Mumbai couple recount their underwater wedding ceremony
The setting was perfect for a wedding: sun glistening over the clear blue waters, powder-white sands tickling our feet, and balmy weather. Almost on cue, the brides and grooms made an appearance — all 36 pairs.
Pooja Raut and Sailesh Kochraekar, as they exchange vows, at Trang in Thailand. Pic Courtesy/Tourism Authority of Thailand
The brides wore white veils, and divers' suits. Instead of a bouquet of flowers, they had heavy air tanks to manage. As for the grooms, they were dressed much like the brides, minus the veils! And we were guests at the venue, in Trang, a pristine island in south Thailand that was in the record books for a fascinating reason.
On February 14, 2001, the Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for the 'Most number of couples to be married simultaneously underwater'. On that day, 34 couples from 22 countries simultaneously exchanged wedding vows 10 metres (32.8 ft) underwater.
This annual event, now in its 19th year, saw an Indian couple exchange vows for the first time this year, as part of the event.
Q. Why did you sign up for an underwater wedding?
A. Pooja: My husband Sailesh is a commercial diver, and we had gotten married in the traditional Hindu way on December 7, 2014. At our wedding, one common phrase that was used to congratulate Sailesh was, 'You've met your mermaid!' Those four words got me thinking. I began researching underwater weddings. I realised that only a few places offer the chance to say 'I do' undersea. Trang in Thailand seemed most accessible, gorgeous, and the fact that I work with a travel marketing firm associated with Thailand, made Trang our first choice.
Sailesh: This wedding gave me a chance to show Pooja a bit of my world as a diver.
Q. Did you need any diving lessons before the ceremony?
A. Pooja: The first time I went deep-sea diving was in the Canary Islands in Spain, a few months ago, with Sailesh. Those who haven't tried diving can sign up in Thailand for lessons, before the ceremony. Since, I had already given it a shot before, I had cleared some of the requirements beforehand. As a result, I had to take only one more dive to get a certificate from PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). Bear in mind that I had two instructors — the dive master and my husband!
Q. What was the actual experience like?
A. Pooja: I was apprehensive initially. But Sailesh held my hand and assured me, just before we took the plunge, that he would never let go. Once my fears were quelled, I began to appreciate the beauty of the underwater world. There's no sound, there were no guests, no crowds, but total silence, and the two of us. In those few moments, nothing else mattered and nobody else existed. Unlike our Indian wedding, where at times, we were lost in the celebrations, this ceremony was about us. You come closer to your partner. Those moments symbolised an eternal bond.
Sailesh: Usually, Pooja is the calm one. But this experience allowed us to switch roles. Without saying anything, just by holding her hand, I was able to be there for her.
Q. Tell us about the ceremonies performed underwater.
A. Pooja: First, we walked down a sandy aisle towards an arch that was partly submerged underwater. Waving out to guests onshore, we dived in. Underwater, we were taken to an altar. Our dive master, who was also licensed to perform marriages, conducted a traditional Buddhist wedding ceremony, where we had to join our hands, and water was poured over our hands. The ritual is symbolic of prayer to the ancestors, asking for their guidance and protection.
Pouring water was tough, given our wedding destination! So, coloured sand was used instead. Next, our instructor had us sign our marriage certificate with a special pen. Kissing underwater was a challenge since we had to let go of our mouthpieces and oxygen! We used sign language to make sure we were in sync. It was the tiny details that made this ceremony possible, much like a marriage where the little things matter.
Q. Were there on-land festivities?
A. Pooja: There was a beautiful parade where the couples walked through the city that was decorated for us; locals on the streets cheered and congratulated us. We also had a reception on the Rajamonkol beach, where tables were laid out by the waterfront. It was surreal, especially at sunset. At nightfall, fireworks, some with heart-shaped patterns, lit up the starry sky.
What's next for the adventurous couple?
Saat Phere in seven different ways. After the traditional and the underwater one, they hope to tie the knot in the air, perhaps in a helicopter or while skydiving. A Moroccan theme wedding, set in a beautiful and intimidating desert, also intrigues them. The thrill-seeking Mumbai couple are still thinking up of the last three settings for their wedding themes.
Make it happen
Airways from Mumbai to Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi Airport). Nok Air from Bangkok (Don Mueang Airport) to Trang. This domestic flight takes little over an hour.
Cost Wedding packages start at 35,000 THB (per couple)
Log on to www.underwaterwedding. com/