Avni & Fabian Schaaf-Mehta
Two young students meet on an exchange programme. What follows is a big fat Indo-German wedding
Avni’s family had to designate some of their friends to play Fabian’s sisters when he had to defend his shoes against one sister and 17 cousins!
Much research was required before Avni and Fabian could marry. Avni, 25, a project manager for an international tourism conglomerate, is half Gujarati and half UP-ite. Fabian, an entrepreneur, is German. The two met at a class in business school in Germany where Avni, then 23, was on a student-exchange programme.
When Avni’s semester in Germany ended, the two decided to continue seeing each other – and both had butterflies in their stomachs when they told their parents about their decision to marry. “It was quite stressful, though I have to say that a lot of my Indian friends had it worse even though they wanted to marry fellow Indians,” says Avni.
Both sets of parents were perfectly okay with the idea, except for one thing: What kind of wedding would an Indian woman and German man have?
Immediately, their families swung into action. While Fabian’s parents watched the Mira Nair film,
Monsoon Wedding, to prepare themselves for the Indian wedding madness, Avni’s family looked up German wedding rituals to make the wedding a perfectly cross-cultural affair.
As it turned out, planning the German wedding was far from easy. Avni’s family didn’t know anybody who had a clue. “Fortunately we found a German priest who helped us a great deal. The religious ceremony itself is similar to Hollywood clichés, but there are a lot of fun games in which the guests also participate,” says Avni. “For example, the key to our wedding gifts was with one of the guests and we had to dance with almost everyone to get the right one.”
The Indian wedding was much easier to plan – except for one little thing. Fabian’s family is not even half as big as any normal Indian family, which led to some interesting innovations. “We had to designate some of our friends to play Fabian’s sisters when he
The Schaaf-Mehtas share a joke and (left) a traditional German ceremony where the couple cut out a heart painted on a sheet had to defend his shoes against my sister and 17 cousins!” says Avni.
Both families were enthusiastic about participating in all the rituals for both the weddings. “I love Indian weddings, and more than that, I love the food, so I had a blast,” says Fabian. “We also created a guide to both ceremonies for our families and friends.”
The fun of mixing two cultures has continued even after the wedding. “Of course there are challenges, but we also learn a lot from each other,” says Avni. “It’s nice to be able to celebrate two sets of festivals. You need to be open to different customs. Sometimes you come across cultural similarities that you wouldn’t expect. For example, Germans always take their shoes off before entering someone’s house, quite like we do in India.”