About 15 years ago our friend Lara was married, in Framingham, Mass., in January, and we were invited. It was a cold day, and there were no cars going in either direction on I-80 because it was about 20 degrees below zero. I knew that it was an unwise thing to do, but I had considerable experience driving in snow and ice so I was not intimidated. Seeing no cars on the road at all, however, did give me pause.
My wife had brought along her winter emergency kit of a clay flowerpot and saucer, a plumber's candle (extra large), and a lighter. If we should have trouble, we would be able to keep the car warm by burning the candle set on the saucer with the pot upside down over it. The clay would radiate the heat and the drainage hole would allow the smoke to go out and air to come in to keep the candle burning. We did not have the opportunity, thank goodness, to test the veracity of this theory.
Our destination was the home of a friend of Lara's who was a Unitarian minister. The Unitarian minister very sensitively and warmly conducted the wedding of Lara, who was Unitarian and Ram (pronounced "Rom") who is Hindu. There were probably 20 or so people there to witness the ceremony, including Lara's mother, father and sister. A couple from New Zealand, whom Ram had met while teaching there, had come the farthest.
This lovely ceremony made me think in passing that in this modern day, homes may be the places where regular church services might be held instead of in huge buildings that are very costly to maintain.
One week later, a second wedding was held for this happy couple in Troy, Mich., in the home of the groom's parents. It was to be in a Hindu environment and tradition. Because Lara was not Hindu, they could not be married in the wedding pavilion of the Hindu temple, so the altar was arranged in the basement recreation room. At floor level on a cloth, there were fruits and grains spread out in a large circle surrounding portraits of the groom's ancestors.
The Hindu priest, who conducted the ceremony in Sanskrit, stopped periodically to explain in a light and humorous way what he was doing and saying. Even some of the Hindus present in their beautiful, colorful saris and traditional men's garb did not understand the priest's Sanskrit words. Sanskrit is an unwritten language used only by members of the priesthood.
Lara and Ram came in dressed in traditional Indian clothing. He wore a white silk kurta pyjama and she wore an elegant, long, red silk over a blouse with matching silk trousers. They sat down on the cloth spread for them and were joined by Ram's father in a white dhoti. Part way through the ceremony, they left the room to come back in new clothes, which seemed to signify their new status as married couple. She was now in a rich purple silk sari and he was in an elegant navy blue suit. At this point, Ram's mother came forward and draped gold necklaces around Lara's neck. We learned later that these were not gifts to Lara but were loaned for the symbolism of the wedding ceremony, accepting her into the family. Finally, the long ceremony was concluded, and we were all invited to have wedding cake. It was a traditional American cake of several tiers. Then there was an Indian buffet dinner with many delicious traditional dishes and cordial conversations with the other guests. We thanked Ram's parents for their hospitality and the opportunity to be a part of this special day.
As we left to go home, we wished Ram and Lara well again, for the second time in a week, and set out for another cold trip to Warren. On our drive home, we talked about the rich experiences we had had. We had never been to a Hindu service of any kind or to a Unitarian wedding before. We had seen the values in two different religious traditions and how they could come together in a happy marriage. Since then, we have enjoyed seeing that lived out.
Thomas is a Tribune Chronicle columnist.