The Big Fat Parsi Wedding

My brother recently got married in New York in an elegant yet opulent but traditional Zoroastrian wedding ceremony. Believe it or not, the bride was Parsi too. The term ‘Big Fat Parsi Wedding’ does not refer to the ornate and stylish décor of the venue, the fashionable guests who flew in from different parts of the world, nor the customized seating arrangements and sumptuous and exotic food offered. It refers, simply, to the size of the bride and the groom…and the volume of their love for one another, and the magnitude of their appreciation for those who came to share in their joy and celebrate the beginning of their married life together.

A Parsi wedding in the West is very different from the South—South Bombay, I mean. Colaba ni agiari, for example, where the biggest bummer is that there is no foogawalla at the entrance to buy your children irritating pepoori so that they may disturb the entire evening for everyone else. The crowd is limited to 300 people and not 3,000. The hosts usually select a magnificent location so far from the city that most people decline the invite just because of the distance. In Bombay, whether it’s pouring rain or Ganpati Visarjan traffic, everyone will show up.


The wedding in the West is a minute-to-minute orchestrated event. The event management team is constantly talking to one another on Bluetooth micromanaging every move of the couple, their families, and their guests. The affair starts with a photo shoot of both families posing fresh from a 5-hour drive to the venue followed by most guests being escorted and seated in place for the start of the ceremony. At Colaba ni agiari, the evening starts when the bar is declared open; some veterans come to the venue drinking in their car itself.


In Mumbai, the only announcement made on the mike is “Jamva chalo ji!” –  that’s of course after the customary cliff Richard ‘congratulations’ song. In the West, we have speeches once the wedding is over and no one’s backing out; once fates are sealed and cocktails are served. After the initial exhaustion of the pictures and the actual prayer ceremony, the ‘secret service’ took over the rest of the function and called me on stage to deliver a toast for the couple. This is an excerpt:


“Mr and Mississippi, you’re finally married. As a married man myself, I’ve automatically lost any right to advise you about marriage—because the only advice to give someone who’s going to get married is ‘don’t’. But as it’s too late for that, let’s look at the brighter side of things. Thank you for letting me speak as your best man. This is the first time in five years of being married that someone’s allowed me to speak! To be your best man is an honour for me. When a groom chooses his brother to be the best man, it can mean one of two things: either he loves his brother immensely or he does not have any other friends. I’d like to believe it’s the former, because he has some really great friends.”


“There comes a time in one’s life when one meets one’s one true love, the person who they trust will love them for the rest of their life. That moment came for Burgese 35 years ago when I was born. For those of you who don’t know Burgese well, let me share something with you: growing up, we had rivalry of epic proportions; most of it was related to me having better-looking ears than he does. I was constantly jealous of him because he was smarter and more loved by his teachers in school. He constantly got accolades while I continuously stood outside the principal’s office. He was the obedient, disciplined, and the obsessive-compulsive love of everyone’s life.


“But as we’ve gotten older, we’ve gotten closer. He is a warm and caring soul. He usually tries hard not to show how much he cares. He is non-interfering yet protective. He is abrupt but logical. He’s practical and generous. Dismissive but concerned. Accomplished but humble. Candid, yet considerate and courteous. He loves to play the drums with invisible drumsticks. He’s fond of the good life. In short, he’s everything one wants in a husband. If I were a girl, I’d marry him—so what if we’re related? We’re Parsi; we do that all the time. Burgese, if there is one piece of advice I can give you, it is that trust is the most important thing in a relationship. You’ve got to be 100% sure she won’t tell your wife.


Tanzie (yes, that’s the bride’s real name—not a nickname, the real name!) sent me an email on tips on preparing a best man’s speech. Tip number one: say something nice about the bride. So here it is: you’re beautiful. With and without make-up. From the outside and inside. I fell in love with you from the first time I spoke to you. Your love for life, your ability to smile through adversity (which, by the way, is not code for Burgese), and your ability to make my brother happy in a way I never could, I will always cherish.


As the most inexperienced happily married man in the room, I’d tell you that marriage is exhilarating. And have kids only if you are willing to see the same cartoon every day for three years. As a couple, you will argue, you will disappoint each other. If you’re in trouble, don’t bother asking God for help because once you’re married, your prayers go directly to God’s spam folder. You’ve got to figure some things out for yourself.


Burgese and Tanzie, I love you both immensely. (My mom made me say that.) I wish that your lives are filled with abundant surprises, excessive adventure, and umpteen respect for one another. May you grow old together and spread cheer, not just grow old and spread. And may all your ups and downs of life be only in bed.”


The rest of the evening continued with energetic dancing and more scrumptious food on fancy cutlery, one fine course after another. But there was no Godiwalla promenading down the aisle, asking if we would like anything custom-made. That extra sali per eedu, that surplus vegetarian sabji to those eating the non-vegetarian patra, the invigorating smell of the saas ni macchi in front of us, and the intoxicating smell of the actual macchi coming in from the Arabian Sea behind us were some of the things I missed in this otherwise perfectly complete wedding.