Ever since I got engaged back in the summer of 2017, ironically I’ve not felt like blogging. Instead, it’s been great enjoying time offline and spending time with my, now, fiancé. I shared the engagement story with you all last year which you can read here but now I can tell you about our ‘official marj engagement’. (Mark + Raj = Marj).
Once we got engaged, I wanted both our families to meet before the wedding. I didn’t want them to be strangers and have introductions on the day. I know in a lot of South Asian weddings, you don’t always know who the bride or groom is. You know them by name and their family, but don’t actually meet until their wedding day. This is understandable when you have 400+ guests, but not for me personally. We came up with a date in December for everyone to meet. It was easier to wait 6 months as Mark’s dad had just had an operation and lives abroad, so it allowed time for everyone to come back to the UK for Christmas. And then celebrate our engagement 4 days later.
When a small gathering became a party
Our gathering had always intended to be small. I wanted both families to meet at my parents house for chai initially. Then my mum and uncle had been discussing it and said the house was too small (little did they know we’ve had parties there with more than 20+ people) to have everyone there and suggested hiring a venue. Where I’m from, there aren’t any venues that I personally think are amazing. They’re great for other events but I was quite specific in what vision I had.
Fast forward the story slightly, a few venue searches later we decided to go with the town golf club. This was a good size with space for a backdrop which was the main focus. What was meant to be a small gathering with 20 members of both families turned into a party with over 100 guests.
Before the venue was booked, my friend Sunny and I went to Southall to find the perfect engagement outfit. It was my first time ever going to Southall and it was a true experience. There was so many South Asian shops with so much to choose from. Outfits, bangles, jewellery, beauty, food, music etc. I was definitely in awe of everything and wanted to buy a lot. It was difficult to narrow down to what style or colour I wanted but found myself leaning towards grey/silver colours.
I saw one beautiful grey lengha which was amazing. It didn’t have too much detail but the skirt was big and flowy. I was so tempted but I did set myself a budget for an outfit as I was flying to New York the following month, so was saving for that! Looking back now, that lengha would have been ideal to wear to a wedding as a guest.
Following this we walked past a shop and I spotted a silver sharara suit with pearl detail. Like an ordinary Indian suit, it had wide flared trousers which can look like a skirt. I’ve never had one before but have always liked the style. It’s not always to everyone’s taste but to me it was the one. The size matched my measurements exactly so I bought it right away. Again within my budget, I managed to get it for lower than the price tag.
During our day in Southall, we managed to also buy a tikka (headpiece) with matching earrings. As my suit had a detailed neckline, I opted to not have a necklace. I also found some lovely anklets which I purchased.
I have to hand it to mine and Mark’s family when they fully got involved with all the preparations, I was so grateful. For the actual ceremony, I wanted a backdrop in which we could use for our photographs so we bought a stand and some voil. My sisters and I went to the wholesalers and bought flowers and vases. My older sister is very creative especially with completing a floristry course, she took my vision and brought it to life (along with the help of myself and my twin). We assembled the backdrop (which we’ll be using for my sangeet next year) and hung the flowers up in various lengths. It was so simple but looked so lovely.
The food was a priority (mainly for my mum – she wanted to ensure everyone was fed before they left, her Indian roots coming out). We wanted to provide a fusion of food for our guests – English and Indian food so they can choose what they prefer. We had samosas, spring rolls, chickpeas as the main Indian selection along with subway sandwiches and handmade quiches (made by Mark’s parents). Following this we had cookies from subway, cake and more Indian desserts – gulab jamun with ice cream and rasmalai. The ironic thing was that Mark and I hardly had anything on the day as we were too busy talking to everyone!
As our engagement was a gathering during the day for a few hours, I told my closest girl friends to get there early so we can take photos. I rocked up (slightly later by accident) and a lot of people were already there. I was so surprised. (Especially as I told my mum that people turn up to parties half an hour later than the start time). I walked in and it was quite overwhelming to see everyone there in one room, there for US! I spotted Mark, gave him a hug as I hadn’t seen him for days (he was working over Christmas, boo) and started making the rounds to catch up with everyone. Mark and I were having some photos taken by my cousin Harper and we were both overwhelmed. So I suggested having a shot at the bar, after knocking them back we were a bit more relaxed (sorry mum!).
We started off with the kurami ceremony (which can be explained here) where both families offer baskets of fruits and sweets to each other. Ours were wonderfully put together by my cousins and Jasbir massi (auntie). Then came the part where Mark’s female relatives had to ‘dress’ me with the outfit his parents bought. They started off putting my red bangles on, then a necklace, and some henna. I opted not to put the shoes on as I hate my feet being on display! Finally they put the chunni on me and this is when I started to get emotional.
I started crying. Not because I was sad. It’s because I had waited so many years for Mark and I to be ‘accepted’ as a couple. No longer was I keeping it a secret. No longer was he a stranger to my family. The main thing was that he had met my grandparents.
And now I was in a room with our closest friends and family celebrating our engagement. I was so grateful and that was the moment when it hit home. Harper snapped a photo of me looking up at my mum in tears, which set her off, which also set my twin sister off. My older sister remained cool, as always.
Now in case you didn’t know, Mark doesn’t like to be the centre of attention. Even more with social media and his job, he prefers to be out of the spotlight so he was slightly nervous when it came to his turn. My parents had bought him an outfit too and part of it was a gold watch (as Mark doesn’t wear any jewellery) this was the next best thing. My dad put it on him and he was surrounded by the male members in my family – a surreal moment in itself.
Proposal you might wonder? Mark had already proposed back in July. I’m so glad you remembered. Usually this is when the bride and groom ‘officially’ get engaged in front of everyone, by placing the ring on the bride’s finger. A lot of grooms get down on one knee but I told Mark he can just sit next to me and do it. To my surprise, he got down on one knee and I was so shy when he did that. It was very sweet and the photos show my reaction!
After those events took place, our parents fed us Indian sweets and then our guests came to give us sagan. This is where they give us money as their ‘blessings’ and pose for some photographs. I didn’t tell everyone about this as I didn’t want my guests to feel obliged to do this, especially those who aren’t used to this custom. Those who wanted to, came up and it was lovely to see Mark’s family get involved. This was all completely new to them and they got involved with everything 100% which made me so grateful.
Mark and I really enjoyed the day and seeing our loved ones in one room. We could have spent the whole day going round talking to everyone, it’s definitely given us an insight of how quickly our wedding day will go. I’m now excited to carry on planning our wedding which is still a while away now.
Just a quick thanks to the following:
Darina Stoda – natural engagement photographer
Harper – photographer and art director
Tori Roe – mua
My siblings – for all their help in preparing for the day
My mum – for organising the whole thing, listening to me and making sure everything ran smoothly
My dad – for doing whatever mum told him to do
My grandparents – for travelling really far to attend the day
My auntie/uncle (mama ji and mami ji) – for doing all the food preparations during the day and more
DJ – for filming the day
Jasbir massi – for conducting the whole thing, helping with baskets and all the preparations before the day
Mark’s parents – for buying my outfit, making the quiches, helping prepare before the day and throughout
Mark’s family – for getting involved with the ceremony, it meant so much
For our family and friends for attending the day with their love and support. I sound so dramatic, ha.