On the second day of their wedding celebration, Raheel and Zoya joined their loved ones at the Worlds Fair Marina Restaurant & Banquet Hall. Saturday’s schedule was a whole lot more relaxed; food, games, dancing, speeches and a full night of celebrating. As a photographer, observer and cultural outsider, it was fascinating to be immersed in a completely different kind of wedding than one I was use to. Many of the wedding practices had great significance behind them too; something that really made their two day celebration very special. When the Groom and his family entered the banquet hall, Zoya’s family showered rose petals on them as a traditional form of welcoming. When the time came, Zoya came out of the bridal room and proceeded to the ceremony area with her family members. Raheel and his family met them midway, whereupon the father of the bride symbolically joined their hands together– perhaps one of the most emotional moments of the evening. As husband and wife, they took their seats together on stage. After rounds of group photos and plenty of food, rings were exchanged and the cake was cut.
One of the most entertaining activities of the night came next: the “Juta Chupai” (the hiding of the shoe). In this lighthearted activity, the brides’ friends and family steal the groom’s wedding shoes. In order to get the shoes back, he must pay their requested ransom… in cash. After a little bargaining between both parties, the groomsmen pay the ransom and the game is complete. This payment (many hundreds of $$, believe it or not) also doubled as a thank-you gift for the tremendous amount of hours the bridesmaids devoted in making the wedding celebration happen… so obviously both sides bargained pretty tough.
The last few hours were celebrated with a whole lot of really fun dancing. In the final phase of the wedding ceremony, an event known as the “Rukhsati” took place. Zoya’s family gave their final blessings to the bride & groom, and wished them both a happy marriage. This was definitely the most emotional, tearful event for everybody. Although in many other cultures it may sound like a simple “goodbye”, for the bride’s family it was anything but. Her family was essentially saying farewell as Zoya literally ‘departed’ from her family’s household to join the new household that was her marriage. And my favorite images? The last three. In the few moments that the bride was alone, she is given her final, tear-filled goodbye by her own father.