On a beautiful day in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, Neil Singh and Eli Pew married in front of 120 guests. The couple personalized the reception with a choreographed first dance to the song "Har Kisi Ko" by Boss featuring Nikhil D'souza. Neil says the day was joyous. "We were both nervous, but at the same time super happy to see our year and a half of planning come to fruition." Neil and Elias will honeymoon for two weeks this summer, touring London, Paris, Prague, Berlin, and Rome.
Images and story courtesy of EquallyWed.com, photography by Keith Lynds Photography.
The ceremony begins.
"The red coloring is placed by married women who welcomed us before we arrived at the altar," Neil says. "The tradition is mainly for grooms. The groom's arrival is celebrated, and before he can enter the Mandup [altar], the women welcome the groom and cast away any evil spirits which may have followed. The red coloring, or Tikka, is placed on our forehead as a sign of welcome and blessing."
"There is so much going on in the altar," Neil explains of the ceremony. "Usually parents or people of high stature in the family will sit across from the pundit [priest] to witness the wedding. However, we wanted two people very dear to us, my nephew Shane, and niece Nalini, to partake in the ceremony.
"We started off with the Ganesh pooja [prayer]. Ganesh is always the first deity we pray to, due to the blessing he received for being accidentally beheaded by his father [according to Hindu scripture]. Ganesh pooja is performed to set a balance to the environment, ward off evil, and pray for prosperity, health, and wealth.
"Then we pray to the fire god, Agni. We have to awaken and be blessed by the fire god before we can bind our marriage by circling the fire four times, each time balancing the vows to our relationship, families, etc.
"Then we take the seven steps and end the ceremony with a Shanti [peace] prayer. Then we receive blessings from our friends and family. We condensed four hours of wedding rituals in 45 minutes," Neil says, laughing.
"We also removed parts of the wedding which were focused on the bride; giving away the bride, placing the red powder in the bride's hair, and placing a necklace on the bride to signify her marital status. Truth be told, we just didn't need it for our wedding."
"There are seven mounds of rice which Eli and I kick after taking each vow and step," Neil explains of the "seven steps" and vow portion of the ceremony. "This is very important as we are literally sealing the deal with these steps, and starting our married life with the right foot forward. No pun intended."
The newly married couple is presented to the guests.