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The bride's dressing room: No family please!

Last updated on: December 20, 2013 11:40 IST

The bride's dressing room: No family please!

Divya Nair

In her seventh column, Divya Nair talks about the chaos in the bride’s dressing and why she prefers an expert to help her get dressed for her wedding. Illustration by Uttam Ghosh.

A global Marks and Spencer’s study says that an average woman spends about 21 minutes a day getting ready for work.

Before that lot from Mars starts jeering at this waste of time, let me add that according to another survey by the Huffington Post and YouGov, men take an equal amount of time to get dressed.

I must say that I felt glad that a global study had reinforced a well-known fact: that it does take time to dress up for an occasion.

So, one can imagine the amount of time a girl will need to get dressed for her own wedding. The amount of time a bride takes to dress up, according to some of my elders, is directly proportional to the number of people they will end up disappointing at a wedding reception.

In Kerala, after the wedding rituals are over, the guests are expected to disperse for food, while the bride and groom get dressed for the reception. The groom wears a sherwani or tuxedo; the bride changes into a different sari, often gifted by the groom’s side.

In the bride’s dressing room there is often chaos. A number of people drop in to give advice about how to drape the sari or how to place the mogra flowers in her hair.

I remember how a friend from school days, an otherwise calm and sweet girl, came close to venting her ire on her aunt when she learned that the flowers reserved for her had been distributed among the female guests who had come home.

I would prefer to have an expert do my make-up. One of my elderly aunts, though, disapproves of the idea of hiring an expert just to drape a sari and do the make-up.

Her disapproval stems from the fact that on one occasion a bridal make-up expert was rude to the guests and ordered them out of the dressing room so she could work in peace.

My aunt shared memories of her own wedding when all her sisters, including my mother, had helped her drape the sari, put on the jewellery and did her make-up. The joy of having relatives around, she said, made her feel special.

Back then, make-up probably meant dabbing on some Cuticura powder, applying some kajal on the eyes and a sticking on a red bindi.

Lipstick and mehndi were ruled out by disapproving elders.

My mother was told to wipe off her lipstick minutes before she stepped out of the house on her wedding day because one of her uncles thought it was against tradition for Keralite women to apply lipstick.

My mother was so embarrassed, as this was said in front of guests, that her embarrassment shows in photographs in her wedding album.

Given the general lack of expertise, it becomes all the more important to have a make-up expert on hand.

The challenge of the bridal expert is to dress up the bride in record time, sometimes in as little as 15 to 20 minutes, for the reception that follows the wedding.

This can sometimes involve changing the hairstyle from the traditional braided look to an Indo-Western one, redo the make-up and match the accessories.

Imagine having to do all this when you have some kid or relatives rushing in and out frequently giving you suggestions on how you can improve the look.

Given that bridal make-up is a booming business in India and experts charge anything between 10,000 INR to 30,000 INR, it is important to find someone who has the tact and expertise to work in challenging situations.

And who has the requisite knowledge.

Who would have thought that an expert hired to dress up a friend would know everything except how to drape a sari? I can apply make-up and style hair, but draping this sari is not my forte, she said at the nth hour. 

And then there was the expert who took an hour and a half to dress the bride in a fish-cut sari for the reception. She draped the sari so tightly that when the bride tried to walk onto the stage, she could not manage more than a few inches, and had to be lifted and taken onto the stage!

So much for trusting an amateur who’d claimed to be an expert.

As one of my colleagues counsels, also keep enough safety pins, thread and needle and hooks, just in case something untoward happens at the last minute.

Having witnessed all these pressure cooker situations, it’s natural to expect that things can go wrong even with an expert at the helm.

While it remains to be seen what chaos unfolds at my own wedding, I’d be mighty pleased if I can be out of the dressing room in less than 30 minutes so that I don’t keep the guests waiting.

Don't miss Divya's previous columns:

Click click please!

Wedding sari under 5k? You must be joking!

No buffet dinners please, we're Indians!

'I'm finally getting married and you're all invited'

'Have you bought enough gold?'

'Arranged marriage seemed like a box of lies waiting to explode'

Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/