While Avni Patel approached the Mandap, or altar, Dhingra stood behind a curtain so that he would not see the bride until she was in front of him. Once the curtain was dropped, the two put garlands around the other's neck, a symbol of a lifelong partnership, with Dhingra leaning away just as his bride to be attempted to place his garland.
The new couple
The bride's parents gave their daughter's hand to Dhingra in the Kanya Daan ceremony and members of the wedding party tied the bride's and groom's wedding garments together to represent their unity as a couple.
The couple walked around a fire, or Havan, four times, each turn symbolizing a new covenant or Phera. The priest invited Agni, the God of Fire, as an eternal witness of the marriage. Covenants included dharma — morality and self-righteousness ; artha — to provide prosperity, happiness and wealth; kaama — to love the other and create a happy family; and moksha — live a pure, compassionate and kind life. Upon completion of these covenants, Patel and Dhingra were officially married.
After this they took seven steps, with each step symbolizing a distinct vow: Honor and respect, be happy and love life, share in life's good and bad times, remember parents and elders, be charitable, live peaceful and lengthy lives and maintain a friendship through sacrifice and love.
"When they are married they are not two. They look two but they are together. The two souls united together," Kumar said in an interview before the ceremony.
Upon completing the marriage rituals, the couple and the wedding party made their way to the south side of the Grand America, where a hot air ballon awaited as their getaway vehicle.
Guests milled in and out of the wedding ceremony, which is typical for an Indian wedding Desai said. Families often treat the event as a large family reunion.
Desai flew in from Atlanta and brought in materials from around the world and vendors from around the country. Desai said she had never planned a wedding that was so rich in details, from the sandalwood, silk and satin on the 750 wedding invitations to unique decor and colors for each event. A symbol of hearts joined together in a circle, chosen by Patel and Dhingra, was seen throughout the event. The symbol represented the world, appropriate because of the global backgrounds of the bride and groom, Desai said.
Thursday morning, the Patels hosted a Puja at their home where prayers were offered to the Hindu god Ganesh asking for success. About 50 family members dressed in tunics and women in traditional dress sat on cushions and pillows. Patel and a handful of others, including her parents, encircled a statue of Ganesh. Kumar recited the ritual and the Patels tossed loose flower petals toward the statue. The officiant led the family outside where a live band greeted the wedding party. Other rituals in the Puja, such as the Mandap Mahurat and Grah Shanti, help remove obstacles, repel ignorance and ensure success.
Wedding guests were then cleansed with water Kumar brought from the Ganges river. During the Pithi, guests spread tumeric paste on Patel as a symbol of purity and prosperity.
Lunch that day was served in banana leaves, an Indian tradition.
That evening roughly 200 people gathered for the Mehndi night. With a view of the Salt Lake Valley to the west, Patel sat as Desai painted henna designs and placed jewels on her palms and hands. The Henna was mixed with eucalyptis and clove oil, which is designed to soothe the bride. Guests lined up for henna drawings by other artists or to sample from a guacamole bar and fill their plates with Mexican food.
Friday evening the bride and groom participated in a Sangeet and Garba night, filled with song and dance at the Grand America Hotel, an event the groom was looking forward to.
"That's where everything is going to come alive," Dhingra said.
A wedding reception Saturday evening was to serve as a grand finale, and incorporated the tiniest details, from custom foil napkins, sweets and macaroons. The crystal chandelier was customized to match the couple's symbol, which was also seen on the ballroom dance floor.
"She pretty much told me she wanted a real cool wedding," Dinesh Patel said. Which is what she got.
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