To give some context to this blog post, this was from the end of May…I have some catching up and I am going to try and post more often from now on.
My next stop after Toronto was Ottawa. A 5-hour road trip. That time in a car can be a drag. Not with the Bardsleys though.
Jillian and her fiancé, Shawn, were getting married in the capital. Having met at med school in Toronto, they had moved to Ottawa to work. I was stoked to be invited. I hadn’t seen Jillian and some of the other guests in over five years.
Shawn’s family are from India so there was going to an awesome blend of cultures to celebrate their union. I’d never had the opportunity to go to a Hindu-Christian wedding so I was genuinely intrigued.
I was invited along to dinner the first night with Chris, Cecilia, Shawn and Jillian. I felt like part of the family. It was also my first time meeting Shawn. We instantly bonded over a beer. Like a lot of my friendships.
I’d be staying with Jillian and Shawn in their spare room for a couple of nights. In the build-up to my arrival, Jillian had been an absolute star and had arranged accommodation for me with her parents and her friends, Dan and Ryan, as well. I can’t thank her, her parents and her friends enough.
That night we sat around and cracked open my wedding gift to them: a 16-year old Lagavulin –adding to Shawn’s fine single malt collection. A man after my own heart. I was also keen for them to embrace their passion of hiking so gave them some hiking guides of Scotland to whet their appetite.
Over the next few days there would be a lot going on, but Jillian and Shawn still managed to take me on a ‘light’ jogging tour of the area. A tour which ended in a sprint finish. They really do complement each other very well.
Traditional Indian weddings can last a week or more. There are many ceremonies and rituals building up to the actual marriage. It’s not just seen as the union of two individuals, but the coming together of two families and extended families as well.
In Shawn and Jillian’s case, there was a mendhi two nights before the big day. Traditionally, a ladies-only affair, men were invited to this as well. The bride’s hands and feet are decorated with intricate patterns of henna. Jillian looked the part. Apparently, the darker the henna, the stronger the groom’s love for the bride.
The mendhi was a rainbow of the senses. Saris of every colour on the spectrum, mouth-watering Indian cuisine and some banging Bhangra tunes. I even got some a bit of henna as well.
During the days, I tried to help out with the final wedding prep as much as possible. Sorting place-cards, ironing chunnis (an Indian scarf) and eating food that would otherwise be thrown away… My perfect pastime.
I also got the opportunity to explore Ottawa with old and new friends: Carlos, Cecilia, Aidan and Brandon. We hit up parliament and the peace tower, went on a parliament tour in French, met Justin Trudeau*, got my Timmy Horton’s iced cappuccino fix, visited some of the best brunch spots, wandered along the canal. All the while trying to protect myself from the scorching sun. It had been mid-20s to low-30s ever since I arrived.
*Disclaimer: I thought every good-looking guy in a suit was Trudeau.
The day of the wedding, I donned my kilt – my only get-up for a formal occasion – and instantly regretted wearing wool in 30°C heat. Thank God for the breeze below!
Another Indian tradition is the Baraat. The groom mounts a horse (traditionally an elephant) for a procession to the wedding venue. The four-block walk involved dancing, drumming, bewildered onlookers and a whole lot of fun. I can’t wait to see the wedding photographer’s photos as my phone photos don’t do it justice.
More on the wedding to come.