With over 1 billion people around the world who spent last weekend celebrating Diwali, also known as ‘the festival of lights,’ Indian families are top of mind for us.
We have captured many love stories over the years and some of the most beautiful are those of Indian couples---nothing matches a days-long celebration of love, community, and culture! If you’re interested in the basics of an Indian wedding, keep reading.
Here are The Basics of an Indian Wedding
The details involved with planning an Indian wedding will vary significantly depending on the religion(s) of the couple and the families which are uniting.
In the case of a Christian wedding, this typically follows a more traditional Western/American ceremony, with a few cultural elements incorporated. It’s especially common that multi-cultural weddings reflect this mix of styles, too.
For Muslim or Hindu weddings (the two most popular religions of the country), there are very specific religious customs which are followed that are unique to each of these faiths. Depending on your sources, you will find that 70-90% of Indian families subscribe to a Hindu religion, or culturally recognize this as their faith background. This means that many Indian weddings align closest to a Hindu faith.
Indian Wedding Planning Tips
In general, Indian weddings are recognized because of their close tie to families, meaningful traditions, and bright colors. Whether you’re from India, or have another connection or admiration of its culture, this can help set the backdrop for one of the most incredible wedding experiences. And what makes an Indian wedding more unique that most other cultural affairs? It is often spread over multiple days of celebrations!
First and foremost, you and your significant other will need to determine how traditional you will be in your festivities. And in some cases, if ethnicities or religions are mixed, then you might decide to alter well-known traditions. Once you have an idea of the foundational elements and what is most important to you both then it will be easier to build upon. Now, let's dive into the basics of an Indian wedding.
The Basics of an Indian Wedding for Hindu Couples
If you’re planning a Hindu wedding, also referred to as a Vedic wedding, there are a few formal engagement and pre-celebration elements which will be part of the planning process. Once you get to the wedding weekend, it will typically follow this process. (However, note that some details and timelines will vary for specific families or locations within Indian culture.)
The mehndi or mehendi event takes place a day or two prior to the wedding day and is usually hosted by the bride’s parents. This event involves the bride and her loved ones getting henna applied to their hands and/or feet. This is often celebrated with very bright colors and is a bold statement to help bring luck to the bride and her family.
The sangeet is one of the most celebratory components of the entire wedding agenda. This usually occurs the night before the wedding (as an alternative to a traditional western rehearsal dinner.) This is a special night of music, dancing (often choreographed), and the celebration of bringing two families together. (After all, “sangeet” means “sung together” in Hindi.)
The arrivals of the bride and groom, referred to as baraat and Kanya Aagman, takes place the day of the wedding and serves as the official start of the wedding ceremony. As the groom enters, it is usually with a large crowd of loved ones entering behind him. They make way for the groom with dancing and cheering so that it feels like a parade. (Sometimes he has a unique mode of transportation, like a horse or sports car!) The groom has a warm welcome from the bride’s family and the tradition of “Pokwanu”, a formal greeting, and “Tilak” (or a red mark) is applied to his forehead. Then, it’s time for the bride to make her entrance! She is typically dressed in bright red, adorned with jewels, and walking under a canopy and walked alongside of with loved ones (such as siblings) by her side.
Once the bride has entered with the “Kanya Aagman”, she will arrive at the mandap. Jaime Kostechko of Wild Heart Events, shared the following with The Knot: that "this is the ceremony structure that is used for the sacrament of Hindu marriage. Just like a Chuppah, it has four sides and is covered. Hindus use a small Haven that has a fire, which wards off all evil. The ceremony begins with the priest chanting the prayers, and the wedding couple will circle the fire seven times. The four sides of the Mandap are known to represent the earthly elements as well as the parents from both sides, which are seen as the pillars of this new foundation forming in a marriage." It is under the mandap that the ceremony follows a traditional flow, steeped in tradition, religious activities, and prayers. While these can vary from one ceremony to the next, there are a few cornerstone activities, including 7 steps around a fire, and blessings from families. (The blessings are often the very last stage of the formal ceremony before the couple exits.)
The Vidaii is the grand exit. This can look different from one wedding to the next and sometimes involve a well-known custom where the bride throws rice, petals, and coins behind her and in the direction of her parents. This is the right of passage as her family lets her go on to her new chapter of life. In other cases, this is treated more like a grand exit which is more well-known in western cultures such as a sparkler exit. No matter how it’s recognized, this is usually an emotional moment because the bride is officially leaving her family at this point of the event. The wedding festivities are now complete, and the couple can leave the venue.
Whether you’re planning a Hindu wedding, one that acknowledges another religion, or somewhere in between, one thing is for sure: an Indian wedding is filled with a delicate balance of sentiment and culture. They are incredibly meaningful and help to make a big statement of two families coming together as one. We hope you enjoyed learning about the basics of an Indian wedding. To continue your reading, we encourage you to check out these articles:
Photography and Videography for Indian Weddings
When you’re planning a cultural wedding, it’s important to have a team of creative professionals who understand and respect your traditions. We have a professional team located across the United States with experience shooting Indian weddings---and these are personally some of our favorites!
We believe that building and maintaining successful marriages and families are fundamental to a strong and prosperous society. We are grateful to be able to do this through Joy Photo and Video and would love to connect with you to learn about your nuptials. If you’re looking for a photographer and videographer to help support you, get in touch with us today.
[Photoshoot in the spotlight: Sirajam + Kawser in DFW and Akshay + Shruti]
The Joy Team