Rachel and Vidur's Indian-American Wedding | GMM Podcast

Rachel and Vidur’s Indian-American Wedding

 

When you listen to Rachel and Vidur speak about their Indian-American wedding, you will notice how effortless and important it is for them to communicate and check in with each other on every little detail. It was definitely a team effort, which you don’t get to see very often. No wonder they both wanted to be part of this conversation and share what they learned from planning a multicultural wedding. 

From equally balancing out the traditions, guest list, and smallest details, to accepting the sacrifices they had to make. Even her dress was the perfect blend of the two cultures.

Rachel was born in South Carolina, but lived most of her life in Dallas, Texas. Vidur is from a small state in North India, called Haryana. They met in school while at Baylor University. 

Rachel and Vidur started dating in a similar way as Adam and I did. After going to the same school, one of their friends invited them to a party and made sure that Rachel and Vidur met. After a successful match, they started dating. But because of the distance between Waco and Dallas, it was more like a long distance relationship in the beginning. Two years later they got engaged. 

 

Did you ever think you would end up in a multicultural relationship?

Rachel was always attracted to non-white men, but she never thought she would marry somebody who came from the other side of the world and had no familiarity with America. 

Vidur: I never discounted the fact that I could be in a multicultural relationship, but that wasn’t ever on my radar. I was more looking for a person who understands me, and who I had a personal connection with.

 
 

When you get into a relationship on a deeper level and you commit yourself to it, that’s when subtle cultural differences start to come out. 

Vidur come from India, -which is a very culturally diverse country-, compared to America.

Social cues where some of the things that I had to learn about. It was understanding people and what they mean, and catching up with cultural references. America is a very diverse culture, so when I moved to Texas, I came as a clean slate. One of the good things was that my brother already lives here, so he was able to help me understand how the States are. Because to me, when you move to any other places, there are things that you have to adjust to. Even before meeting other people. Like weather and transportation. But many things you learn from the movies. 

I found that American people are really nice. So much so that they won’t share something that is out of normal, or they won’t correct anything. For example if I’m saying something wrong. It took me some time to learn that they are so nice, that nobody is going to make me uncomfortable. Indian people are really nice too, but in a different way. We also love to independently talk about politics, but here in American it’s impolite to do that. 

 
 

Communication and empathy helped us get through our first cultural misunderstanding.

Rachel: A lot of people would probably know that in India you don’t really tell your parents when you are dating someone. One, there are arranged marriages where they tell you “here is a set of women that I think would be great for you.” Two, if you are ready to marry someone, you surprise them by saying “here is the girl I want to marry, I hope you like her”. Where as in America you introduce your boyfriend to the parents when the relationship gets serious. So I introduced Vidur to my mom and my dad, and then I was waiting for him to introduce me to his brother and eventually his parents via Skype. But it never happened, and I had to realize that they didn’t even know I existed. That was a big shock for me! Because in America that signifies that he is embarrassed of me, and he doesn’t think long term. That was probably our first shakey issue in our relationship, which I think is really common for people who are dating Indian people. 

 
 

Vidur: I wanted to preserve the relationship with Rachel, making sure that she and I were comfortable with everything. Once we got through that, I felt like we had reached a cultural understanding. I was able to communicate to her and she was empathetic enough to understand why am I doing this.

Usually in India parents of both sides meet and they decide on the engagement and wedding. There is even a pre ceremony before the engagement, where it’s decided if they are going to marry each other or not. It’s called “Roka Ceremony”. My parents may have expected doing this for me, but I think it was a sigh of relief for them, that they don’t have to go through all of this planning. 

 

It was important to have a day to show people what our blended culture was like.

The process for getting a green card is years and years long, so pretty soon after we got engaged, we went to the courthouse and got married. It was a really small ceremony, but we did not intend for that to be our official wedding date. 

Rachel: It was mostly me planning the wedding, but I needed a ton of his input, since I had decided that we should do and Indian-American blended wedding. We talked about doing a wedding in Texas, and then another one in India. But that seemed far too much fuss over one couple. It felt like we are keeping the cultures very separate. We wanted to blend them together in that moment, in that special day.

So making that big decision was really helpful. Since we were already married, we didn’t need to have the wedding day. But I really wanted to show people an expectation of what our relationship was going to be from then on out. And invite them to join in celebrating that with us. For me it was important to have a day to show people what our blended culture was like.

Starting the wedding preparation

Vidur: We started our wedding preparations with two big steps. Rachel already had her mind on getting married by the river on this beautiful bridge in Waco, Texas (called Suspension Bridge). Then our next part was the guest list. That was the decision that kind of merged into a full cultural discussion between us.

First of all, who do we want to invite? Why are we inviting these people? We had a really small wedding, with around 60 people. Just immediate family and three best friends with their spouses from each side. It would have been really hard for my extended family to fly here, and we didn’t want to have a wedding where 30 people know me and 170 people know Rachel. It becomes intimidating for everybody. 

Both of us are very agnostic spiritually, not religious, so we did not want any religious undergoing in our wedding. But it was important for us to respect that both of our parents are religious.

Once we got that down, the theme of the wedding started making itself. We ordered Indian food from Dallas, because there wasn’t a restaurant in Waco that served it. There was also Texan BBQ on the other side. 

 
 

We wanted to make sure that everybody who comes would experience both cultures equally.

Especially because from my Indian culture there were a lot of things that had to go. For example, we usually have the “Sangett”, which is the day before the wedding. It’s a ceremony where families meet and celebrate with each other. It’s very similar to the rehearsal dinner in America. So we kind of blended those to merge the cultures.

In Hindu weddings they usually have the holy fire in the middle, that the couple have to walk around. Initially when we talked with the city asking about the permit, they said if it’s for religious purposes, you can have an open flame in the park, but if it’s not, you can’t have it. Since we didn’t want anything religious, that was a ritual that we decided not to do. Similarly from Rachel’s side, she also didn’t want anything from the Bible. Eventually it came down to the fact that we gave both of our parents 2-3 minutes to say their parts, since religion is so important to them, and we wanted to respect that.

Vidur: We had a first look, which is an American culture. And then “Baraat” and “Doli”, which means that I rode in on a white horse with my family, and Rachel arrived under a canopy, as part of the Indian culture. I wanted my parents to see that Rachel is very accepting of the culture. During the ceremony I tied the “Mangalsutra” around her neck, which is a beaded necklace that the husband puts on his wife. It’s equal of a ring exchange. 

Everything was about showing to our guests that this is the celebration of both of our cultures. Not in a religious way, but more in who we are. 

 
 

I love that Rachel and Vidur asked each other specific questions before the wedding. “What part of the culture do you want to bring to the wedding?” Then they reversed the question and said, “What do you want me to present from my culture on our wedding?” It’s such a good compromise and diffusion of the two cultures. If you think about the food, the music and the outfit; those are the easier things to blend together. But when it comes to the actual ritual, religion, or deciding “what are we going to do when we arrive to the ceremony”; it’s a more complex decision. 

 
 

When you are getting married in a foreign country, you immediately lose the advantage of representing your culture, so we have to put more work into balancing it out. 

 

Blending Indian and American wedding traditions together 

Vidur: I haven’t been in India for a really long time, so there were parts of my culture that I have forgotten. So Rachel and I were sitting on the internet and looking at articles about North Indian weddings. Learning about all the symbolism of the culture and the logistics of it. She asked me, “Which one of these are important for you?” So I would tell her how some of these are over exaggerated. Because in my mind the “Baraat” was really hard. But when we realized that it would be a really big representation of my culture, Rachel started to look around and see where could we find a white horse. Also we had the whole park reserved for us, so we had the perfect road to ride on.

 
 

Rachel: My mom has a farm with 15 show horses, so she has some connections and actually found someone in Waco with a beautiful white horse that they let us use for free. 

It’s an American tradition that the groom’s family would plan the rehearsal dinner, so Vidur’s parents and his brother planned everything. They found a henna artist in the area who did designs for everyone. There is a relatively new tradition in Indian weddings where you hide the groom’s name somewhere in the henna. 

 
 

I was so blown away that I was able to find someone who could see my vision for the Indian-American wedding dress. 

I wanted something that was indian looking, but white. Maybe like a crop top and a long skirt Which doesn’t really exist in wedding history. But we ended up finding a small shop, where the women used to attend an Indian church in the area. So when I explained my vision to her, she knew exactly what I was talking about. She pulled out a few laces and draped it around my body. It was perfect! I had a “Lehenga”, “Choli”, and she actually made it so that the drape could also be turned into a really long train. Which was my vision from when I was a little girl. It’s a very American thing to have a super long lace train. After the ceremony she made it to where I could detach all that and just be comfortable in the “Lehenga”.

Vidur: We spent a lot of time finding my suit as well. The mandarin color (in India it’s called “Nehru”) was what we really liked and it represented my culture. We knew the style, so it was more about finding who would make it for us, since I was worried that we would have to get it from India. The issue of searching for clothing outside of your country is that everything is about eight times more expensive than in India.

Especially when you say that it’s for a wedding, the prices also increases. Thankfully my co-worker recommended an Indian shop that had really affordable pricing. The man who was helping us was really surprised that we wanted a black Nehru collar suit, instead of something more colorful. Because it Indian celebration you don’t really wear black and white.

 
 

The biggest compromise was deciding to invite only our immediate family

Rachel: I don’t like that much attention on me, however I always thought ‘Well, that’s what you do on the wedding!” But when Vidur and I decided that we would just invite the immediate family, I knew that my mom is going to be mad. She was very upset for a while, but we got through that. So for me the biggest compromise was knowing that I would have to deal with the emotions of hurting a lot of peoples’ feelings. While trying to get them to understand that we are just trying to do what was best for celebrating our cultures. And to get the closest people that we have in our lives to get to know each other. 

 

“Can you please make sure that my mom, my dad, my sister, my brother in law and their two kids are there on the day of our wedding?!”

Vidur: We just gave my brother the date of our wedding, and he managed everything. He even made plans to take everybody around the US. 

My advice for couples who are planning on flying their family and wedding guests to a different country would be: plan as much ahead as you can! In case visas get rejected, you have enough time to apply for it again. It’s a huge task to come to a different country. There are a lot of people that love you, but make it about the people who YOU want there. Set up your expectations accordingly and be comfortable with who you want to invite. I could have sent an invitation to all of my extended family, and it would have been a logistic nightmare. But if somebody plans to invite a lot of people, I believe working with a travel agent would work better. 

Advice for multicultural weddings

In my experience if you are doing a multicultural wedding, try to make it about you as a couple. What do you want, and who you think is going to be so consistent in your life, that they need to witness this. Once you start seeing it from that angle, it makes it really easy to cut something out or keep something in. 

 
 

That’s a great advice, because then it just becomes this big party for your guests. All you can think of is how to please others, instead of thinking about why are we really here. So if you pick people that are the closest to you, they are really going to take the effort to go to your wedding. 

Vidur: I just wanted to get married at the courthouse, but at the end, I enjoyed every bit of our wedding. It was really great! Our friends stayed late and they eat a lot of food. Seeing two cultures mold so closely together was surreal. My family and I were finally all together in the same place after nine years. 

Creativity and practicality

One of the things to learn for couples who are trying to infuse two cultures is that one of you would have to be creative, and the other one would have to be practical. So you can make something executable, as well as beautiful. 

Rachel: My advice is to make sure you have a person outside of your future spouse that you can go to. Who would support you through ups and downs. Also make sure you are constantly talking and listening to your partner about what they want. I was planning the majority of this wedding by myself. But I was able to do that because I discussed the details with Vidur over and over. I checked in with him constantly, to see if everything respects his culture, or if I am comfortable with it.

 
 

Connect with Rachel and Vidur:

Rachel’s Instagram: @rachmillmod

Wedding Album: Miller-Moudgil Wedding 

Vidur’s Instagram: @vid_mod

Vidur’s Linkedin: Vidur Moudgil

Beautiful photos by: Laura Lee Blackburn Washington and Quinn Pierson

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