A tale of love from Manipur

Since this is not a travel blog, and you really don’t need a reason to visit Manipur, I won’t bother mentioning any. For me, the highlight of course, was this refreshingly unpretentious Manipuri wedding. Sans loud baraatis and DJ parties. Guests are there to celebrate without being confused of their priorities. Devoid of the trend, of marriage being a medium to showcase social standing. Be prepared to actually attend a wedding rather than making a beeline for the quintessential car-o-bar.

The bride starts her day early in the morning as she begins to get ready for the wedding ceremony. As per tradition, part of her duty is to sew garlands of Jasmin flowers, which will be exchanged with the groom during the pheras. This is called Kundo Lengba.

The most striking aspect of a Manipuri wedding is the brides attire called Potloi of which the most notable is the Kumil. A Kumil is an elaborately decorated barrel shaped long skirt stiffened at the bottom and top. The decorations on the barrel include gold and silver embroidery, small pieces of mirrors, and border prints of lotus, orchid, and other motifs from nature. The dress is supposed to be borrowed and passed on from one bride to another. Usually going through a cycle of 3 brides. Months of shopping time is cut down for the bride, though many may not be too pleased about that!

The groom on the other hand has a leisurely morning at home, with little to do. Around mid-day his personal Bor Senaba arrives. Literal translation being Groom Caretaker. This gentleman is another unique aspect of Manipuri weddings. His duty is to guide the groom through every step of the way from getting him ready in dhoti and turban, to making sure he maintains proper demeanour through the ceremony. The bride has her own Kaina Senabi as a chaperon. The couple are instructed to respect the solemn rituals. It is seen as a sign of disrespect if they laugh or smile while performing a ceremony. If you were wondering why they have stern faces in most of their photographs, you know now!

The pheras are performed around a Tulsi plant, to the tune of traditional Manipuri wedding songs, being performed to indicate each progressive stage in the ceremony. The groom remains seated throughout while the bride walks around him seven times. Each phera ending with her showering him with flowers.

Once complete the newlyweds ask their elders for blessings, after which the groom departs to his house along with his entourage. The bride follows later, arriving at her new home by evening.

The functions are complete five days after the wedding, when a grand feast is organised at the bride’s house prepared and served by brahmins.

Men and Mehndi: Rekindling the love affair

Ranbir Kapoor’s Mehndi act in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil stole many a women’s hearts. And honestly, some men too. While Ranbir looked resplendent in a Sabyasachi designed sherwani, the real show stealer were his hands sporting henna. I overheard one of the bridesmaids at a wedding quip to her male friend, “You guys have new wedding fashion goals now”.

She wasn’t wrong exactly. Though, as a wedding photographer, I have seen bridegrooms getting mehndi art done on their palms because it’s considered a ‘shagun’, but it’s always as minimal as they can have it. While Mehndi has been part of wedding rituals since forever, with time, the art got skewed on the side of women, with men only going in for a small customary blob of henna.

And though Bollywood has made a case for henna as a style statement for men, how long it will survive, I am not sure. I realised it’s probably not to do with mehndi per se. The problem lies in the depiction of art that’s centred around ‘kalis’ and ‘booties’. And incidentally, even men in touch with their feminine side aren’t very comfortable with all the floral art.

Men usually (I am not generalising, mind you) prefer simpler and sober patterns. The best reference would be popular tattoo designs for men and women. Though mehndi designs have certainly toned down with Arabic stylization but they still haven’t been able to break out of their floral and paisley mould. And this is the reason why men still shy away from this important wedding ‘rasam’ which has become a ‘ladies only’ affair.

This means, despite the success of ‘ChannaMereya’, many grooms still aren’t sure if they really want to give bridal mehndi a try for their D-day. Incidentally, they are sometimes seconded by their would-be brides too.

So, is there a way to get men more involved with this aspect of the wedding? Apart from being put on duty to hold the bags and feed the girls! Henna art just needs to make a stronger case in favor of men. One such example is here:

But whatever it be- minimalist or detailed, play it as you want because it’s going to be your big day. Your happy heart and smile will be your most beautiful accessory for the day. Make sure you wear that, and we promise to capture them for you as a memory for a lifetime.

Happy Wedding!

Did you know a wedding photographer is a wedding planner in disguise?

A wedding is a once in a life time occasion. Though in today’s context it would not be incongruous to specify once in a life time to the same person! Unless you’re Elizabeth Taylor maybe. Either ways…no matter what, every couple wants their wedding to be special, nay, perfect at the very least. Not very difficult to achieve now, with the internet for inspiration and resources. But where does one start the extremely daunting task? After all, it is the big fat Indian wedding!

Once you’re past choosing the muhurat date, venue and rings, you can begin working on the guest list. I’m taking the liberty here, to assume your spouse has been cinched. If not, then please figure that one out at your own convenience.

Once these short-term concerns have been addressed it’s time to think of the big picture. Perfect spouse plus perfect arrangements equals perfect memories. During the prep, you would of course, be overwhelmed by innumerable checklists and it would be quite natural to put aside the decision to find a photographer until much later.

I would like to offer you a different perspective, which, if you decide to incorporate into your preparations, will cost you nothing more than the professional fee you would be paying a photographer anyway. It will however, be a great deal of help in your decision-making process, to realise your perfect wedding.

Here are five reasons why hiring a professional photographer before anything else is the best idea EVER!

This is your first time, not his!

Ask someone who got their wedding shot by an amateur and you will know why hiring a professional photographer is so important. While this may be your first time, a pro photographer’s experience can make all the difference to your wedding memories.

A professional photographer comes with a network of his own; you may end up getting a fabulous deal.

The convenience of package deals will save a lot of effort running around. Your professional photographer can bring with him his own team for styling, to get everything in sync for those perfect clicks. Photographers have exclusive tie ups with travel consultants to provide honeymoon trips and include an intimate photo shoot with the couple on their vacation.

They have a thing for color

Colors define the mood of the picture. They can add that x-factor to your picture. And who better than a professional photographer can sort those colors to make you look picture-perfect. For example, they can tell you which color theme to choose for your wedding day. The warm and vivid hues of the daytime make yellows standout in the picture, whereas, in the night time, blue has the most heightened effect.

You know about pictures, they know photography!

Wondering, what differentiates the two? Well, pictures are what you see on your screen or in the prints, photography on the other hand has technical and artistic nuances with myriad styles.

They know what is trending and what not!

A professional photographer can also be an unpaid wedding planner providing help with the choice of hues and drapes to make your wedding pictures look straight out of a magazine. They know about latest trends, cults and fashion that will make you look the best for your D-day.

Eventually, when you will only be left with photographs from your perfect wedding, shouldn’t they be perfect as well?

Still not convinced? Give us a call and we’ll prove to you why investing in a professional wedding photographer is the best decision you will make.

Decoding Indian ‘Band, Baaja, Baraat’

“Band, Baaja, Baraat”! goes the popular adage describing Indian weddings. Considering all three words relate to the liveliest of all functions, our motivation for thronging to every possible wedding is quite obvious. I don’t ever see “Pandit, Puja, Pheras” replacing the established expression.

The energy of a baraat is extremely contagious and depending on how large a group of friends the groom has, a baraat procession could last 4 hours (that’s the most I’ve seen) while attempting to cover a distance of barely 50 meters. And pivotal to keeping this energy going is the wedding band. Having their origins in military brass bands from 18th century Britain, these bands have a long and rich history. In these modern times of DJ’s and loudspeakers, their military-styled uniforms, drums and trumpets are quintessential to most weddings, even if for just a brief duration.

While the oldest of all British military bands dates back to the sixteenth century, they were introduced in India only in the eighteenth century. Apparently, bandsmen and their big musical instruments provided the only means of commanding an army in the frenzied environment of a battlefield.

In India, British military bands were an important tool of propaganda of their imperial enterprise. With time, however, these marching bands transformed into musical processions for kings and other elites, as a symbol of their opulence. Eventually reaching their present avatar as the musical band, playing Bollywood numbers at wedding celebrations and various festive gathering.

On exploring further, it seems their enthusiasm on the job hides a bitter truth. Though they are considered a mandatory part of the wedding ceremony, their wages are paltry. Hardly sufficient to sustain a livelihood in large metro cities. With sparse money and scant respect for their profession, many are quitting to try their hands at other jobs. For some, sadly, it means cutting off from their century old legacy of musical roots.

There are though, a handful of musical groups who are managing to survive by serving affluent clients. They evolve through the years, catering to each generation of Bollywood fans from the 70’s till the very latest hip shaking numbers. With colorful styling, neon lights, flower décor and shiny brass instruments, they continue to add fervor at our weddings.

It is in the backdrop of their lively and energizing music that we capture our most candid moments. As a fellow artist, I am attempting to do my part in trying to preserve their heritage. So, next time you are enjoying the revelry of a baraat, do take a moment to breathe in the beauty of their journey. Maybe even express your appreciation, when you stop to rest, as they play on, relentlessly.

To black or not to black! Would you wear black to an Indian wedding?

The first phase of this year’s wedding season (as per the Hindu calendar) is in full swing. For us, it’s both love (for photography of course) and business. Weddings are a festival of love, joy and togetherness. Epitomized in colorful drapes, beautiful flower décor and the fabulous outfits women wear for the occasion.

But something caught our attention this time. From subtle shades like coffee brown, silver grey to bright neons, evergreen pinks and yellows, every color made its presence felt, but no BLACK! Curiosity got the better of us and we went exploring on the reason Indian women shy away from wearing black at weddings.

Obviously, there are no wedding fashion guides, so we chose to enquire from guests at the weddings.

“My mom says, no black for a wedding”, was the first response we got when we began. Another girl, a friend’s fiancée, said it’s considered ‘ap-shagun’ (or bad omen). This one got quite involved and made her mom elaborate on the topic.

‘Aunty ji’ took this as an opportunity to enlighten the younger generation, saying that weddings are about joy, exuberance and jubilation. Black, according to her, reflected the opposite. Given the sincerity of her explanation, I held back my urge to express that it could stand for elegance and class as well. Interestingly she had some European connections too and told us that, even there, blacks are the improper attire for a wedding. Quite understandable, since Europeans wear black to funerals.

Though I don’t imagine it could be all that bad, considering catholic grooms usually wear black at the altar. I should mention here, as a photographer, shooting a groom in black and a bride in white, side by side is one of the most tricky lighting situations to deal with. But hey, what’s the fun without a challenge!

We were quite convinced of this being a part of long held and followed traditions that people abide by until I saw a close friend wearing a lovely velvet gown in black, at her own sister’s wedding.

Considering my efforts to douse my curiosity, I had to ask her if she had had second thoughts about choosing the colour? Did no one ask her to refrain? She was quite nonchalant, saying “I don’t believe in the color bias and my dad said to wear what I wanted to”. So there she was dazzling in black with beautiful diamonds, living the most precious moments of her life at her sister’s wedding.

Looks like, black is making slow and steady in-roads into the world of wedding celebrations. Though it is often described as the lack of all colour, “Women who wear black, lead colourful lives”, goes a famous quote!

This just got me wondering, why most cameras come in black? Any thoughts?

#WeddingTrends: Gota-Patti Jewellery & Grooms with Mehendi!

So, we are back with our Wedding Blog and this time we launch our #WeddingTrends section. Considering, we are always part of some of the most beautiful weddings in the world, we feel it is unfair if we do not share what's hot and what's not with our readers. Read on for trends of this wedding season.

What's IN?

a) Gota Jewellery

So, we spotted this trend and you bet, it is the hottest thing around. We were already crushing over the Gota Patti sarees and dresses, talk about these gorgeous trinkets and we can't stop looking at them. It is definitely too much excitement to contain. Go on try them on and flaunt on your big day.

b) Grooms with Mehendi: Channa Mereya

Yes, Ranbir Kapoor's henna colored hands have done the trick. The age old ritual of the full-mehendi on grooms' hands is back. He has managed to inspire the men and they have welcomed the move. Why should girls have all the fun? ;)

What's OUT?

a) Floral Jewellery:

The hottest trend of last year was the Floral jewellery for sangeet or any outdoor function. But looks like that's passe. Brides-to-be would rather prefer a simple look or a Gota Patti Jewellery look than the floral lookalikes. However, to tell you the truth, we still dote on brides with real floral jewels. There's something about flowers and fresh faces.

b) Gifting Envelopes with cash (Sagan lifafas) for 500-1000: Ahem! Need we say more after the headline? Demon-e-tization of the 500 and 1000 rupee notes has definitely hit our weddings bad. No longer the "ek hazaar ek ka lifafa" is the prized possession of the couple. We saw a lot of worried faces at the recent weddings. Just hoping the cash crisis subside quickly for a Happy Wedding!

Till then try gifting something different. How about a MiniKlone of the bride and the groom? Still thinking? :)