A Punjabi Wedding in Kuala Lumpur

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July 21st 2015
Published: December 26th 2015
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Hamburg - Frankfurt - Singapore - Kuala Lumpur and back

The stageThe stageThe stage

... in the ballroom where Sangeet Ki Rat, the pre-wedding dinner, took place.
My colleague Tishal from Kuala Lumpur had invited me to her wedding with her fiancé Sunil in Kuala Lumpur. This invitation was very special and I felt super honoured to be invited. It was going to be a Punjabi wedding, and I was invited to attend four different functions across four days. She was expecting about 700 guests. I took four different outfits with me: A tunic that I had bought in India a few years ago; a Punjabi Suit I had bought in Hamburg; and two long gowns that covered the legs all the way to the ankles. I definitely wanted to be dressed appropriately!

I booked a flight from Hamburg to Singapore and back because I wanted to take the opportunity to see my colleagues there as well. So I arrived in Singapore on 15th July in the afternoon, quickly checked into my hotel, had a shower, and met with John and Fiona for dinner. We went to “Maharaja”, my favourite Indian restaurant on Boat Quay, and had a nice dinner and evening. After dinner I took a walk along Singapore River and Marina Bay and watched the laser show that I had watched almost every evening while
The bride and her mumThe bride and her mumThe bride and her mum

... arriving at the ballroom for Sangeet Ki Rat.
living and working in Singapore. The next morning I went for a quick run along Singapore River and then met my colleague Kate for a great breakfast at Common Man Coffee Roasters, a restaurant not far from Robertson Quay. After breakfast I checked out of my hotel and caught a flight to Kuala Lumpur.

I arrived at Holiday Inn Glenmarie, the hotel where most foreign wedding guests were staying, just in time for checking in, having a quick bite and a shower, and getting ready for the first function. Upon check-in I was given a schedule telling me when the shuttle bus that had been hired especially for the wedding guests staying at the hotel would depart for the different functions. Very convenient!

Tishal was staying at the hotel as well, so I got to say hi before boarding the bus, which was great. She looked fantastic. The previous evening she had had a celebration with her family members that is a kind of ritual preparation for the wedding. She had received beautiful henna tattoos on arms, hands, and feet. She was wearing a colourful and beautiful dress, and hair and make-up looked just perfect. She had travelled
The bangle ceremonyThe bangle ceremonyThe bangle ceremony

The bride just received bangles during a ceremony on stage at the beginning of Sangeet Ki Rat.
to India with her mother and aunt to buy all the different wedding dresses and jewellery and already this shopping trip had been a major event. And I have to say that I was truly amazed by all guests’ outfits. The women wore colourful dresses and scarves, rich jewellery, beautiful make-up, and had the most wonderful hair. Also the guys wore colourful suits and looked great.

The ride on the bus was a lot of fun. Tishal introduced me to the family members who were on board with us. One of her aunts is married to a German and the two of them and their two sons live in Berlin. Other relatives live in Australia or in Singapore or in other places around the world, so the family is very international. I received a very warm welcome. Everyone was happy and cheerful. During the entire bus ride they sang and chatted and the atmosphere was great. We even stopped at a shop to buy some beer on the way.

After about an hour’s drive we arrived at the ballroom where the Sangeet Ki Rat, the pre-wedding dinner, would take place. As there were about 700 guests expected, the
Choreography on stageChoreography on stageChoreography on stage

... during Sangeet Ki Rat. Both the bride's and the groom's relatives danced on stage.
ballroom was huge, with a stage on one side that had a decorated picture of Tishal and Sunil in the background. Gradually guests arrived. I was adopted into Tishal’s family immediately, her aunt invited me to sit with her and a few other family members on one of the tables in the very front of the ballroom. Very kind of her!

The function started by Tishal sitting on stage with other member of her family and receiving bangles while singing Punjabi songs. Afterwards there were two dance choreographies: one by members of Tishal’s family, and one by Sunil’s family members. They had rehearsed the choreographies intensely in advance to be sure they would work out. I learned that there was always a competition between the bride’s and the groom’s side on who showed the better choreography and performance. The two performances were really different, with the one from Tishal’s side being a little more diverse and the one from Sunil’s side being a bit faster and funnier. Both of them were great though, with lots of different ideas and lots of heart.

After this the official part was over and the dance floor was opened to everyone. There
The groom arrivingThe groom arrivingThe groom arriving

... before the wedding ceremony in the temple. Accompanied by his sister, best man, and father.
was a buffet with Indian food with more than enough to eat. For me it was exciting to see what was happening and I felt like being part of it all within no time. My colleague Sharma from our KL office and his wife Fiona were at the party as well, and so were my other colleagues Joyce and her husband Shawn and my colleague Kaval. It was great to spend some time with them as well. Before everyone left they were given an ornamented bag of sweets. The bus took us back to the hotel. Interestingly the bus driver had trouble finding the hotel and ultimately some of the guests had to give him directions. I found this quite astonishing in the times of GPS and Google Maps!

The next day, Friday, there was nothing on. I went for a long run in around the hotel golf course (which was not an issue because it was a public holiday and there was nobody there except for me) and had breakfast with Tishal’s family. My colleague Sharma came to pick me up later in the day and I had lunch with him, his wife Fiona, and their two young
The beautiful brideThe beautiful brideThe beautiful bride

... dressed in colourful robes and all smiling and happy.
sons. Indian food – I just love it 😊. I spent the afternoon doing some work and relaxing a little bit. In the evening we had a few drinks.

The next morning the shuttle bus picked us up at 7.30 am and took us to the temple where the official wedding ceremony would take place. There were a lot of people there when we arrived, and there were more to come. On the ground floor of the temple there were tables, benches and a kitchen. The temple itself was on the first floor. Everyone gathered in front of the building or in the dining hall. Finally Sunil, his sister, his father, and his best man arrived, along with other members of his family. He had to ritually bargain his way into the dining hall, offering a certain price he was willing to pay for his bride, and after successfully doing so members of Tishal’s family served food to him and his family. I went upstairs into the temple with some of the other women. Everyone walked in, bowed in front of the altar, made a donation, and then sat down, women on the left and men on the right
Female guestsFemale guestsFemale guests

... in beautiful and colourful dresses, before the wedding ceremony in the temple.
hand side of the temple. Everyone had to cover their heads, women with their scarves and men with red turbans. More and more guests arrived. Finally Sunil came in with some of his family members, made his donation, and sat down in front of the altar. Afterwards Tishal came in with some of her family members and sat down next to Sunil. The ceremony began and it took about two hours. There was singing and speeches. Also Tishal and Sunil had to walk around the altar several times, both of them holding on to a scarf, and led by some of the older family members. Most parts of the ceremony were, luckily, in English, and for the singing that was in Punjabi there was a translation on the screens in the temple, so I could follow.

After the ceremony the bus took us back to Holiday Inn Glenmarie where the wedding lunch was to take place. We were welcomed with cocktails and there was a lot of walking around and chatting to everyone. I was seated at a table with Sharma and Fiona and a few others. When Tishal and Sunil arrived they walked from the back of the
Male guestsMale guestsMale guests

... all wearing red turbans so that their heads would be covered when entering the temple for the wedding ceremony.
ballroom all the way to the front and they welcomed the guests. In a way this function was similar to what I know from German weddings: There was a lunch with several courses (Indian food, so this was not like in Germany 😉) and there were speeches by family members who told us stories about the Tishal and Sunil and how they had met and what they were like. Tishal and Sunil cut their wedding cake both holding on to the same knife and fed each other. There was a pyramid of champagne glasses that they filled with champagne and the pyramid filled from top to bottom and then there were toasts. There was music and singing. That day I wore my Punjabi Suit and I felt really honoured when people who did not know me asked me whether I was Punjabi. I love not being recognised as a foreigner!

In the late afternoon there was a good-bye ceremony: Tishal, Sunil, and Sunil’s best man sat on a sofa. Everyone who wanted to could pick a little sweet and put it into Tishal’s or Sunil’s mouth (depending on whether they were from the bride’s or the groom’s side), and
Guests entering the templeGuests entering the templeGuests entering the temple

... before the wedding ceremony.
the couple had to eat it. Moreover, guests could ask Sunil’s best man to do anything, no matter how foolish it was, and he had to do it. After this ceremony, the couple was sent off to Sunil’s house, where Tishal had to cook for Sunil’s family. The official part was over and I went to the hotel bar with a few of the other guests and we had a couple of drinks and some bar food before heading off to bed.

The next morning, I went for another run, had breakfast with the other guests, and decided to do some work and hang out a little bit. In the evening the shuttle bus picked us up for the Sunday night function at a hotel. Again the bus driver did not find his way to the hotel. Finally we could see the hotel but apparently the driver did not know where the entrance was. He tried to drive through an underpass, but got stuck with the roof and had to back up against the oncoming traffic. It was unbelievable, we could see the hotel but could not get there. But finally the bus driver dropped us off at the
Meal before the wedding ceremonyMeal before the wedding ceremonyMeal before the wedding ceremony

The bride's relatives served food to the groom's relatives after the groom had bargained his way into the temple.
right spot.

There were welcome cocktails and when Tishal and Sunil arrived they gave a dance performance that was pretty impressive. There was a several course meal, Chinese cuisine this time, and there were several Punjabi style dance performances by a group of professional dancers. But there were also a few speeches by family members – this time it was Sunil’s family members since his family had organised and paid for this function. All the previous ones had been organised and paid for by Tishal’s family.

There was one dance performance by Sunil and some of his friends that I found pretty amazing – particularly because it turned out that Sunil could do the moon walk. How cool is that?! After the official part was over the dancefloor was open to everyone and all of us went dancing and had fun. At the end of the party everyone gave the couple a big hug, told them their best wishes, and could take photos with them. The shuttle bus took us back to the hotel again. And again the driver had trouble finding his way…

The next morning I had my last breakfast with Tishal’s family in the
Punjabi girl?Punjabi girl?Punjabi girl?

No, it's Katha wearing her Punjabi suit!
hotel and then went to the airport to fly back to Singapore. I had a few hours in Singapore before my flight back home departed, so I caught a taxi into town and actually wanted to go to St. John’s Island just off Marina South Pier, but it turned out that I was too late for the ferry. So I walked to Gardens by the Bay, one of my favourite places in Singapore. I strolled around for a little bit, had some ice cream, and just lay in the sun on top of Marina Barrage for a while and watched people who were flying kites there. Afterwards I had dinner at Glutton’s Bay and caught a taxi back to the airport. I arrived back in Hamburg on Tuesday morning, had a quick shower at home, unpacked my suitcase, and went to work. Straight back into everyday life after a few most amazing days!

Thank you Tishal and Sunil for inviting me to your wedding, it was a true experience for me and definitely a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. Thank you to all of Tishal’s family for making me feel so extremely welcome, I felt like being part of the family after not even a day. The wedding was a truly unforgettable experience!


27th December 2015

A wedding
What a wonderful experience! It does sound like an event, thanks for sharing.
28th December 2015

Re: A wedding
It was a wonderful experience indeed. And they made me feel so welcome that it felt like being a member of the family after only a day's time :-)

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