Christian weddings in India's biggest city
The first time I saw a photo of my grandparents, Gracy and Patrick on their wedding day, I was struck with disbelief. I didn’t recognise the debonair couple in the old, faded, black and white photo at all.
This was largely due to the fact that when I was shown their wedding photo, my grandparents were approaching their 90s in age and my grandma especially, was in ill-health. The couple in the photo appeared to be so incredibly young and from an entirely different era.
Then again, the world, and India in particular, was incredibly different in the 1940s. Grooms wore hats and gloves and brides wore lace that was usually hand-woven. Knowing my grandmother, who was a seamstress – stitching being a common pursuit among women in those days, they probably also stitched their own gowns. (My grandmother however, from what my aunt reveals, began stitching wedding gowns after marriage.)
Gracy Peter Sequeira and Patrick Pereira, both East Indian+ married on February 20, 1944 at the church of St. Francis Xavier, Giriz – a small parish in a small town called Bassein (Vasai) north of Bombay. India was then in the last stages of the fight for independence from the British rulers, and Vasai was then just a small dot on the map.
It is remarkable to note that even in those tumultuous days, my grandparents dressed in a black suit and white bridal gown – a decidedly Western choice of attire – and from what can be seen from the photo below, very colonial in appearance. Not much seems to have changed between then and now where bridal wear among the Christians of Mumbai is concerned.
The photo below was clicked by one Francis Dias, a photo artist from Bassein. My father believes his studio used to be located in the Tarkhad area of Vasai.
An interesting thing I learned about my grandparents while writing this post was that their marriage was a love match and not the arranged match as I thought was the norm in those days. Turns out, I knew less about my own Nana and Nanadaddy (try asking about your own grandparents’ wedding and marvel at what you’ll uncover).
My dad’s eldest sister told us about an unusual custom that my Nana had to follow at the time of her marriage.
A resident of Small Giriz village, Nana was raised in a sprawling joint family that occupied a single house in the village. Her cousin, Polycarp Sequeira also lived in the same house and was to marry eight days before my Nana. While their wedding was celebrated in the same pendal+ in front of the house, they had to use separate doors to exit it.
As per the custom back then, two people about to get married could not pass through the same door. Separate doors were constructed for each person with one door being blocked on the other’s wedding day.
Today, people no longer share pendals but couples about to marry avoid entering another person’s wedding house if their first banns have been announced in the church. This custom prevails and is particularly unfortunate when it involves cousins or friends as one is always prevented from enjoying the other’s wedding.
I learned quite a bit while doing the research for this post, as my grandparents are no longer alive and I had to ask my family for help. My aunt and father were most helpful in providing me with sufficient information. I urge you to speak to your own parents and grandparents and find out about their weddings. Who knows, you may discover the most fascinating stories about your family!
If they married in and around Mumbai, feel free to contact me to share any old wedding photos of your family members on this space. History is an enchanting thing and photos of Christian couples from days gone by are very rare, as are the stories attached to them.