REVIEW: Celeste Studios Hindu Weddings: The Videographer’s Guide (Vol. 1—Gujarati Style)
Posted Feb 11, 2007

Hindu weddings, however common in the U.S. these days, remain largely mysterious to most Americans of non-Hindu descent, videographers included. Which is too bad, since according to Mike Celeste of Celeste Studios in the first volume of the company's new Hindu Weddings DVD training series, it's a high-end and largely untapped market that prove quite remunerative for videographers who can work confidently in the Hindu milieu. And "once you know what to expect" from the sprawling 3-4 day event, "you can shoot it."

Hindu Weddings: The Videographers Guide, Vol. 1 - Gujarati Style ($69.99) consists of three sections. First is a Quick Overview, kind of a flash-card guide to Hindu wedding traditions. This is good for quick reference to acquaint you with the most important terms and wedding elements, such as the BaraatHindu Weddings: The Videographer's Guide (the parade of family and friends arriving at the ceremony), the Swagat (the escorting of the groom to the mandat—wedding canopy—by the MOB), Ganesh Puja (invocational prayer), and more.

But the real action happens in the Instructional Guide itself, which is a walk-through of all the important elements of the ceremony, with Mike Celeste narrating over a well-selected, edited, and annotated collection of clips and tips. This is great, practical stuff, including tips about cultural mores that will save videographers from embarrassment (like asking or expecting the couple to kiss in public, which is considered immodest in Hindu culture); the need for two cameras and a biddlestick or monopod and where to position the cameras at different points in the ceremony, such as the lowering of the shawl between the bride and groom and the exchange of flowers; and dramatic moments to anticipate, like the welcoming of the groom on horseback, the lighting of the holy fire, and the (literal) tying of the knot by the priest. Celeste also clues in viewers to subtleties like the stealing (and holding for ransom) of the groom's shoes. Mike also talks about the colors of the wedding and how to use them in titles and menus, and the importance of the video reflecting the royal vibe of the wedding.

Bonus Materials on the disc include a fully edited Hindu ceremony with an optional Directors' Commentary provided by both Mike and Janice Celeste. Janice's commentary in particular underscores the value of paying attention to visual details and knowing what to look for, such as the henna decorations on the bride's hands and feet (from a fertility ceremony that happens the night before the wedding day). The quality of the Celestes' work is evident in the video included on the disc (roughly 17 minutes for the Instructional Guide and 35 minutes for the edited wedding, although there's much overlap between the two). Their enthusiasm for their work comes through strongly as well, augmenting a very useful and practical guide that's well worth the price for any videographer who has access to a viable Hindu wedding market. And stay tuned for subsequent volumes, which will address other (non-Gujarati) Hindu traditions.