A Beautiful Beach Wedding in Goa, India
From Jaipur, we were taken by bus to the airport, where we caught our flight to Mumbai (one and a half hours), then transferred to our flight to Goa (one more hour). We were staying at a beach resort about twenty minutes from the airport. The road there was so curvy and the jungle so dense, it was hard for me to believe we were anywhere near the ocean. I looked out when we reached the top of a hill and could see nothing but an endless sea of palm trees! But soon enough we arrived at our hotel, and from the open-walled lobby filled with fresh-cut flowers, we could see the sand of the beach and smell the salt water.
It was an overcast evening and still, I was dripping with sweat by the time I got my bags unloaded in my room. Arid Colorado certainly does nothing to prepare one for beach humidity… Most everybody dumped their bags and made a beeline for the shore to enjoy the last little bit of daylight over the Arabian Sea. (The Arabian Sea?! It sounds so exotic!) A large number of us ended up at the same ramshackle-looking restaurant on the beach for a dinner of fresh seafood, served under a plywood roof decorated with gold Christmas lights. Still, the food was so delicious and the owner and servers so friendly, Renee and Don decided this would be the ideal location for their wedding reception the following evening.
Before dawn the following morning, many of our group went down to the beach for a guided meditation followed by a yoga practice (though others in the group stayed comfortably in bed!). We realized as we walked there what we hadn’t been able to tell looking out from our hotel rooms before leaving: It was cold and misty and not beach weather at all! By the time we started our yoga class, it had begun to rain in earnest. While some people continued to enjoy their yoga practice in the rain, others sought shelter in the restaurant we had eaten in the night before. Little did we know, but the servers we had enjoyed so much at dinner were seasonal workers from Nepal, and they were sound asleep on cots among the tables. When our wet group came storming in we scared them half to death.
Most of us had been looking forward to spending the day on the beach, but with the weather being so uncooperative, we found other activities to occupy ourselves with (card games, Yahtzee, spa treatments, etc.) while we kept an anxious eye on the leaking sky, wondering how tonight’s wedding would fare in the rain. But towards early afternoon, the rain stopped, and by 5:30 (when the ladies congregated by the pool to escort the bride to the beach), the ground had even begun to dry.
The Bride and Bridesmaids
To get to where the men were waiting, the women had a long walk together through the landscaped resort, down a curving flagstone pathway, over a bridge, and across the sand. When the men caught sight of the flower-colored women crossing the sand, followed at the very last by the happy bride, their eyes nearly popped out of their faces.
Renee and Don stood beside John who officiated the wedding, and the rest of us joined them and formed a circle. John spoke about Don and Renee’s unique love story, and about the role of us, their friends, to help support the couple in their marriage. Then Don and Renee each took a lit candle and made their way around the circle, lighting the candles the rest of us carried floating in clear glasses of water. As the sun set, Don and Renee spoke their vows to one another and, following an Indian tradition, Don bestowed a wedding necklace on Renee in addition to the ring they had chosen together in Jaipur. After the bride and groom kissed and the rest of us applauded (and a couple of men rode by on horseback), it was time to move on to the party.
We walked down the beach to where the restaurant waited, lit by Christmas lights and candles, the long table decorated with flowers. There, each of us guests (and the restaurant owner!) signed the marriage certificate as witnesses. For the wedding toasts, we enjoyed a drink called fensi, a local alcohol mixed with coconut water and sipped through a straw directly from the coconut. Then we ate an endless amount of food: garlic-basted prawns served in the shell, veggies deep-fried in chickpea batter, sea bass with a spiced chutney, rice, naan, saucy spicy vegetables… After dinner, we enjoyed fireworks under the clearing sky, a dazzling bonfire, and dancing on the beach to the music of Bob Marley and Indian rock.
Love and namaste, Don and Renee!