Planning a wedding is never easy. Throw in a potential culture clash, an elephant and a TV crew, and things can turn really crazy.
Luckily for Tim Searight and Rupa Goswami, their big day brought no big mishaps. And now the world can watch their elaborate Hindu-Christian ceremony on "Weddings," the ABC News series chronicling couples' unusual paths to the altar. The show airs Monday at 10 p.m.
Alexandria resident Christine Searight, sister of the groom, flew to Pasadena, Calif., to take part in the extravagant event that featured 150 guests and a nine-member production crew.
Christine said, for the most part, the cameras did not interfere with the ceremony except during the fertility dance, which involved circling the groom and tapping him with eggs to symbolize the hope of fertility. As she was circling her brother, she said she definitely felt the presence of the camera crews.
"You're supposed to go around once, but Rupa's mother told us, 'Oh, you must go around many times. I want to make sure they have children,' " Christine said. The cameraman "was literally in our face. I was stumbling over him."
Most guests were unaware of the camera crews, said the bride, who first turned down ABC's request to film the event.
"There was so much chaos at our wedding: six dancers, three drummers, one elephant, one bagpiper, two families," Goswami said. "I mean there was a lot going on. People, in the general chaos, didn't notice [the cameras]."
And that unobtrusiveness was important to Goswami, who felt her wedding was already complicated enough without adding the stress of being on television to the mix.
"I was reluctant because there are a lot of family issues out there," she said. "We were doing a Hindu-Christian ceremony, and Tim's parents were coming out from Indiana. My parents were adjusting to this whole thing. Sometimes you think, 'I'm not sure I want every comment coming out of people's mouths put on national TV.' "
What eventually swayed Goswami to do the show were several conversations with producer Martha Spanninger, who was sensitive to the couple's concerns. Spanninger also had dinner at Goswami's parents' home to discuss how the show would come together.
"Actually, what convinced us was the economics of it," Tim joked. "It was like having a videographer for free."
It took 10 months to plan the October wedding, a mix of madras meets Muncie. Goswami's family is from Bengal, India; Searight's family is from Indiana. Although ABC was looking for some antagonism between the families, neither family objected to a dual ceremony.
Spanninger said, "The idea was originally sort of culture clash -- boy from Indiana marries girl from India -- but everyone was completely unified."
For Tim and Christine's parents, participating in a Hindu ceremony was "a little overwhelming," Christine said.
"They took it in stride though, and her family was open to the Western ceremony as well. [ABC] asked [Goswami's father] how he felt about his daughter marrying a Christian, and he said, 'Well, we Hindus believe in reincarnation. I believe in my past life I was a Christian.' Isn't that nice?"
The wedding -- which Christine described as "a theatrical production, like putting on a Broadway show" -- began with Tim riding a painted elephant down a street to the Pasadena Museum of California Art, where the ceremony was to take place. Members of his family, dressed in traditional Hindu outfits, danced in front of the elephant. When they reached the museum, the procession was led to the third floor terrace by a bagpiper that represented the Searights' Scottish heritage.
Tim's biggest fear about riding the elephant? "I was worried that it was going to step on my mother," he said.
The couple wanted both ceremonies to take place on the same day, so the Hindu service -- which traditionally can last up to five days -- was abbreviated, though key elements were kept. The bride and groom had a Mandap -- similar to the Jewish chuppah -- constructed from purple orchids and bamboo. They recited their vows in Sanskrit over an open fire. And their parents fed them sweets after their vows to represent the sweet life they will have.
The couple plan to throw a party for their friends to watch the show.
"We figure that misery loves company," said Goswami, who admits to being nervous about what might be said or shown. "We figure what the heck. We're going to serve gin and tonics and samosas. We'll make sure everybody is completely sloshed."
Asked what they hoped the audience will take away from watching their wedding, Tim said: "Rupa and I are from two different religions, and I don't think that either one of us is going to convert to the other's. One thing that I hope comes across in the TV special is that two people from two different religions can coexist very easily."