Sunday, July 11, 2010

Whose Sari Now?

Pardon the title, I couldn't resist a sari-related pun. It's just too easy.

I attended a Sikh wedding ceremony on Saturday which gave me the excuse to try something new - purchase and learn how to put on a sari!

I headed up to Devon Avenue, a street in the northern neighborhoods of Chicago that contains an area known as "Little India." Authentic restaurants, businesses and clothing stores that take you to another lifestyle for a few blocks. After checking out a few reviews on (a goto resource when you aren't sure where to go and who to give your business to), I entered India Sari Palace and asked for help in finding something to wear to the upcoming ceremony.

They helped me pick out a sari and also gave me a crash course in how to wear it. The purchase included a petticoat skirt to wear underneath, the long sari fabric and the blouse. I purchased a ready-made blouse as I thought this would be easier than having the tailor make one from scratch from the material that you could have also purchased, however, I failed to realize how much smaller I am than the "one-size-might-fit" top I bought. The recommended tailor, whose shop was just down the street, took one look at me and one look at the blouse and started laughing. Before I could say anything else, he measured me quickly and took a pair of scissors to the blouse - so much fabric had to go I basically was starting from scratch anyways!
Once I got it home, and having instantly forgotten how the shopkeepers showed me how to put on the sari, I took to youtube to show me the way. I watched a few helpful videos and found a good illustration of the process. A few tries later I was pretty sure I had it down. Of course, the result was gold glittery sparkles all over the place and two cats who thought their new game was "chase the fabric Lydia is pulling around the room."

The trick is in the pleats that you tuck into your underskirt - so that is how you get yards of fabric to a manageable size! Here's a video to get you started. 

Morning of the wedding and I got it down in two attempts. Add to the outfit some dangly earrings and bangles I already owned and voila - 

The wedding was for Bob's co-worker, it was wonderful to be able to experience the ceremony and learn a little bit about the Sikh customs. I especially liked the tradition of the meeting of the families and exchange of gifts. The bride and groom's fathers meet in the middle and shake hands, then the mothers, the grandfathers and so on. Although I was not quite sure what happens if one side does not have the same representation. Perhaps you can put in a pinch hitter?

We then headed upstairs to the ceremony as the vows and hymns are recited and the bride is introduced. From Sikh marriage ceremony is also known as Anand Karaj meaning 'blissful union'. Anand Karaj consists of the couple revolving around Siri Guru Granth Sahib four times as the Lavan (Marriage hymns) are being recited. Revolving is the sign of making commitment with the Guru as a witness.
After an hour long ceremony, we met back downstairs for lunch and then had a few hours before the reception. Bob and I were not staying at the hotel that night, and it was an hour back into the city if we were going to go home first. It was a little after 2pm - perfect timing to go see a movie! By 2:40 we were in the seats for Knight and Day, the new Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz movie. I don't think anyone gave me a second glance as I bought the tickets and movie snacks in my sari.
By 5:30 we were at the reception - the couple had a photo booth set up for guests to take advantage of - we kept one copy of the photos and the other went in a memory book for the bride and groom as a new kind of guestbook. 

The placecards were featured in personalized photo coasters, an idea I've seen employed at another wedding and think is a very sweet way of getting the namecard and favor all in one package. 

The couple also had placed cards at every setting indicating that a donation had been made to their favorite charity in the names of the guests. I think this is a great offering in place of regular favors - as long as its not The Human Fund (Seinfeld fans know what I'm talking about.)

Is that not the most beautiful cake ever? 

By the end of the night, my sari was happily still in one piece and I was exhausted from the day that started at 7:30 that morning for us. If I was this tired, I can only imagine how well the bride and groom slept after such a long day! 

So until my next opportunity, I'll fold up the sari and look forward to wearing it again. I can pleat with the best of them now.


  1. You look amazing! Sounds like a fun (and exhausting day).

  2. how fun!

    and the Human Fund reference gave me a good chuckle.

  3. Gorgeous! Your sari is absolutely beautiful!