It was twelve years ago, but I still remember the day my grandmother, Maa, gave me her wedding lehenga – an exquisite peacock blue Benarasi Ghagra, embroidered in sachchi zari (real silver thread). I was the youngest granddaughter in a Marwari joint family and oh, she had to pass it on in great secrecy. She handed it to me, still carefully wrapped in green muslin that she had religiously unwrapped regularly over the past 55 years, flipping and refolding the garment so that the creases didn’t become permanent.
My mother does this for me now.
I was fully aware of what a prized possession this was and knew I would wear it for my first wedding function. My grandmother passed away a few years ago and I wanted to make her presence felt during my wedding. This heirloom piece, so very her – vibrant and ‘sachcha’ (real) – would be the way.
According to Marwari tradition, the bride’s engagement lehenga is a gift from the groom’s side but I challenged these old norms and made a big effort to convince my new family about my desire to wear Maa’s lehenga to my first wedding function. They gladly agreed and I was the happiest bride!
Extremely possessive about this lehenga, it has remained untouched and unaltered but I also wanted to present parts of my own personality in the outfit – bringing some bright, cheerful, sophisticated elegance. I began exploring my options and doing research to find a way to do justice to this timeless piece. I considered using three primary colours. The lehenga was blue so I decided to add red and yellow to my bright, sunny, Sunday afternoon engagement on the 6th of December 2015.
When I tried on the Benarasi lehenga, I realized it was a little short for me (I was taller than my grandma) and having been left folded for more than half a century, it was falling flat. So I got hold of an old, reputed boutique in Delhi and used them as an accomplice in making this heirloom piece my own. We had a longer raw-silk underskirt with a can-can to wear under the lehenga giving it more length and volume. (Extra brownie points for managing not to have to leave my precious lehenga in unknown hands.) We matched this with a green pure Benarasi dupatta/chunni, with dainty embroidery through its entire length and had the same embroidery done on the blouse, underskirt and chunni.
I wanted to retain a traditional Marwari look so I wore a double dupatta with one bright yellow benarasi-net chunni (very light weight) as a veil. I wore a ruby red mid-waist choli scattered with dainty embroidery to complete the look. Our color palette was fixed-red, yellow, blue (and silver obviously) with hints of green.
The engagement ceremony at Orchha, Madhya Pradesh was on the 6th of December 2015. After I accessorized with my mother’s wedding maatha-patti and a real silver clutch, I caught a whisper of how my grandmother must have felt on her special day… and I felt her by my side the entire time on that beautiful day.
Like my lehenga, which was tradition and inheritance infused with my own personality, our celebrations also included personalized, DIY specialities. To begin with, our e-vites to the engagement was a hark back to our boarding school background when the only way to communicate with one another was through letters. I had the chocolate wrappers customized online and had them printed along with our self-designed, special DJ Request Cards (with #dj wale babu mera gaana baja do).
At my mehndi, one of my favorite ceremonies, once again, that individual element came through – the talented Rashi Aggarwal of Alankritaa, who travelled all the way from Ludhiana, captured the engagement scene and my lehenga in the mehndi design. She also brought beautiful glass votive candles with mehndi as engagement favours for my friends.
Because the resort in on the banks of the beautiful Betwa river, we let it shine by keeping our décor colourful but minimal with printed table linens, colorful drapes and simple floral arrangements.