White Girl Brown World: Call Me Bhougie

This weekend wrapped up the second of two huge family weddings. This time, it was my husband’s cousin Ananta getting married. He now lives in Florida, as does his now-wife Diana. So to accommodate both sides of the family, the maticore, wedding ceremony and kangan were held in Orlando. Fast forward a weekend later, and the wedding reception was held here in New York City. So yes, not only was this wedding four days long (five, if you count the second kangan, basically a big curried meat fest, scheduled for today) but spanned two weekends. When it comes to weddings, Guyanese people can never be accused of “keeping it small.”

Last night was Ananta and Diana’s reception, and it had all the trappings of a traditional American wedding reception. Bride in a white dress, bridal party including two flower girls, first dance, speeches, multi-tiered wedding cake.

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I was one of the few white girls in the room but after so very many years, I think we’ve gotten to the point where no one — especially me — notices. As my husband’s cousin Vick told me while sharing a drink at the bar, “You know what I like about you? What you see is what you get. You’re a very honest person. You’re not just married into the family;¬† you’re one of us.”

Awww Vick. That choked me up. Then, later on in the evening, one of my husband’s many cousins referred to me as “Bhougie.” (Say it with me. BOW-gee.) I looked at Sid and laughed. What?! Bhougie is a nickname for “sister-in-law.” The only Bhougies I know of in Sid’s family are — sorry — old ladies.¬† What was he saying? I’m now past my prime? We all laughed. But as Sid told me later, “Bhougie is a term of respect. You should be very honored.”

Well then. Bhougie it is. Only I’m the younger, paler, hotter version.

But before the reception even happened, Ananta and Diana had a beautiful, fun-fulled, Florida-in-August-hot wedding. Let me share with you their wedding journey. (Click on the photos to enlarge and view the slideshow.)




White Girl Brown World: More Wedding Parties? Yes, More.

SidCynOh, what a party it was. On the third day of Guyanese wedding madness we had the Western-style wedding reception. (Click here for more on day one, the maticore, and day two, the ceremony.) The bride was radiant in a beautiful white dress. There were toasts and a first dance. I laughed, I cried, I danced, and danced, and danced…

And then I lost my camera.

So, sadly, this picture of my husband and me is one of the only shots I have from the wedding reception. Losing the memories pains me more than losing my Canon. Mostly because wow, it was one of the best nights ever.

I got my hair blown out. I put on eyeliner and red lipstick and slipped into a wicked pair of black heels. As we walked into the cocktail hour, a waitress approached us carrying a tray. “Champagne?” she asked, to which I answered, “We have a babysitter tonight. So yes, definitely.”

That pretty much defines the rest of the night. Neither of us had to drive so we do what we never, ever get to do — drink too much, dance too much and just have a raucously good time with people we truly love and care about. I reflect now on the night and that second shot of tequila I never should have taken and think — God I am so blessed to have married into this family. The amount of love in that room just made it impossible for me not to want to celebrate, soak it in and just have FUN.

So there I was, this lone white girl with a permanent smile dancing with anyone I saw. It must have been quite a sight, and for many reasons. But after 15 years of marriage, and knowing this family for more than 20, I realized: I belong here. The color of my skin has never been any more of an issue than I made it be. So as I shook my hips and circled my wrists in the air I had the strange feeling that here, where I stand out the most, is the place where I feel I most belong.

That’s what love will do to you. It breaks down stigmas, barriers and insecurities. It makes you understand who you really are.

The following day was the fourth and final get-together: The kangan. Both the bride and groom’s families host individual kangans at their homes, during which the new spouse is officially welcomed into the family. It’s a pretty laid-back affair but different than the earlier at-home events in two ways: There’s meat and there’s booze. Two different lamb curries, chicken curries, biryani and fried rice. It was yet another feast, cooked up by a team of bleary-eyed, exhausted parents, aunts and uncles.

So while the tone was more subdued (there was a lot of hair-of-the-dog going on), the mood was still the same: Joyful.

Congratulations Kim and Amit, and thank you for giving me an up-close look at these important days in your life. You have many more wonderful memories to come in life and I am so glad I’ll be able to bear witness to them.





White Girl Brown World: Our Big, Fat Guyanese Wedding

So begins day two of Guyanese Wedding-palooza. Yesterday was the maticore, the pre-wedding blessing ceremony. On tap for today is the actual wedding.

Planning for the day began early in the morning when dozens of family members took to their kitchens and backyards to cook all the food for the reception. Yes, my white brethren, you read that right. Guyanese people (at least my Guyanese people) embrace as tradition the idea of cooking all their own food for religious events. Curries of pumpkin, mango and potato are mixed in cast-iron pots the size of tractor-trailer tires. Rice is cooked and dal is boiled. No meat, however, and definitely — hold onto your flasks — no alcohol. The rum is reserved for the day after the wedding, when a Western-style wedding reception is held. More on that tomorrow.

But for today, here is the beautiful, joyous and at times raucous event I was privileged enough to attend. Click on the photos to open the slideshow.


White Girl Brown World: Preparing for a Guyanese Wedding

This weekend my husband’s cousin, Amit, will get married. Not on Saturday. This weekend. Guyanese weddings are a four-day event that starts with the maticore ceremony the night before the wedding. In their respective homes, the bride and groom are cleansed, blessed and celebrated in advance of the wedding ceremony.

On Thursday my family headed to Fresh Meadows where we joined a group of 100 people and a commanding tassa band to parade through the streets in a brilliant scene of joy and excitement.It was one of those many moments that reminded me why we moved back to New York City. Where else would you ever see such a sight? When I got married, my husband had a maticore but I, being, well, white, spent the night more quietly with a barbecue in a backyard that gave me the chance to spend some time with people who traveled  from out of town for the wedding. Two different experiences leading up to the same outcome. That defines so much about my marriage.

If you click on the photos it’ll open up to a slideshow. Enjoy! Tonight is the wedding so I hope to have more pictures to share tomorrow. Good luck Kim and Amit!

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