My best friend's wedding was a nightmare
I was maid of honour at my best friend's wedding and it was a nightmare of epic proportions.
When my best friend Aro asked me to be the maid of honour at her wedding, I was thrilled. She was getting married in Port Louis, Mauritius, and I had never been there. Moreover, this was twenty years ago, when destination weddings were something of a novelty, and I excitedly looked forward to my duties as the maid of honour.
One of those duties was throwing a bridal shower for her, and helping her mother and aunts with the arrangements for her mehndi ceremony; this was one of the final ceremonies in Chennai before leaving for the wedding. These two occasions went off without a hitch, and I began counting the days to her wedding. I flew to Port Louis with several other guests who were all headed to the wedding, and it was a party on the ‘plane. Everyone was upbeat and excited and looking forward to the grand celebrations.
The wedding was taking place in the resort hotel we were staying in, and the hotel was filled to bursting with wedding guests from various parts of the world (Sam, Aro’s fiancé, was British, and was well represented by friends and family). The wedding was only a day away, and the hotel had gone all out with beautiful floral arrangements and special menus. The mandap itself was a dazzling affair bedecked with gold foil and flame red silk curtains; fresh flowers and garlands would be added to it on the day of the wedding. I unpacked Aro’s wedding lehenga and hung it up carefully, and went over the arrangements with her parents, who were thrilled that their firstborn would be entering wedded bliss in such a lavish way.
Aro was genuinely happy about the state of affairs in which she found herself, and she and Sam posed for a pre-wedding photoshoot in carefully co-ordinated outfits on the morning before the wedding. After the shoot was done a group of friends tried to badger Aro into going to the beach with them, but she declined because she was rather tired and wanted to nap for an hour or so. She asked me to wake her up at 3 pm and went up to her room at around 1.30 pm. I declined several pressing invitations to go scuba diving and went to talk to the people in the bakery who were working on the wedding cake, before going over some last-minute arrangements with Aro’s mum. 3 pm ticked over, and I went to wake Aro up.
She wasn’t there.
I assumed she’d woken up and looked for her, after which I was given an errand to run with regards to a last-minute necklace emergency for one of Aro’s aunts. This kept me busy for an hour or so, after which I found myself in Aro’s suite again, this time to drop something off for her from her mother’s room. That was when I saw the letter; it was a crumpled note that had been tucked behind the mirror. I took it out and opened it, smoothing it down as I did so.
I don’t know if I can do this, I read. I need to figure something out. Don’t look for me.
I freaked out and headed straight for Aro’s parents’ suite. They were both in there with one of Aro’s sisters. I informed them all that we had a potential runaway bride on our hands.
Naturally, their reactions were predictable. Aro’s sister thought it was romantic, her mother collapsed dramatically onto a convenient futon, and her father went out to look for her. I decided to go and look for her as well, but I didn’t know where to start. She could be anywhere.
I decided to go back to Aro’s suite to see if she’d taken her bag with her. On my way there I ran into Sam and stared guiltily at him as he asked me if I’d seen Aro.
“Not recently”, I managed, at last.
“Okay. Can you tell her I’m looking for her, please? It’s about our rehearsal dinner tonight.”
“I’ll tell her”, I said, and then affected a stunning escape by pretending I had something to do. Really, I thought as I headed back to Aro’s suite, Sam should never know she was having second thoughts, and that she was missing. I noted with satisfaction that she had taken her bag. At least she had money and her IDs on her. This was, unfortunately, the pre-mobile phone era. If this had happened in more recent times, all I’d need to do was call.
On my way out of Aro’s suite, I ran into her other best friend, Kanya. Kanya and I got along with each other for Aro’s sake, but we weren’t friends. She looked me coldly up and down. She’d never forgiven me for being maid of honour, whilst she was just a bridesmaid. Unfortunately, she was also drunk, so she swayed slightly, waved me away as I tried to help her, and then launched several verbal missiles at me.
“You think you’rrre sho cleverrr”, she slurred.
“Kanya”, I said firmly. “I’m busy, and you should go to bed.”
“Bushhhy. Of courrrshe you’rrre bushy.”
“Can I help you get to your room?” I asked.
“Help yourrshelf”, she responded, flipping around dramatically, and almost falling. I reached out automatically to hold her up, but she shuddered and waved me away. “Don’t touch me”, she commanded.
“Okay. I’m just trying to he-, I mean, I’m just making myself useful”, I said helplessly.
I’m not entirely sure how the conversation would have progressed if Aro’s younger sister hadn’t come up to interrupt us. She looked excited and she paused on her way to her parents’ suite, which was further along the corridor. She looked at Kanya and me and jigged on the spot. “Come quick”, she squealed.
“Cerrrrtainly not”, responded Kanya, who seemed determined to be contrary, just as I asked anxiously if it was Aro.
“Not Aro”, said her sister. “Uncle Vishy set the bar on fire.”
“Oh god”, I said, pushing past Kanya. I raced downstairs, followed by Aro’s sister. We appeared to have lost Kanya, for which I was feeling grateful. I hoped she would go and have a lie-down.
It turns out that it was not an exaggeration. Uncle Vishy had indeed set a part of the bar on fire. It was already out, thanks to vigilant hotel staff, and the fire alarm hadn’t even sounded. The man himself looked woebegone and ashamed of himself. “How did you do that?” I panted.
“I was trying to do a magic trick with a match”, he said sadly.
“Where are the matches?” I demanded.
He produced a box. I plucked it out of his hands. “No more matches”, I told him sternly. I turned to have a word with the bar staff, who assured me that the fire had been put out in seconds. I looked at the spent fire extinguishers on the floor and apologised profusely again, feeling grateful that the situation wasn’t worse than it was. I pushed past chattering and excited wedding guests and saw Sam in the distance, bearing down on me. I turned around and walked quickly in the opposite direction. I did not want to lie to Sam, and I had no real news for him about Aro anyway. On my perambulations outside in the garden, at the heart of which sat the stunning mandap surrounded by wooden chairs, I ran into Aro’s father. “Any sign?” he asked me in passing. I shook my head.
After a futile search for Aro that just turned up too many people asking me whether I’d seen her, I headed back to my room to change into something more suited for hunting for runaway brides. I drew on a pair of jeans and put on a t-shirt, and then changed into comfy kicks. That was infinitely better than running around in a ghagra choli and heeled sandals. I headed back down the stairs where I was informed that Asha, one of Aro’s cousins and one of the bridesmaids, had fallen into the pool and almost drowned. After inquiring whether she was alright (she had been saved by a waiter who had fortunately thought on his feet and leapt into the pool to affect a rescue) and being reassured that she was going to be just fine, I wondered aloud whether anything else could possibly happen at this wedding.
As if in response to my question, there was an ominous rumble in the distance. As the thunder died away, I scurried to find Aro’s mother. RAIN. And it was an outdoor wedding.
Aro’s mother and I nearly crashed into each other as I rounded a corner. “The mandap!” we both said in unison.
We rushed to the reception area where we discovered that the hotel staff were already one step ahead of us. The gold foil was weatherproof, but the silk curtains were not, so staff were already carefully taking them down. I turned around to leave just as one of the hotel staff asked me if I was Awanthi Vardaraj. I said that I was.
“Phone call for you madam”, she said, offering me the ‘phone. Surprised, I took it. It was Aro.
“ARO!” I said, relieved. “Where are you?”
“Dunno”, she said vaguely.
“Aro, you need to come back to the hotel”, I said urgently. “So much stuff has happened and we’ve been looking for you for hours.”
“Mm”, was her only response.
“Are you okay?” I asked desperately. Thunder rolled again, and outside the grand mullioned hotel windows, in the distance, I saw lightning coruscate over the sea. “Listen, you need to come back to the hotel. It’s going to pour. Sam’s looking for you. And the rehearsal dinner’s in two hours.”
There was silence. “Hello?” I said.
There was a gentle snore.
“Are you ASLEEP?” I said, losing my temper. “ARO.”
“Mm?” she replied.
“Okay. You’re drunk. Find someone who can tell me where you are.”
There was silence again. I kept repeating my instructions that she should find someone who could tell me her whereabouts when a man’s voice suddenly replied. He was a bartender, he explained, and Aro had given him the ‘phone to give me directions. Grateful, I took down directions to the bar, instructed him to keep her there, and hung up. I turned to one of the receptionists and explained that I needed a taxi. She offered to call the hotel car for me, which was infinitely better as it was complimentary, and in a few moments, we were barrelling down the streets of Port Louis, looking for the bar that Aro had escaped to and spent almost three hours in, getting drunk off her face.
When I did eventually find the bar, and finally locate Aro, she was far too drunk to be of any use. Worse, she had clearly fallen somewhere and she had a rather interesting bruise on one side of her face. I paid her tab and picked up her bag and helped her out of the bar and to the car. “Sam was looking for you. Don’t worry, we didn’t tell him where you went.”
“Darlin’ Sam”, was her only response. My spirits lifted. It looked like there was going to be a wedding after all.
At this point, just as we neared the hotel, the thunderstorm burst and the sky opened itself up around us. We were driven to the covered veranda as raindrops the size of pennies splashed all around us. I managed to help Aro out of the car and held her up as we both stumbled to the elevator so that we could get to her room. To this day I don’t know how we managed to get to the suite without running into wedding guests or Sam or assorted family (who would fuss). The fates were on our side, and I thought with satisfaction that something was going right at last. Sadly, I celebrated much too soon.
We finally made it to Aro’s suite and I put her to bed. On my way out, I bumped into Sam, who asked me where Aro was. I shushed him dramatically. “She’s very tired and is in bed. I think she’ll have to miss the rehearsal dinner tonight.” After assuring Sam that she was okay, I hurried to find her parents and tell them the good news that I had located Aro and delivered her safely to her bed. Then I went to my room to have a soothing bath because I figured I deserved one.
Later, at the slightly rowdy rehearsal dinner, I was sitting next to Aro’s lovely grandmother, and chatting with her and with Sam’s grandmother. The two grandmothers were getting on splendidly, everyone was happy and excited even though Aro was missed, and I had drunk a little too much champagne and viewed the world through a rosy glow. Yes, I thought to myself as I went to the dessert buffet for the second time, life was alright. It was whilst I was deciding between the chocolate mousse and the butterscotch ice cream (or maybe both) that I realised there was consternation at my table. People were crowding around it, and Aro’s father, who was a doctor, was telling people to ‘give her room’. I briefly considered taking my mousse up to my room before putting it down and trying to squeeze past people to get back to my table. The head waiter was hovering near me and he told me that the ambulance was on the way. “What for?” I asked, even as the question died on my lips. The crowds parted like the red sea and I plunged through them.
“What’s happening?” I asked. “Someone talk to me.”
“She’s having a heart attack”, said Aro’s younger sister importantly. “Who is?” I asked, bewildered. “Nana”, came the reply. “Oh no”, I said, even as the ambulance sirens came closer. Aro’s father beckoned me. “Will you ride with her in the ambulance? I’ll be right behind in the car.” I acquiesced, and that’s how I found myself in the ambulance, driving through the roads of Port Louis in the rain, even as the ambulance siren wailed loudly and self-importantly. I looked at Aro’s grandmother and hoped against hope that she was going to be alright.
At the hospital, I was joined by Aro’s father, and we waited a couple of hours as Aro’s grandmother received treatment. It was only when we were told that she was going to make it through the night that we headed back to the hotel. The rains had finally stopped, and Aro’s father parked the car in the hotel parking lot. I climbed out of the car and turned to shut the door, and that’s honestly all I did, but I managed to slip in the mud. I squealed and went down like a ninepin, worried more about my pretty lehenga coming in contact with the mud than I was about anything else. Aro’s father helped me up, and that’s when I realised I’d twisted my right ankle. I couldn’t put much pressure on it at all. “I’m fine”, I lied, as Aro’s father helped me hobble to the hotel lobby. I somehow made it to my room (I wish I could say unscathed, but alas, I cannot) and called the reception for an ice pack. And that’s how it was that on the eve of my best friend’s wedding, I was sitting in my room icing my own ankle. The hotel doctor visited shortly afterwards and strapped my ankle for me, and I went to bed after sending my lehenga to the dry cleaning service.
In the morning, on the day of the wedding, I learned that the wedding cake that was supposed to have been delivered the day before had been dropped on the way in, and smashed to smithereens. It didn’t even surprise me. I hobbled to Aro’s suite, where the truant’s bruise had been discovered. All of us changed into matching floral robes for photographs, and there was a lot of giggling and chattering as we did each other’s makeup. Aro was having her makeup done by a professional, thankfully, and the bruise was being disguised. We changed into our bridesmaid outfits, and I chanced a look out of the window. It was a perfect day.
The hotel rallied magnificently with a backup wedding cake, and the wedding went off without another hitch. We heard from the hospital that Aro’s grandmother had stabilised, and later, at the reception, Aro’s father beckoned me to ask about my ankle, and how I was feeling. I assured him I was feeling great, and very relieved after the stresses of the previous day. He nodded. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that. You did an amazing job. Went above and beyond.” He beamed at me. I beamed back. “Oh it was nothing”, I lied. “No, you MUST accept my offer of a small holiday so that you can relax and recover after this wedding. I know it wasn’t easy for you.”
Of course, I was only too happy to accept, and that’s how I ended up on a two-week holiday after this nightmare of a wedding. Somehow, it had all worked out. There were moments there when I had been worried that it would not. Through it all, I had managed to keep my cool, although I was a nervous wreck at the end. Aro’s wedding remains one of the most interesting weddings I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of, and I think you will agree with me when I tell you that it was, in parts, a nightmare.