The shape of things to come

For everyone who says that all a marriage requires is two young people in love, here’s what it takes: Meetings with families, negotiations on dates, parlays about rituals. It means endless cups of tea and some drinks, assurances, doubt, anxiety, laughter and happiness. It also involves figuring out dates concerning relatives who can only come on a certain day and friends who can’t. It means caterers, menus and points of view about whose vote will carry weight. Scotch or malt, wine or champagne? Who’ll order the liquor licence, who’ll take charge of the food?

When our son decided to get hitched, we thought it would be a breeze, but organising the engagement party has proved that it takes more than a family, or friends, but a whole village to get it together. For over a month now, all urgent calls and conversations have been with and about florists, caterers, bar tenders and housekeeping. We’ve checked samples of fabrics for canopies, and colours for pavilions. Here’s what getting engaged takes: Table settings, sofa placements, cushion sizes and carpets. Should the flowers be yellow or white? Strings of light or a flood of halogens? 

Getting hooked means reading up on solitaires and finding the right jeweller to set the diamond. It requires visits to the haberdashers and being measured up for endless costume changes, paired with the right jewellery, the correct shoes, the perfect makeup. Pink for the morning but blue at night, colours that are auspicious and others that aren’t. How much is too little, how little is too much? Sophisticated and subtle, or sparkly and bright? Diamonds or gold, chiffon or silk?

At the end of all that planning, everything should come together perfectly —but rarely does. The décor guy is missing, the caterer won’t take your calls, the city has banned the use of generators. The dyer got the fabric colour wrong, the electrician can’t find your address, the beverage supplier forgot the date. The ice didn’t get ordered, the tentwallah forgot to get bins, the bartender’s assistant broke his leg. The valet didn’t arrive, the turban-tying team came late, the cook couldn’t find the water campers, the lights collapsed.

The invitations are the simple part, but there are pickups to organise and drops to be managed. Who is to get the pundit? Did someone fetch the folk singers? Relatives want locations, rooms get locked and keys lost. Someone turned off the water. The driver is missing. The jutis never arrived. The cushions didn’t match. The neighbourhood bunch didn’t get invited. The phone ran out of charge. Someone forgot to order the tonic water. And why are there more workers than guests? 

This morning was a blur. People, guests, staff, chaos. I think I am the host, so why does everyone look like a stranger? Sacred incantatations, music, greetings. Where’s the washroom? Do we have diet coke? Have the guests arrived already? The bar is still getting dressed? Can someone locate the white wine? A rack of plates shatters. The amplifier can’t be adjusted. Everyone is talking at the same time. You smile, shake hands. There’s a clapping of hands. Someone tells me our son just got engaged. Congratulations, everyone says. Did I miss the moment? Never mind, there’s the wedding to follow. “We’ll be better prepared,” my wife says. I hardly think so. We’re already talking to the caterers, florists, performers and decorators. It’s like déjà vu.

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