom need to be on fasting until the wedding ceremony gets over, so they were served two plates of food, and that was the time of joy & laughter; two families bonding.

They touched the feet of all elders to get their blessings as they stepped into a brand new life. Everyone present there walked my darling sister out of her childhood home with all the love and good wishes to the couple and hoped to see them together soon.

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Dollie was set-off on a new journey with new people who she will call her own family now. Seems like the end of an era!

And that’s why you hire a professional photographer as they don’t start crying because the one at this wedding did. It was the bride’s younger brother after all!

This is how the whole wedding was executed during the lockdown. We hope that this pandemic gets over soon so we can throw a grand reception, invite every one of our relatives, friends & neighbours there, and PART-Y! 😊