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$67 thousand  Hindu Wedding Livens Up Kentucky Hotel

By Karen Owen, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 26, 2008 - If any guests at the Executive Inn Rivermont wanted to sleep late Sunday morning, they were out of luck. The firecrackers and other fireworks started going off at 10 a.m.

It was Rubin and Manisha Patel's wedding day.

Both families are Hindus, so Amrit "A.C." and Urmila Patel threw what may have been the first traditional Hindu wedding in Owensboro.

Passers-by paused to gawk and take pictures as women in long, vibrantly colored dresses and men in long linen jackets danced around the Executive Inn parking lot.

The groom's prewedding procession included a horse-drawn carriage and an SUV blaring Indian dance music.

The bride's family is originally from Gujarat, in western India, but has lived here since 1969. Patel is a common name in India, "even more so than Smith and Jones," Manisha Patel said a few days before the ceremony.

Patel, 31, is a 1995 graduate of Apollo High School and was assistant women's tennis coach at Columbia University in New York. She will now live in Baton Rouge, La., where Rubin Patel, 35, is a doctor.

Her parents wanted to arrange a marriage for her, as Hindus traditionally do, but Manisha Patel wasn't interested.

"She wanted to try it on her own," Urmila Patel said.

Her daughter met her future husband at a Hindu convention. "We were happy. That's what we were hoping for," the mother said with a smile.

The Patels were expecting nearly 600 guests from across the United States and Canada this weekend, including three chartered busloads from Baton Rouge, plus a couple of people from India.

"We've got a few hotels booked up," Manisha Patel said. Her family also arranged a shuttle service to ferry relatives from the Evansville airport to Owensboro.

The celebration began on Friday with a small blessing ceremony for the bride at her home. Another blessing, a slightly larger affair involving her parents as well, was held Saturday. Saturday night the two families got together for a big social time and traditional Indian dance at the Executive Inn. The Indian band was from Chicago.

"When the kid gets married," Urmila Patel said, "the two families unite also."

Each event meant a different outfit for the bride. The Patels took two trips to India while planning the wedding to get everything they needed.

Hindu brides usually wear red, but Manisha Patel wore red and white for her wedding "just because I like it," she said.

Bridesmaids are not a tradition, but many young women here want them, her parents said. Patel was accompanied by four cousins, as well as two Owensboro natives who have a Hindu father and two non-Hindu friends.

Traditionally, the bride's maternal uncle gives her away, but in this country, many young women want their father to have the honor. The Patels combined the old and the new. A.C. Patel escorted his daughter most of the way up the aisle, then allowed a relative to take her the rest of the way.

The International Room was decorated for the ceremony with a mandap, or canopy of gauzy fabric, ribbons and mums, roses and lilies. The guests' chairs were draped with red or saffron fabric, tied with a large gold lame bow in the back.

The service, which was much longer than most American weddings, was conducted in Sanskrit by a Hindu priest from Atlanta. The ceremony began with worship of the god Ganesh.

Non-Hindu guests could consult their favors, decorative scrolls, which explained in English what was going on. Even some Indians in the crowd couldn't explain all the symbols and rituals.

Small dishes of ice cream and strawberries were served during the service, but the reception was held afterward at the Hines Center in Philpot.

Many Hindus are vegetarians, but the Patels included some meat dishes in the menu. It will be "more northern India restaurant type food," not what her family normally eats, Manisha Patel said.

Her father is a retired chemistry professor who has taught at Brescia University, the University of Louisville and Jefferson Community College. Her mother was general manager at Burger King.

They estimate their daughter's wedding cost up to $67,000. "Girls are more expensive," said A.C. Patel, who also has two sons.

"Parents always look for this," Urmila Patel said. "They always have one wish for the kids."

"We want to make sure our daughter is happy," A.C. Patel said. "We wish for her a long and happy life. We hope the future is good for them."

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To see more of the Messenger-Inquirer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.messenger-inquirer.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

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