Jamaica is quickly becoming the preferred destination for weddings by the Indian community residing in North America.
The string of all-inclusive beach resorts in Jamaica have hosted a number of Indian-style weddings in the past year. At least four Indian weddings took place in the famed Montego Bay area, the playground of the rich and the famous, in November and a similar number of weddings are scheduled for the next few months.
Not too far from America's southeast coast, Jamaica is a most sought after wedding destination during the dreary winter months.
In December, Kerry and Sam Singh, the newly-elected Congressman from the Michigan state assembly took their wedding vows at a beach resort in the Montego Bay area. US-born Sam Singh is a former two-term mayor of East Lansing town. An avid traveller, he took 15 months off from his political and professional activities to travel around the world. It was natural for him to choose an exotic location for his wedding and guests from Michigan and India attended the beach wedding early in December.
Just a couple of weeks before the Singh wedding, some members of the small Indian community in MoBay, as Montego Bay is known locally, were contacted by a wedding planner with an urgent request. A wedding party had asked for an Indian drum for the wedding festivities. It was for a big wedding planned for mid-November for a couple of doctors from New Jersey with a guest list of over 300. Under the impression that it was a dholak that was required for a ladies sangeet function, the one used for the weekly satsang was shown to the wedding planner, who sent a picture to the groom's parents. But it turned out that the wedding party wanted a 'dhol' (big drum) for the groom's procession. Finally a local businessman offered to fly out a dhol player from Miami for the function.
Another wedding party from Michigan was better equipped when they reached Jamaica a couple of weeks later. They had hired Sachin Gupta, a DJ and dhol-player well known on the Indian festive circuit in the Detroit area, to handle the Indian music during the wedding festivities. The wedding took place over the Thanksgiving weekend (Nov 24-27), with Sachin Gupta's dhol-playing kicking up a storm in the island known for its calypso, reggae and rasta music.
All-inclusive holiday resorts that offer three meals, unlimited snacks, drinks and beverages and other facilities for a set cover charge suit American wedding groups and many of them have geared up to cater to the requirements of an Indian wedding. The luxurious beach resorts have learnt to offer special facilities to make the great Indian weddings a grand success.
While destination weddings normally involve about 20-50 guests, the numbers at Indian weddings can be anywhere from 100 to 300 baraatis - the groom's family and friends and the bride's family and friends.
Wedding planners at resort hotels have learnt to cater to a variety of requests, from supplying mehndi services and Indian chefs to Indian singers, often calling on the Indian community for help in sourcing the services.
Prominent businessman and former president of MoBay Indian Association Rajkumar Sablani explained that Mobay like the other Jamaican towns has a small but well-knit Indian community that is willing to help when required. Indians in Jamaica came from different parts of India and retain close ties with their families back home. The majority of them are engaged in trade and business activities. The community has grown to the size that "most of the necessities of Indians living in Jamaica are now available. Some years ago it was difficult to get whole-wheat flour (atta) and Indian foodstuff here. We had to import from Miami, but now most things are available locally," Sablani told IANS.