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Lavishly ever after
Malvika adorns the center of her forehead with a bindi, a traditional South Asian decoration worn by married women. On Nov. 27, two days before the wedding ceremony, a hundred guests gathered at the bride's house to celebrate the marriage.
Malvika has "mehndi" applied to her arms, hands and feet. The temporary skin decorations, drawn with dye made from the henna plant, are considered a symbol of prosperity and happiness. All of the female guests at the party wore mehndi in celebration of Malvika's marriage.
A friend looks on as Malvika's mother decorates the bride's hair with flowers. After the finishing touches were made to the bride's wedding array, Malvika's father came into the room and whispered to her, “You are so beautiful.”
The festivities begin as relatives and friends gather at the bride's home at around 8 p.m. An hour and a half later, the groom's family arrived bearing gifts -- jewelry, clothes and so on. Later, as the party got into full swing, the groom's family sang a song they had composed for the bride's family. The dancing lasted until around 2 a.m.
On Nov. 29 -- wedding day -- Malvika sits with relatives after a ritual in which she had bangles placed on her arms and flower petals tossed onto her head. The ritual began at 10 a.m. with the chanting of a Hindu priest. Then an aunt placed the red plastic bangles, called "choora," on Malvika; per tradition, the bangles had been rinsed in milk. The relatives sprinkled marigold and rose petals on Malvika's hair before exchanging hugs and taking a quiet moment for reflection.
At 6 p.m., the sound of music fills the air as a 70-member marching band joins the groom’s family in a slow procession toward the venue. Pranav, resplendent in the raiment of a "maharaja," or prince, arrived last in a carriage drawn by white horses.
Malvika and Pranav, flanked by their mothers, pose for posterity. Bedecked in gold, diamonds and pearls, the bride was the essence of opulence in her red sari.
Malvika and Pranav are surrounded by guests -- some 800 in total. When they placed flower garlands around each other's necks and pledged their undying love, a cheer erupted.
A caterer serves up freshly cooked food for the guests. More than 80 dishes were available, including Indian, Western and Chinese cuisine.
In keeping with Hindu tradition, the bride, groom and their families form a circle around a small fire under a tent. Once the couple, tied together by their clothing, walked around the fire seven times, the marriage was formally sealed.
With the marriage ceremony complete, the families wish each other prosperity and join in an embrace.
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