A December evening was drawing to a close and a group of friends had gathered at chez Man from Madras Musings. His good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed had earlier that week declared that she had had enough of COVID restrictions (had not we all?) and it was high time we began meeting up in person with friends. She was, she said, sick of all these virtual get togethers. In matters concerning his good lady, MMM is one with Rudyard Kipling (remember “but the head and hoof of the Law, and the haunch and the hump is – Obey”?), a poet and writer whom he does not otherwise admire. And so it was that a chosen few were invited and after dinner the conversation somehow drifted to weddings – how everyone had survived a year without attending any in person and how if all went well, it would be possible to attend a few in the new year. The topic then morphed into wedding gaffes and one and all present agreed that the one mistake that practically everyone had committed was to attend the wrong wedding.
Mind you, this was not always in error. In MMM’s college days, the hostel overlooked a historic church whose vast compound was often let out for weddings of all religions. Many of MMM’s fellow students (and here MMM must say he abstained) wore their best and gate crashed. Some of the burlier specimens even had the bridal couple touching their feet for blessings and they were all agreed that the food on offer was far better than that available at the hostel. Having come to man’s estate as the expression is, hardly anyone would dream of barging into a wedding uninvited but wandering into a wrong marriage ceremony was quite common.
MMM’s favourite story is of an expatriate couple in the Madras of the 1960s, who had been invited to attend an Indian colleague’s daughter’s wedding. They donned their best and drove off to the venue and were given a rousing welcome. They were lovingly escorted to the front row and had a soft drink pressed into their hands. It was only after they had settled in did they realise that they could not recognise a soul, including the bride and her parents. Realising they had made it to the wrong venue, they then hastily beat a retreat, much to the surprise and distress of the hosts who had been delighted with the prospect of two white skins landing up. The bride and the groom’s families had assumed that they were guests and special invitees of what is known in legal terms as the party of the part.
MMM narrated this tale with gusto and it was received well by the assembled guests but one of the invitees came up with an even better story. She and her mother-in-law got ready to attend a wedding, bouquet of flowers in hand. They reached the venue, were duly escorted to the dais, and there they handed over the bouquet, posed for the obligatory photo and were then escorted to the dinner. They had not seen anybody they knew but assumed that those who had invited them were busy elsewhere. They had the dinner and having accepted the bag of betel leaf and nuts were just walking out when they realised that the wedding they had to attend was in a different part of the same complex. They decided that it was best that they at least registered a token presence and so began walking towards the correct venue when they realised that the bouquet had been handed over to the earlier bridal couple. MMM’s friend said she was in half a mind to nip back, explain the mistake and retrieve the bouquet when wiser counsels prevailed and the two decided to just go in, greet the correct couple and leave. After all they reasoned, they had had a good dinner at the earlier venue and the bouquet was in some ways a compensation for that.