“Oh, hey!” Dana and Gautam spot us through an open door as we are being shown to our rooms.
“We’re just looking for a good place to sit still for several hours while we get our henna done. You should come find us once you get settled!”
I haven’t seen my sister or her groom since they moved out in November, so there are hugs all around.
They seem purposeful, but not too stressed the day before their big two-day wedding. Dana and Gautam got COVID married two years ago. But still, this will be a big event, with them at the center. The whole hotel (read: palace) is rented out, hundreds of friends and family members from India and the many other countries where Dana and Gautam’s highly international friend set reside.
Weddings, much as they may seem to be about the couple, are also for the sake of the families. This one in particular would not have happened without the dedication and magnanimity of Gautam’s parents, who have spent a good part of the last two years putting this wedding together.
We’ve been set up, as the bride’s family, in astounding rooms, each with a private pool, with terraces that interconnect and overlook a valley of croplands. It’s so fabulous that when my other sister Kari comes to visit in the evening, she lets out a string of swear words.
We find Dana and Gautam on one of the hotel’s large terraces. Both are getting very thoroughly hennaed, hands and feet, but Dana’s is the most intense. She’s laying back across a daybed, each of her arms attended to by a different artist. She can’t do anything with her hands, so she’s helplessly requesting various kinds of assistance from all of us. Ryan and Margaret are here already too, in from Taiwan: the whole Breseman family briefly reassembled in this totally novel setting.
Over the next day, more guests and family trickle in. The official Mehendi is Friday morning, henna artists to go around, a DJ playing, professional Rajistani dancers alternating between show dances (dancing on broken glass, really fast spinning, dancing with pots balanced on their heads, including pots of fire) and participatory dances. Both the professionals and the now-legion aunties forcibly pull everybody onto the dance floor, so we’re all hopping along, waving our hands, smiling a lot to the Hindi tunes.
Dana and I are in saris by now, professionally draped, and I can see she’s just as much adrift in the current as I am: somebody will tell us where to go and when.
It’s easy to just let it happen. We’re being welcomed, taken care of, quite literally made family. It’s clear already that this is going to be a hell of a party.