When in Rome, DON’T Wear a Toga

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to India for work with two co-workers, Mike and Henry.  I was so excited to experience the Indian culture, enjoy the food, and make new friends.  Plus, one of our Indian co-workers would be getting married while we were there, and he graciously invited the three of us to attend the wedding.  Little did I know that this would end up being one of the most embarrassing nights of my life.

When we were invited to the wedding, I did what I always do when I receive a wedding invitation — start thinking about what to wear.  Usually I start digging through my dresses looking for something I haven’t work recently, but of course those dresses usually no longer fit.

In this case it was, how do I dress so that I’m inconspicuous and don’t look like a douchey American tourist.

Let me repeat for emphasis.

My goal was to be inconspicuous and not look 
like a douchey American tourist.

I wanted to look sophisticated and culturally aware.  Fortunately, I had a co-worker in the U.S. who was from India, so I asked him what we should wear to fit in.  He said that I should wear a “Sari” and the guys should wear a “Kurta”.  In case you don’t know, a sari is a super-long piece of fabric that you wrap around your body six ways from Sunday until you look like a glamorous Bollywood movie star.

A Kurta is much less glamorous.  It’s like a long nightshirt over MC Hammer pants. But I pleaded with Mike and Henry, explaining to them how important it was that we fit in.

I went to a local Indian clothing boutique and got myself a gorgeous sari.  Truly beautiful.  Royal blue with gold threading.  I also splurged on some bangle gold jewelry because when you are that dressed up, accessorizing is paramount.  I felt like a beautiful Indian princess.

The wedding day arrived.  The wedding ceremony itself was traditional and would last the better part of the day, so we were told to come to the ceremony for a little bit, then leave and come back later when the reception began.  We asked if we should dress up for the ceremony, and our friends said no, people would dress up more for the evening reception.
The ceremony was different from anything I have ever experienced.  Since it is so long, people aren’t expected to pay attention to the whole thing.  The bride and groom and their priest were up on a stage, and there were chairs set up down below for guests to sit and watch.  Some guests were sitting, but most were milling around and visiting with each other.  We didn’t know anyone else there, and we wanted to be respectfully inconspicuous, so we grabbed some seats and decided to watch the ceremony for a bit.  The groom’s mother (I think) saw us and thought it was cool that we were there (and paying attention!) so she thought we might want a closer view of the ceremony.  And by close, I mean she put three chairs up on the stage next to the happy couple and sat us down.  On the stage. So much for being inconspicuous!

Okay, so fast forward to that evening, when we return to the venue for the reception.  Henry and Mike are in their Kurtas.  Both of their Kurtas were maroon with ivory pants, and they kind of look like, well, like they planned it that way.  I have my sari on and we are feeling cultured and ready!

We walk into the reception hall and…

Where were the Kurtas?

Where were the Saris?



Why the hell was everyone dressed like Americans!!??!?!?!?!  

The guys are all wearing jeans or khakis with button-down shirts.  The girls are wearing traditional Indian clothes, but not saris.  My eyes adjust outwards, slowly taking in the whole room.  No shiny fabrics, no gold or silver thread.  In fact, everything looked exactly as it had earlier in the day, except the groom had changed — into a suit!!!

My heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my ears.  It seemed as though the entire room had frozen and everyone was looking at us.  I was horrified.  Imagine in the U.S. if someone from another country showed up to a party dressed like Cinderella, only to find out everyone else wore a sundress.

Yeah, it was like that.

I slowly made my way across the reception hall, towards the chairs that I hoped would swallow me whole when I sat down.  The girls were afraid I would trip in my sari, so they helped me hold my skirt up as I walked.  They also said I looked too glamorous to be carrying a purse and camera, so they insisted on carrying it for me.  I looked like some sort of crazy celebrity with my entourage.  Mike and Henry, in their matchy-matchy Kurtas, looked like my bodyguards.  Not to mention, in my heels, I was several inches taller than everyone else there.  Needless to say, we stood out.  The wedding photographer kept taking pictures of us.  And the videographer kept filming us with a huge bright light shining in our faces. Evidently they thought I was a celebrity, too.  


Gradually people stopped staring and returned to their conversations.  The three of us decided we could either leave or embrace the situation and just go with it.  So, Henry and Mike flanked me all evening like my bodyguards, carrying my purse and camera, while I flashed my best Bollywood smile.

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3 Responses to When in Rome, DON’T Wear a Toga

  1. MommaIzzy says:

    Not kidding, I laughed so hard at this post. I'm sure your best Bollywood smile was wonderful. Did you at least have fun?

  2. Lyndsey says:

    Thanks for this post. I actually laughed out load and I really needed to. Thanks again for making my morning!

  3. Priyanka says:

    I literally laughed all throughout the post. I can totally get what you mean….seriously cannot stop laughing. And the cartoons you have added to elaborate, totally steal the show.

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