A Bengali wedding is nothing like the ones shown in Bollywood movies. There's no sangeet night, halla or dance. There's definitely no alcohol. Yet, a Bengali wedding is maddening and is something that you must experience, at least once. No matter how many weddings you’ve attended, a traditional Bengalibiyehas a charm that is irreplicable - not only because of the rich customs and food, but because of all these reasons that I’ve listed below. Read on...
1. Ai Buro Bhat
You might have had the best of Bengali food but nothing compares to an ai buro bhat meal. It’s a tradition where the bride and groom have their last meal as a single person. The bride and groom eagerly wait to be served their favourite dishes which could include rice, fish paturi, cholaar daal, tamarind and tomato chutney, mutton curry, fish curry, assorted fried veggies and, paayesh and sondesh as desserts. Om nom nom!
The Bengali haldi ceremony is beautiful in more ways than one. The bride’s wrists are adorned with Shakha Paula, the traditional bangles made of shells and coral. She is made to sit on a wooden plank while married women rub turmeric on her face. It’s really fun to watch!
Unlike other cultures, Bengalis prefer alta over mehendi. Brides apply a red pigment called alta on their hands and on the soles of their feet. I’m a little biased towards alta, what with being a Bengali myself, but the bright red alta actually looks as pretty as any mehendi design, sometimes even better!
It’s that thing which many people make fun of, the sound Bengali women make at auspicious occasions like weddings. But let me tell you this - when you’re at a Bengali wedding, you will realise that the age-old tradition of ululating accompanied by the blowing of the shankh is great to experience. Bengalis don’t need a DJ or any loud music. They have their own music to rejoice in and that is just awesome *dramatic hair flip*
5. Bor Asha
The welcoming of the groom is a rather enjoyable event in a Bengali biye. Although it puts the groom through a harrowing time, it's fun for the others involved. First, as the groom's car arrives at the venue, the mother-in-law gets her thousand customs going. Then after the bor is done with those, his brothers-in-law carry him on their shoulders and usher him in. Not a very happy experience wearing a dhoti, but fun to watch!
It’s a custom which symbolises longing and romance in its own subtle way. The bride sits on a wooden plank that is lifted by her brothers and other male members of the family. She hides her face behind two pan leaves and only removes them once she comes face to face with the groom. We know that to-be-married couples see each other thousands of times before the wedding. But that moment when the bride peeks from behind the leaves and looks at her groom for the first time means a lot to both of them. This is further followed by exchanging garlands.
7. Tawtto Exchange
Tawtto in Bengali means a huge spread of gifts which is exchanged between the families. Irrespective of the number of gifts that both the families get for each other, the most adorable of them are the tiny bor-bou (bride and groom) sculptures made of sondesh. Amused already? Wait, there’s more. It also includes a huge variety of sweets, decorated and packed in gorgeous trays - a treat for the taste buds as well as the eyes!
8. Bashar Ghor
It’s the wedding night where the groom is asked to stay at the venue or the bride’s home, before the bidaai takes place the following morning. A bunch of cousins and friends from both the sides stay up all night and enjoy great music, chit-chat, giggles and some innocent pranks.
9. The scrumptious spread
Contrary to popular belief, Bengali wedding menus aren’t all about fish and roshogulla. Yes, they are an integral part of the menu, but there’s a huge spread of delectable food, especially the delicious Kolkata-style biryani, mutton kosha, fish fingers, veg cutlets, and of course, sondesh.