For 10 years, I’ve been witness to this incredibly palpable, contagious, all-consuming love.
It started back in college.
Back when my little sister was too immersed in her studies to even consider dating anybody.
But he was persistent.
And he showed up. As a friend. Over and over and over. Until, one day, he became more than that.
And, last weekend, they finally made it official.
Photo Credit: Arjun Seth
It’s taken me over a week to process all the events, re-visit all the pictures, and just feel all the feels again and again and again. (It’s also taken me a week to unpack my suitcase, but let’s not talk about that…)
I wanted to write a short recap, but it ended up being much longer than I had anticipated. And this is only a small fraction of the pictures and the memories. Still, it’s always fun documenting these little behind-the-scenes moments that may not have found their way onto the videos and photo album to come!
Cancun, Here We Come!
From the second we boarded our flight to Cancun, Ankur and I were both giddy with excitement, wondering what everyone was up to since we were both the last two to arrive. We had been receiving text messages with pictures and videos during the days leading up to our flight. So we knew that when ALL of the cousins reunited, it was going to be pretty darn epic.
We landed in Cancun and got through customs relatively quickly. When we walked out of the airport, we were faced with LOTS of humidity, a happy, sweaty man selling cans of beer, and another friendly looking man carrying a BAJAJ and MISRA sign. My excitement multiplied and I looked over at Ankur and said, “There it is! Bajaj and Misra. It’s HAPPENING. It’s HAPPENING.”
It was a short drive to the resort and, once in the lobby, we were greeted – almost immediately – by the parents. They took us to the dining room to get some food before we were whisked away to our hotel rooms to start our make-up and hair and dance practice.
Once our bellies were full and our room was ready, we hopped on a golf cart to go meet up with the cousins. And the reunion was, in fact, epic. Because when you get the “Just Cuz” family under one roof after a year and a half, there is just so much love and excitement. And squealing.
We didn’t get a chance to practice our performance or our skit as a large group, so we just crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
I may be biased here, but I was pretty impressed with our ability to come together despite practicing separately. The sangeet was filled with performances and speeches from both the Bajaj side and the Misra side.
The “Just Cuz” cousins collaborated on a skit where we analyzed their Facebook wall-to-walls way back in 2007 when they first became friends.
Everyone loved reading Vedant’s philosophical debate with Hema about the “empty bowl” of bharta. They were all smiling and nodding. Because they all have – in some way or another – been exposed to this philosophical side of Vedant. It was just so funny that he used this humor and depth to get Hema’s attention back in college.
But, it worked.
So, clearly, he did something right.
The other highlight of the night was the performance by the bride.
As if it wasn’t enough that she put together this entire four-day event – carefully paying attention to each and every tiny detail – she also had the time to come up with an amazing routine that captured the attention (and the hearts) of every single person there.
The rest of the night was spent on the dance floor. Even though this wasn’t technically the first official event of the wedding, it certainly felt like it because everyone had so much energy and excitement. There was mehndi being done in the corner, a pillow fight happening off stage (because, when you’re 3 years old, colorful pillows are the JAM), tequila shots being done by the bar, and dancing and connecting and hugging happening all over the darn room.
Even the cutest Nanima got up to dance a few times.
At the end of the night, the bride and groom requested that all wedding guests come outside for a fun “surprise.” It wasn’t easy to pull everyone off the dance floor, but we all wanted to follow Vedant and Hema wherever they went.
They led us to the front of the building where we all stood and watched a fireworks show that they had planned for their guests. Nobody wanted to retreat to their rooms that night; the love and the excitement of these two families merging was just buzzing all around us.
But the brothers and sisters needed to be up bright and early for the chooda ceremony, so we all eventually made it back to our rooms. And, maybe, ordered some room service before we passed out from emotional and physical exhaustion.
The family members woke up a few hours later and sleepily made our way over to Aurpapa and Masi’s room where we would be putting on Hema’s chooda and kalire. Every wedding has unique traditions – specific to the culture or the couple – and this one is one of my favorites.
The chooda are a set of bangles that is brought by the bride’s uncle, placed on her wrists by her parents, and then family members tie kalire (gold, umbrella-shaped hangings) to the bangles as a way of providing good wishes to the bride. (All the while, the bangles are covered up as the bride is not allowed to see them until she is in her wedding outfit).
After the kalire are tied, a bride has her unmarried friends line up and she claps her hands on top of their heads. It’s believed that if any part or the kalire falls down on top of someone, that person is going to be the next one getting married! (Similar to the bouquet toss at many other weddings).
With all the hustle and bustle and chaos weddings can bring, this is a time when family members can connect 1:1 with the bride. Even if only for a brief moment. An opportunity to privately whisper into the bride’s ear just how much you love her and cherish your relationship with her.
Despite it being 4:30 in the morning and running on absolutely NO sleep, Hema made it a point to connect with every single person there with her sleepy, yet beautiful smile. Soaking in every second before she had to start getting ready for the wedding.
Baraat and Milni
In Hindu weddings, the bride is tucked away somewhere where nobody can see her while the groom is led to the venue in a procession of his family members and friends known as the Baraat. Music is being played loudly, someone is banging on the dhol, and everyone is dancing and making THE MOST NOISE.
As the music started approaching closer and closer, all the sisters rushed out to greet the groom’s side. And, of course, more dancing took place. Hema was a sneaky little observer – watching everything unfold from the ballroom window on the second floor. Well, she thought she was being sneaky. But we could see her little head peek out from behind the curtain every so often.
At the end of the baraat was the groom himself. And Veer, of course. I couldn’t decide who was more excited. Vedant – for being minutes away from marrying the love of his life. Or Veer – for getting to join his Fufu on the horse.
Might have been a tie.
After the baraat was over and the dancing calmed down (and our make-up was nearly wiped from all our faces), it was time for the “milni.” This is when the men from both sides of the family “meet” one another. The men from the bride’s side welcome the men from the groom’s side by exchanging flower garlands. It’s also an opportunity for all the guests to see how each person is related to the bride and groom!
The Shaadi! (Wedding)
After the milni, it was time for everyone to head up to the mandip where the marriage ceremony would take place. Originally, the ceremony was supposed to take place on the beach. However, due to a high chance of rain, they moved it to a covered location. None of that mattered though because everything was still so unbelievably beautiful. Their back-up plan looked better than most people’s Plan A’s. But, more than anything, we were all just excited to watch this union happen – no matter what the setting around us looked like.
People quickly sat down – eager to watch the ceremony unfold. Vedant walked out from behind the crowd with Aurpapa and Masi. To THIS SONG. (Seriously. Top three highlights of the wedding. Amazing).
Then, this not-so-little munchkin followed suit.
With a nice little message for the groom.
The bride was then led out to the mandip by her brothers and her papa. She slowly made her way down the aisle as everyone got up out of their seats, tears falling from their eyes. Aurpapa was so emotional as they made their way closer and closer to the mandip. Vedant even had tears in his eyes as he watched Hema approach him. But then, out of nowhere, the music changed to a more upbeat song (Paalkhi Mein Hoke) which basically translates to, “I’m ready to go get married. My heart is so happy. Try to stop me if you can. But you probably can’t so I’ll just keep dancing my way to my love’s home.”
It was perfectly Hema.
This moment – in most weddings – is a somber, serious moment because, metaphorically speaking, the bride is leaving behind her family as she marries into a new one.
And Hema was down to be somber and serious for a little bit.
But she switched her tune about halfway through (literally and figuratively) because she knew that this was such an exciting moment and needed to be celebrated in a fun, festive way.
Everyone immediately switched from tears to laughter.
That was my personal favorite moment of the entire wedding. Because it was so reflective of Hema and her personality and her impact on those around her.
From tears to laughter. That’s what Hema does.
Eventually, everyone made their way back to their seats and Hema and Vedant settled in up at the mandip with their parents and the pundit. Before they began their seven rounds around the fire, the pundit made sure to remind Vedant, “After this happens, you cannot run here and there. It’s a one-way street.”
Vedant got the message loud and clear.
It was a traditional Hindu ceremony, but at the end of it all, the pundit asked Hema and Vedant to say a few words to one another. It was a really intimate moment and I felt like we were all eavesdropping on something so special. Vedant thanked Hema for being the light in his life. Hema thanked Vedant for being her person in more ways than one. In better, more eloquent words. But I can barely remember them because I was sniffling so much and trying to make sure my make-up didn’t run down my face from all the crying.
It was such a special hour shared with people who love them the MOST.
Once the wedding was over and photos were taken, we had a few hours to hang out before the reception began. The girls all congregated in one room to re-do their faces and hair. And the boys decided to go swimming. Eventually, the boys came back from the pool and settled down in the hot tub. Which was IN the make-up/hair room.
It made me laugh when I walked in and observed what was going on. Hairdryers going off, make-up being applied, girls pinning up their chunnis, and in the corner of the room, Arjun and Bhanu in a big bubble bath.
Our loud, crazy family never fails to make me laugh.
Once we were all ready to go, we made our way over to the lobby of the resort for the cocktail hour and the reception.
When the new Mr. and Mrs. Misra walked into the room, it completely lit up.
Hema looked like a fairytale princess. Vedant looked like her fairtyale prince.
Her smile never left her face. When both her papas gave their speeches. When Bhaiya got up to give a toast. The father-daughter dance. The SURPRISE when all her friends – from all different phases of her life – suddenly got on stage and did one of the coolest, coordinated bhangra routines. TOGETHER. How they pulled that off, I have no idea.
She was sentimental and emotional, sure. But the smile never faded.
She was the happiest I’ve ever seen her.
Last weekend, Hema and Vedant brought together the best of the best people. All their people in one place. All the people that love them separately and love them together.
So many special moments shared.
But, more importantly, THE LOVE experienced was unlike any other.
From her family. From her friends. Heck, even the vendors were head-over-heels-in-love with Hema and Vedant by the end of the weekend.
It’s hard not to be.
When you’re a part of Hema and Vedant’s tribe, you know you’re a part of something special.
Congratulations to the newlyweds!