Editor’s Note – Vaibhav Jain is an openly gay man who lives in New York. He grew up in New Delhi but moved to the U.S. for graduate school in 2011. On March 30 last year, his partner Parag Mehta and him got married in a traditional Indian Jain Wedding in Central Texas, in the presence of about 500 guests including both their families and friends. They have been together for over seven years and although their families were supportive of their orientations, they were not ready to support the marriage initially. Both Parag and Vaibhav decided to wait until the family was ready to wholeheartedly support it and help them plan a wedding in the most traditional way possible. It all finally worked out when they started planning their dream big fat Indian wedding a year back with blessing and support from their families. Here from Parag and Vaibhav about their dreamy love story:
How We Met
Our first meeting was quite interesting and a lot like a Bollywood movie, actually. Our first date was on June 12, 2012 in Washington, DC at Thai restaurant. Little did we know; the food would turn out to be really bad but an amazing conversation lasting over several hours made up for everything. As Parag offered to walk me home to my apartment, it started to rain. We quickly found shelter under a nearby building and started chatting some more about one of our many common interests — Bollywood. We talked about our favorite movies and songs, and then I started to sing one of my favorite old timey Mohammed Rafi songs — he claims that he was mesmerized. So, our first date lasted almost 6 hours and we still didn’t want to leave and go home. That when we knew we were meant to be together.
We decided to get married in September 2016 during a trip to New Mexico. We were over four years into our relationship and my parents and some extended family were also aware — so the obvious next step was getting married. We bought engagement bands together, but were playing a game of chicken — he was waiting for me to propose and I was waiting for him to propose. Things were finally settled when Parag’s two best friends and I surprised him for his 40th birthday with a surprise trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We had a great time celebrating Parag on his milestone birthday, but little did I know that he was planning his own surprise — which was to propose to me at sunrise on the next day. He said he wanted to begin his fourth decade on Earth the right way — with me as his life partner. So, as we all went to view a breathtaking sunrise on a hilltop in Santa Fe, he turned on Facebook LIVE and began to film his surprise proposal to me. Thousands of our friends, family and complete strangers around the world watched this intimate moment in real time. We both exchanged engagement rings and made the commitment to spend our lives together. When he was done proposing and the cameras were off, I said, “Oh my God! We have to start calling everyone to share the news!” Parag nodded his head and said, “No we don’t. Almost everyone we know and love just saw this happen.” I love Parag for many, many reasons But his cleverness and efficient approach to a romantic moment is high on the list!
The wedding weekend (March 29-30) consisted of three main events. The first event was Sangeet and Garba, which took place the night before our wedding. It was a colorful night of music, street foods and dancing. Our decorator transformed the entire venue into an Indian village — there were food carts with Gujarati and Tex-Mex items, and the most delicious paan-flavored ice cream. We also had a fashion cart, where we gave away colorful bangles, bindis, bags, bandhani-style scarves and dandias to our guests. There were mehndi artist and Bollywood themed photo ops for people to enjoy. Both our families and friends did choreographed performances — I snuck a performance myself surprising Parag 🙂 We also had a few friends give speeches talking about how our relationship progressed. Finally, both sets of our parents surprised us with an amazing group performance. We continued the night with all the guests joining garba and raas.
The next event was the main wedding ceremony itself, which took place on the morning of March 30. Since this wedding had two dulhas (grooms), we obviously had to have two baraats. So, both Parag and I rode in on a two seperate horse chariots and came to the venue simultaneously from opposite directions. Each baraat had its own dhol player and our DJ setup speakers on both routes and played music for folks to dance. Upon reaching the venue entrance, both the dulhas were simultaneously welcomed by both mothers — who did tilak and aarti for their soon-to-be sons-in-laws. The ceremony was performed according to Jain and vedic traditions by a Jain pundit (officiant). Since Jain and vedic ceremonies are quite gender specific, we made a few modifications to make them gender neutral. The ceremony included a jaimala, four pheras around the sacred fire — Vaibhav led two pheras and and Parag also led two pheras. Since there was no bride, we changed the traditional kanyadaan to a var daan — two words which, separately, translate to “giving of the groom”. When combined into one word, “vardaan” also means “God’s reward or blessings” which was befitting to the occasion. Both sets of our parents individually gave us away to the other family, during this ceremony. After the formal ceremony concluded, we invited one married gay couple and one married lesbian couple — who are our close friends — to share marital advice as a substitute for the saubhagyavati bhava. We called it chiranjeevi bhava. The event concluded with a traditional Gujarati lunch for the guests.
The final event was the wedding reception which took place that evening (March 30).
This event was more of a traditional American celebration — everyone dressed up in suits and ties, tuxedos and evening gowns. We had few close family and friends speak about our relationship. Parag and I did our first dance as husbands on Mustafa Zahid’s beautiful song, Maine Khud Ko. As we danced to the song’s tunes, all our sisters and bhabhis encircles us on the dance floor – showering us with flower petals. Our couple’s dance was followed by a mother-son dance where Parag and I did a slow dance with our mothers on Arijit Singh’s Mai Teri Chunariya Leheraye. There was not a single dry eye in the audience. In fact, Parag and I were also every emotional dancing with our moms, looking into their eyes and thanking them for supporting us every step of the way. The reception featured vegetarian mughlai dinner where guests enjoyed paneer makhani and malai kofta among other delicacies. We had an an amazing Indian American DJ who played some very popular bollywood and punjabi songs — making not just the Indian guests but also our American friends dance to their beat. We concluded the night with a big surprise — we had rented a helicopter that landed next to the venue and that’s where Parag and I bid farewell to everyone and flew away.
Best moments from the wedding were when we were in the mandap and took the pheras around the fire. As Vaibhav took the first phera for dharma, it dawned on him that God has finally given him what he always desired — a loving partner, a supportive family and community that will move day and night to stand by my side. And he’s finally getting to marry his love in the most traditional way, with his community and God as witnesses. Seeing the smiles and tears of joy in our parents’ eyes was another powerful moment for us — the fact that they have come such a long way since the time we told them that we were gay.
Immediately after the wedding, we spent a few days with family and friends in Texas and then went on a “mini-moon” (a short, four-day trip) to the beautiful town of Sedona, Arizona located in southwestern United States. The city is known for its beautiful red sandstone mountains and spa resorts. We spent four days in the city going on mountain climbing experiences, ate some delicious southwestern cuisines and enjoyed some much needed spa time. We are planning a full honeymoon later this year when we have more time. We are hoping to go on safari in Africa.