"I Had An Indian Bridal Shower — But My Fiancé & I Are Not Indian"

About two years ago, Kimberly Hu and her boyfriend went to their first Indian wedding. "It was a huge production — there were so many cultural rituals on the program, and so much dancing." said Hu, a VIP relations director based in Hong Kong. "On the the last day of the festivities, I basically said to Kevin — whom I wasn't even engaged to at that point — that I really wanted to have an Indian wedding."
Hu has always harbored a deep appreciation for Indian culture. The 30-year-old was born in the States but raised in Hong Kong, where Indians form the fourth largest ethnic group. Growing up, she attended international schools, and her parents took her out to Indian restaurants weekly. She was even given an Indian name — Kimiya Huiani — by one of her Sindhi friends.
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Her partner initially thought the idea of having an Indian wedding was "ridiculous." After all, both of them are Chinese-American and do not have any Indian heritage. In a time where music festival-goers are decried for appropriating bindis and henna as a fashion statement, this is a delicate path to tread. "Kevin said because we aren't Indian, it wouldn’t make sense for us to copy the traditions, such as wearing saris and having a sangeet — a ceremony where friends and family do choreographed dances for the couple," Hu said. "And I do agree — but what I really wanted was to take elements of what I experienced and carry it over to my own wedding."
One of Hu's Indian friends, Amishi Sani, was also present at that wedding, and overheard this conversation. Hu and Sani have been close friends for five years, and Sani decided to take it upon herself to make Hu's dream a reality one day. Once Sani knew about the couple's engagement, she rallied another mutual friend, Rina Wadhwani, to throw Hu an Indian-style bridal shower, sometimes also referred to as a Mehndi party.
"We had thought about what to get Kimi as a wedding gift over and over, and then I realized that the best gift would be to give her an auspicious experience of an Indian-style bridal shower and Mehndi party," Sani said. "She is a thoughtful individual who appreciates different cultures. I figured that the memories from this party would last her a lifetime."
Due to time constraints, Sani and Wadhwani were only able to organize a condensed version of the traditional event, but it was nonetheless a testament to their cross-cultural friendship with the bride-to-be. Click on to see photos from the occasion — complete with vibrant saris, mesmerizing henna designs, and off-the-cuff dancing — as Sani gives us the low-down about the Indian traditions.
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Bride-to-be Hu is pictured with Sani (right) and Wadhwani (left), who co-hosted the event at the Hong Kong Country Club.

"Our Western-style nuptials took place in Guam, and we incorporated Chinese elements on our big day, such as the tea ceremony," Hu said. "It was extra special when Amishi and Rina decided to throw me this party before our wedding — it gave me a taste of what it was like to be an Indian bride."
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Sani helped with commissioning Hu's sari, a full-beaded creation by prominent Bollywood designer Suneet Varma.
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A Mehndi ceremony is one of the many pre-wedding rituals in Indian culture, typically performed a day before the wedding. An artist draws henna tattoos freehand on the bride-to-be's arms and legs, which may take up to five hours.

According to Sani, Mehndi parties have become customary at many Indian bridal showers.
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Much cultural significance is tied to the darkness of the henna tattoo, since the color signifies the degree of the husband’s love for his bride. "It is believed that the longer it retains its color, the more affection there is between the couple," Sani said.

A depiction of the groom's name is typically hidden within the intricate design, and he is tasked with locating it. The artist then proceeds to draw henna on other female guests.
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"We hosted a simplified ceremony for Kimi where we adorned her with accessories such as bangles, rings, a bindi, and flower garlands," Sani said. "These pieces are often gifted to the bride by her family members: It's a way to decorate the bride and to make her look even more beautiful for her husband."

Unlike at Western wedding showers, the guests at a Mehndi party do not usually come bearing gifts. Instead, Sani and Wadhwani thoughtfully prepared the jewelry for the ceremony.
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In this photo, Sani can be seen placing a maang tikka — a dangling accessory to be worn just below the hair line — on Hu's forehead.

These baubles are typically placed onto the bride-to-be piece by piece, while her maternal family utters blessings of eternal happiness and an everlasting marriage. In this case, Sani and Wadhwani took on the responsibilities typically reserved for the bride's family.
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Many of the guests had their own saris made at Chungking Mansions, an immigrant enclave in Hong Kong that is home to many skilled Indian tailors. "Everyone went out of their way to get these made — which I really appreciate," said Hu.

Ahead of the party, the Indian mother-in-law of one the guests came over to Hu's house to help the group don the complex traditional dress.
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When the groom-to-be arrived, the hosts ushered him over to a special seating area. He was welcomed with garlands and a turban to wear. At this point in the proceedings, the groom-to-be is typically asked to dance around his future wife in front of everyone — a challenge he gamely accepted. He was also encouraged to bring flowers, a sign of love and worship.
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The hosts handed out cute favor bags containing stacks of bangles sourced from India. They also gifted guests with bindis, a commonly-worn accessory for Indian wedding attendees.
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After the Mehndi and jewelry ceremonies had wrapped up, Bollywood wedding music was blasted for the rest of the party, and the whole group showed off their best moves. This dance session was an abridged version of the sangeet, a ritual where the bride-to-be and her bridesmaids express their joy with music and dance.

"I love all the flowers, the music, the colors and the energy," Hu said of her bridal shower. "In the end, it was just a great afternoon where everyone hung out and learned more about Indian culture."
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