A joke heard in Cochin: If you have a son or daughter to be married, follow these steps in the given order - arrange a good caterer, book a hall, fix time with temple/church, and then, start looking for a bride/ bridegroom. During wedding seasons there is such a rush to book halls and caterers.
People often end up arranging places that they can ill-afford for the wedding reception. Sometimes it is the other way. Social snobs could feel that a venue is below their status. In such cases a whispered apology accompanies the invitation, ‘Sorry, we couldn’t get a better place’.
There was a time, not too far back, when holding a wedding reception in a hotel/ public hall was not the done thing. (I am talking about Kerala and more specifically, Syrian Christians.) The inference was that the host neither had a house good enough for the function nor the people to organize it. Even now, some prominent families hold marriage parties at their residence.
Inviting for the function was a time consuming process. The hosts had to visit the houses of relatives and important people and personally invite. There would be categorized guest lists: (1) those to be personally invited, (2) cards/letters to be sent by hand, (3) invitation to be mailed, and (4) those to be invited/instructed by supervisors to attend.
Personally inviting too had certain rules. Ladies would attend the function only if a lady was involved in inviting. No card or letter was to be given to close relatives. The invitation to them was actually a request to conduct the function.
And they would come, days ahead of the wedding. Those who were not from the same locality would stay with the host. Actually, each function was a family get together – wonderful days spent jointly in a clannish atmosphere.
It was the right of the ammayi (father’s sister) to bring the sweet to be given to the bridal couple after the marriage - that was known as ‘ayini’. Originally ayini was ‘churut’, a savoury made with coarse rice powder and palm syrup filled in a crisp, thin cone. Some used grated coconut with sugar instead. In course of time, most people switched over to cakes.
Along with ayini, Ammayi would bring many baskets of sweets and delicacies. The quantity would depend on her husband’s finances – own or borrowed.
This is running too long. I’ll cover just a couple of points more. In the old days there would be separate cookhouses for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. And exclusive eating pandals too, based on category and caste/class.
I must mention here about our chief manager, Narayana Kaimal. In all his 60 years of service with us, this member of an aristocratic Hindu family never consumed anything that was cooked in our house. Well, except tea or coffee. And bakery bread. He wouldn’t take even those, once large supplies of fish and meat for a major function began arriving.
Now conducting a wedding is so easy. Entrust the whole matter to an event manager. If you have that kind of money.
Syrian Christians (Nazranis) of Kerala: Some interesting customs
Sadhya - a sumptuous Kerala meal