All weddings are unique and special, but a wedding that took place at Modesty, West Burrafirth on Wednesday last week was just that little bit more so.
Sitar sounds and the quick rhythm of a tabla greeted the bride and groom for an exotic ‘Punjab meets Shetland’ wedding.
Mona Walterson’s bright conservatory became a Gurudwara, a traditional Sikh location for the marriage of Chris Brown and Rama Thakar.
The ceremony was intensely moving, part registrar office solemnity, part Beeyah Punjabi country wedding.
The couple exchanged their own personal vows, and Mona, the registrar, read from a native American wedding blessing: “Now you will feel no rain for each of you will be shelter to the other. Now you will feel no cold for each of you will be warmth to the other…”
In keeping with ancient Hindu tradition, the couple – quite literally – tied the knot, as the groom firmly fastened the tassels of his long scarf to the pulloo, the loose end of the bride’s sari.
It was a joyful occasion on one of those rare days between weathers, but tinged with a little sadness. Apart from those in the north and outer isles, Shetland country registrars have fallen victim to the SIC’s cost cutting axe.
Mona said: “I had mixed feelings. This was the last marriage I was going to conduct, but as soon as the couple walked in, looking so happy and so radiant, I forgot all about that. I had never seen a bride in traditional Indian costume. This was a first for me and a fitting end to my time as a registrar.”
For Mona Walterson, registrar for Aithsting and Sandsting and lately also for Walls, this was not only the end of an era, but also the end of an over 60-year-long family tradition.
Shetland country registrars took over from purely church based registers in1855. Mona’s father, the late Bertie Deyell, became registrar for Aithsting and Sandsting in 1951 and, for the next 43 years, the Deyells’ sitting room at Semblister doubled as a registrar’s office.
Mona stepped into her dad’s footsteps in 1994. “I must have conducted close on a hundred marriages, if not more, during my time. It’s sad this is coming to an end.”
Sikh/Hindi wedding celebrations consist of several clearly defined stages and celebrations can continue for a week or longer. The Mendi, the pampering of the bride, had taken place the night before, as was evident by Rama’s henna-painted hands.
Celebrations continued at the newly-weds’ home with a Kumkum, a traditional blessing and thanksgiving where sweetmeats are exchanged, and Tagaa, the sacred thread is tied to the guests’ right wrist.
The couple said: “We first approached Mona ages ago, then life kept getting in the way.
“When we heard she was going to be made redundant on 24 November, we had to speed things up.”
With time of the essence, Rama’s mother sent ‘a wedding in a box‘, containing a pale gold and red sari from her own marriage trousseau, Indian sweets, bridal henna, gold jewellery and Tagaa bracelets.
“Further postponement was never an option. We wanted a sense of something sacred happening, and Modesty was a perfect and the only suitable location for this.”