Love Beyond Boundaries: A Beautiful Wedding Story of Sumitra and Michael

Source: Deepak Shijagurumayun (Photo Journalist, Indian Express)

What are the words and phrases we often use to describe the love stories around us? ‘They had the most romantic love story ever!’ ‘They have gone through the test of time and distance.’, ‘They met and it clicked’, etc. Well, for today's story, we have something that is everything of that and still nothing like that. The unique element of this love story is the fortune of culture(s). No, we aren’t talking about the mainstream Punjabi and Bengali wedding where they had to fight tooth and nail with their parents to get together. It’s about a north-eastern wedding story. Yes, both of them belong to north-eastern states. The twist? States of different countries.

Wedding Story of Sumitra From Manipur and Michael From New Hampshire

Sumitra Thoidingjam originally belongs to Manipur, a culturally rich north-eastern state of India while Michael Guarino hails from New Hampshire, United States. Incidentally, New Hampshire is also in the northeast region of the country and it's almost the same geographical size as Manipur. Click one, ha! 

Where and how?

The common thread that connected them was their love for travelling and exploring new places. Since the year they met, they had been globetrotting together and making their bond stronger than ever. In 2012, both of them moved together to Burma, Myanmar. Sumitra, for her PhD research and Michael, for a job as commercial director at a UK market research firm.

The Big Decision

Sumitra had to get back( to India) in 2015 to submit her PhD thesis and rejoin work and that’s when both of them decided to unite together in the sacred institution of marriage. Their wedding had been an extended celebration given that both of them belonged to different religions and cultures, from two different corners of the world. The wedding ceremony took place both in Manipur and New Hampshire with the respective cultures of the two places. Though you must have come across the English wedding in books and movies, the Manipuri wedding is something heard off quite rarely but at the same time something worth being a part of.

It’s too late now to invite you to the actual wedding as the couple is happily married for two years; but we have this incredible story to take you to a different, culturally prosperous world. Weddings in other parts of India are more about pomp and show but in Manipur, it's entirely about priceless traditions followed since the time of their forefathers.

The Engagement – Heijingpot

Source: Deepak Shijagurumayun (Photo Journalist, Indian Express)

The couple exchanging rings on their engagement day!

Sumitra and Michael, with the blessings of their families, got engaged in a conventional setting known as the Heijingpot (Engagement Day). Heijingpot comes from HeijingKharai. Heijing means fruits, flowers, and snacks and kharai is the vessel where Heijing is bought and stored. It’s an occasion before the wedding where the families of both the bride and groom come together to know each other and share Heijing. The ceremony takes place at the bride’s house and on this day, traditionally, it’s for the first time that the families share a meal together.

The Wedding – Luhongba

Lu here means family and clan and hongba is change. This ceremony also takes place at the bride’s place where the groom reaches in the afternoon, along with his family, and is seated for the ceremony. Let's take you to a photo tour to Sumitra and Michael's wedding day! 

A traditional wedding invitation to the groom's mother, a day before the wedding.

The bride weaves the wedding garland(s) herself, in a ceremony called “Lei Lengba” (Lei – flower, Lenba –putting together) with the help of her friends in a ceremony held in the morning on the wedding day.

The groom seated for the wedding ceremony, the bride's father showering blessings!

The Bride gives a gift to her father before the wedding ceremony begins.

The bride's mother ties bride and groom hands with a garland before the ceremony.

Man and Wife!

"Till the end of time…"

After the wedding ceremony, the bride and the groom are taken inside the house for a series of exchanges – they exchange pan. Bride’s mothers and aunts give it to the groom's mothers and aunts and then to the bride and groom.

On asking about the picture, Sumitra says, “We also believe that if the bride's family, friends or sisters manage to 'hit' the groom as he is leaving, the bride will live a happy life as she will dominate him. I know it’s absurd. The groom's friends are supposed to 'protect' him from being hit all the time but one of my cousins managed to sneak one in, which is why everyone is laughing here – all the pushing and shoving."

The bride with her sisters and friends!

And here's the groom's gang!

The mother bidding farewell…

And the bride arrives at the groom's place!

The Reception/Feast – Mapam Chakaouba

Mapan Chakaouba is a reception/feast which takes place after five days according to the north-eastern culture but Sumitra and Michael had it the day after their wedding. The fest is followed by short entertainment, Kumhei, which is generally Manipuri dance and music.

Source: Deepak Shijagurumayun (Photo Journalist, Indian Express)

The couple reading the vows and registering their marriage with the local court.

Source: Deepak Shijagurumayun (Photo Journalist, Indian Express)

The Bride and Groom having fun with friends at the feast day, pictures that stay as memories!

Source: Deepak Shijagurumayun (Photo Journalist, Indian Express)

And the feast…

The traditions and colours that fill in Manipuri weddings have their own symbols which endeavour at making the wedding a prosperous and happy one. Looking at Sumitra and Michael today, anybody will swear to that. We take account of their lives two years forward:

Sumitra says, "Like every other relationship, we have our ups and downs, we are both very independent and are not used to living with other people but we have learnt to compromise. We fight a lot but we make it a point to apologise, make up and start afresh. Mike also knows that "The woman is always right."(Laughs

On asking how they worked it through the (really) long distance, Michael continues, "We saw our 'long distance' relationship as an opportunity – to travel, explore new places together and get the best out of life. We made it a point to meet at least once a month at a new city. We're together now and still make it a point to squeeze in short trips once a month or a long one in 2 -3 months. And it will not be the end of the world if we have to go 'long distance' again."

That's the spirit, that's the love! Hope you have enjoyed this cute wedding story. Share your views in the comment section below.