Blended marriages often come with a variety of challenges, but this couple made two culturally-different weddings fun. Mahesh and Charis managed to merge their Indian-American Wedding traditions with just a little bit of their personal touch. It’s no wonder they did that perfectly since they already share a passion for exploring the world.
Charis: “I like splurging on the history parts of most locations. I’m big on learning a lot of new things, even when I was in college. I grew up watching National Geographic and enjoy learning as much as I can. Before we even met, I was doing belly dancing. My family is pretty diverse and we are very accepting of a lot of ways and traditions.”
Charis: “It took a little convincing when I asked him to be my boyfriend. I took the extra step there after a month and a half of hanging out and dating.”
Mahesh: “In my culture, girls would not go out and ask someone to be their boyfriend. That’s why I knew that the honor would be on me to do that, but I did not mind at that point. We dated for about three years, and then we decided to get engaged and get married.
We got to know the positives, and negatives, and how we could deal with it for the rest of our lives before we dive right into it. One thing that stood out was when she came to my games. Without even knowing the game at that point, she would come out and just cheer for me. She was the only woman to be on the park cheering 25 men on the field, in which I was one of the teams. She’s definitely a catch.
Another common link that was between us was the horses. She was directly linked through her sports and my family historically has been related to horses back in India. I ended up going to one of her vaulting events. I was stunned by the acrobatics they do on a horse ride. Her Daredevil and carrying her heart on her sleeve, that attitude was something that attracted me towards her.”
Mahesh: “I asked my mom to have a special diamond ring handcrafted from one of our family jewelers in India. Come August, I just tell Charis that my mom is here and I want her to see my university in Maryland. I asked her to dress up in my favorite dress, which she did. I took her to my favorite spot on the campus; it’s called the M circle. It’s a historic point in the campus where there’s a giant M, which happens to be my initial and also stands for marrying. I gave her a bunch of handouts, each meant “will you marry me?” It was a whole sequence of slideshow presentations but with cards. I bent on my knee and I gave her the special diamond ring, which she still wears.
A week after that, we had a good Indian reception for engagement, the same as what we do back home in India. Different friends from different parts of the country flew out for our engagement party.”
Charis: “The awkward is the difference in the tradition that we have in America that they don’t do in India. Indian tradition, men actually wear a ring when they’re engaged. What we did as a compromise was I went out and bought a ring for him so he didn’t feel left behind.”
Mahesh: “In India engagement, the man actually wears a ring to show that he’s engaged. For marriage, you get a separate ring but they’re not the traditional wedding bands. They are a different kind of ring that a man wears on his right hand.
During our engagement party, we exchanged rings. We also exchanged garlands of roses and then we dressed Indian. We celebrated this at an Indian restaurant so we had an entire hall booked for us and our friends. Also we had an Indian cake cutting, ring exchange ceremony, dinner, and dancing.”
Charis: “Every celebration for marriage in India is always a celebration. In the first year of a child’s birthday, they throw big festivities. Everything family oriented is probably ten times more celebrated than we do in the US.”
Charis: “There are a couple of ceremonies we did that were different. I’m in the Christian religion and it’s a traditional white dress and then walking down the aisle. We did the traditional walk down the aisle except I sang the song A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman.
Our wedding cake ended up being a three-tiered wedding cake that looks like these pillows, with a little golden elephant on top, which in India is a symbol of good luck. One thing that I did differently for our US wedding was I wore a lehenga instead of my white wedding dress to the reception.”
Mahesh: “I wanted an American wedding. Charis didn’t want an American wedding because she’s seen it all of her life. On the other side, I’ve seen American weddings on television. I don’t care if I don’t have an Indian wedding but I want an American wedding. We got married in each of our cultures for the other person. She got married in the Indian culture because she wanted it.”
Charis: “I didn’t realize how long the Indian weddings were. They call it functions instead of an event. To experience such a thing, to be the bride and be going around and meeting the entire family, it’s probably once in a lifetime. We did everything in Hindu traditional religious weddings. Even in the ceremony, we had somebody speaking in Sanskrit. I put out eight different outfits.”
Mahesh: “We had this five-day Indian-American Wedding event that we wanted to have planned and executed. On the first day, the 26th, we had an entire day of pre-wedding bridal and groom shoot. On the 27th, we had a Christian wedding in my mom’s tiny church with a reception lunch and a lot of pictures and videos.”
Charis: “On 28th, we did what’s called Mehndi and Haldi but we did it a little differently because the Mehndi takes hours to dry. We had the Mehndi (henna) artists come into the house the night before we were going to hold these.”
Mahesh: “There’s a saying that goes the darker the Mehndi turns out to be the following day and the longer it lasts, it shows the amount of love you have for your partner. Hers lasted for months, which I’m happy about.
As a Hindu tradition, the bride and groom get invited to relatives’ houses and they give you offerings in terms of clothing, fruits and vegetables, and things which help you succeed in life or is a good sign. It’s meant for a prosperous future ahead.
The following day, we had a Haldi, which is turmeric. That’s used to purify the bride and the groom. For our Indian-American Wedding we had an eight-hour evening ceremony for about 200 guests in our houses to celebrate. On day five, we had the Bharat, a procession where the bride and the groom sit in a chariot of a white horse with live music and band dancing for about a mile. Bharat eventually leads to the Sanghi, which in English means “music”.
On the final day of our wedding, the big day, we had a traditional Hindu South Indian wedding, where we had our pundit, and he gave all his blessings. The scripts that he read were in Sanskrit and from our holy books. It was a two-hour wedding ceremony with walking around the fire pit and tying the knot between the bride and the groom. The ceremony was followed by a reception of 700 guests.”
Charis: “Of all the Indian-American weddings that we had, the Hindu wedding was my absolute favorite because there’s so much more meaning behind it. I’m learning as I go with everything. Even though I knew so much about it, there were always these new or smaller things involved. It was fun to sing and dance, and then watch everybody else perform.”
Connect with Mahesh and Charis Naidu:
YouTube: I Am Naidu
Blog: Wanderlust Naidu
Photographs by: OnebyTwo
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