Indian weddings are full of age-old customs and traditions that the couple have to go through before they are officially recognized as husband and wife in the eyes of the Hindu community. Each of these traditions and customs holds a deep significance for the couple. Indian weddings are extremely grandiose and colorful, and most marriages often span across three to five days. Some families even opt for week-long celebrations, with lunch or dinner served to guests on each one of those days. Both the bride and the groom are lavishly dressed and henna is applied to the bride’s hands and feet. Gold jewelry can be worn by both the bride and the groom.
Giving the bride away
Most Indian weddings have key rituals such as the symbolic moment where the father gives away his daughter. If the father is deceased, the bride’s brother or any older male relative will perform this ritual. This particular custom involves the father holding the bride’s hand in his by the holy fire while the priest recites a particular verse from the prayer book. Afterwards, the groom takes the proffered bride’s hand in a symbolic gesture.
An essential part of Indian wedding ceremonies, the sacred fire is supposed to evoke several Hindu gods and goddesses to bless the ceremony and bear witness to the union. The sacred fire is created from wooden sticks and clarified butter and offerings are often dropped into the fire throughout the ceremony. The bride and groom are often seated side by side in front of the fire.
The Seven Steps
No Indian wedding is complete without the seven steps. A piece of fabric is tied to the clothes of both the groom and the bride. Then, the couple gets up and walks seven times around the sacred fire as the priest chants seven blessings. Walking around the scared fire is the equivalent of saying the vows in Western Weddings. Each round around the fire symbolizes a particular vow, including being helpful to one another, complementing each other, ensuring the prosperity of each other, making each other happy, creating a harmonious family life, respecting the vows and remaining the best of friends. In some cultures, the bride walks ahead of the groom for the last round around the fire, signifying that she wants to die before her husband.
Hindu couples often exchange ornate fresh flower garlands during or after the ceremony to welcome each other into their respective families. Exchanging flower garlands often marks their union. This normally precedes the vermillion ceremony whereby the groom applies vermillion too the bride’s forehead and in the parting of her hair, hence bestowing upon her the status of a married woman. In some weddings, the groom also fastens a gold necklace around the bride’s neck, the Indian equivalent of the wedding ring. Other brides choose to go for a toe ring instead. In some cases, the couple also exchanges traditional wedding rings.
A few decades ago, Indian brides used to be ornately decked in heavy red fabrics and saris. To symbolize the importance of the day, the bride also used to be covered in luxurious gold jewelry including bangles that go all the way up to the elbows, nose ring, large earrings, anklets, as well as a forehead chain known as ‘mang-tika.’
While this used to be the traditional attire for brides in India, the emergence of new styles, as well as the myriad of new, emerging cultures ultimately led to an upsurge in Indian fashion. Indeed, Indian ladies are nowadays eager to explore several new avenues and indulge in new trends. For example, other than the traditional sari, one of the most popular dress option for the Indian bride also includes an elaborate two piece colloquially known as the ‘Lehenga.’ Available in any color, this consists of a crop top designed to show off the stomach, coupled with a matching skirt which is usually flared, ball-gown, A-line or mermaid. While most of ‘Lehengas’ are often in red, gold or pink, contemporary brides can experiment with colors and try a multi-colored two-piece in contrasting shades.
Trendy brides might even consider an Indo-Western outfit for their special day. A novel albeit rapidly emerging trend in Indian fashion, these outfits manage to strike the perfect blend between the East and the West. Since there’s no set style in fusion clothing, don’t be afraid to experiment and play around with different combinations until you find the type of outfit that works for you. An idea would be to wear an elaborately decorated mermaid skirt and tunic and add some classical Indian jewelry like the ‘Mang-Tika.
And then of course, if you’re eager to venture into new trends and explore different cultures, why don’t you go for a traditional white wedding dress paired with traditional accents? In fact, several bridal magazines have gushed over the exquisite combination of the western white dress coupled with Indian henna patterns, makeup and jewelry. Bear in mind that this is your wedding day so it’s really important that you wear something in which you feel completely confident and comfortable in, even if it’s not within the norms. In fact, some Indian brides- who wish to wear white on their wedding day while infusing a slice of their culture- are opting for white bridal ‘lehengas’. This may or may not include the customary wedding veil and bridal crown that Indian brides usually wear.
From fried snacks, to rice-based desserts, Indian wedding buffets are brimming with exotic delicacies. Since India is such a huge country with a wide variety of cultures and traditions, you can be sure to be welcomed with a plethora of meals that is bound to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Indian buffets are also amongst the most diverse ones you’ll ever find. If you’re going for an Indian theme wedding, it’s equally important to pay attention to the presentation to infuse an intense exotic touch to the overall day.
Presentation and Setting
In traditional Indian families, meals are not served on plates, but rather on clean banana leaves. This tradition is deeply rooted in Indian culture and it’s considered much easier to serve the feast on banana leaves because there’s no washing or cleaning involved afterwards. While rural areas still opt for natural leaves, people from the city often choose to go for synthetic or plastic leaves for aesthetic reasons. Wealthier families, however, tend to ditch the banana leaves presentation in favor of Limoges or other such elegant plates.
The reception buffet setting is not unlike a typical western buffet, where all the dishes are laid out on a beautifully decorated table and everyone goes to help himself to the delicacies. However, in stark contrast to Western weddings, a lavish dinner is served both on the eve of the ceremony, as well as on the actual wedding night. These two dinners are more of a seated affair whereby guests sit in the eating area and are often served food by the bride’s and groom’s relatives. This is linked to the ancient Indian culture of receiving guests and making them feel welcomed by serving them. The third dinner is normally held at the reception and this is more of a self-service affair.
Popular dishes and desserts served
Several types of snacks are often handed out to guests during the Indian wedding ceremony. These may include both sweet and savory items such as fried dumplings or small cups of rice puddings. After the ceremony, guests are usually served no less than seven Indian curries. The curries are accompanied by plain white rice as well as a traditional fried flatbread. For religious reasons, orthodox Indian families refrain from serving any non-vegetarian dishes on the wedding day, but, chicken and fish are almost always served during the reception.
Several types of Indian desserts are also served to the guests after the delectable feast and these include rice puddings, sweetened cottage cheese, an Indian version of the American donut served with syrup as well as “Kulfi”- which is a highly delicious and creamy ice cream made that contains several aromatic spices.
Extremely lavish, with several important ceremonies that span over the course of several days, Indian theme weddings are absolutely dazzling in terms of colors, food, accessories and jewelry. If you do want to throw an Indian theme wedding, however, bear in mind that it’s extremely important to familiarize yourself with all the various norms and traditions that are rooted within this culture prior to the ceremony. In fact, while most Occidental, white-dress weddings usually last for an average of an hour or less, Indian weddings can very often last for an entire week. A more “toned down” aspect of Indian themed wedding, on the other hand, can last for a minimum of three days, with each day dedicated for a particular ceremony.
A few days prior to the wedding, for example, Indian families usually hold a traditional ceremony which includes dances, songs and henna application on the bride’s hands, arms and legs. This ceremony is often packed with various friends and relatives, with several of the older female relative singing wedding-related songs. Henna is also applied to the bride’s sisters, cousins and closest friends. This particular day is often considered as a very family-friendly, joyful and colorful bachelorette party, since it mostly involves women. This ceremony usually goes on for two to three days, with several relatives flocking to the bride’s place to help with decorations and table settings, especially in the absence of a wedding planner.
Another very important ceremony that usually occurs on the eve of the actual wedding is known as the “Haldi” ceremony, or saffron application ceremony. This even takes place at both the bride’s and groom’s places, usually in their own homes. In this ceremony, the bride and groom are seated on an elevated platform, holding a bowl of crushed, slightly liquefied saffron and a grass brush in their hands. One by one, each relative gets on the stage and dips the grass brush into the saffron before applying it to the groom or bride’s head, shoulders and legs.
And then, of course, the following day brings with it the actual wedding ceremony. A lengthy affair, the Indian themed wedding ceremony is usually held in front of a sacred fire. The priest, bride, groom and a few close relative sit around the fire during a three-hour prayer. Afterwards, to conclude the ceremony, the bride and groom walk seven rounds around the fire, a ritual that symbolizes the seven scared vows of newlyweds.
Following that, instead of a ring, the groom traditionally places a golden necklace with black beads around the bride’s neck and she acknowledges the gesture by placing a thick garland of flower around her husband’s neck. And then, just before leaving the stage, the husband places a dot of red or orange vermillion on the bride’s forehead, hence signifying that she is now a married woman.
Extremely grandiose and rich in colors, an Indian theme wedding is certainly not a small affair.Indeed, in some parts of India, weddings are usually held within the span of an entire week, with all the friends and families gathering at both the bride’s and groom’s place. Dancing to traditional Indian beats and intricate henna applications on the arms, hands and feet are just a few of the festivities that happen during these ceremonies.
So, if you’re planning on having the perfect Indian Wedding, it’s quite important to familiarize yourself with the typical Indian palette and various accessories that will bring a pronounced Oriental touch to your special day. Bear in mind that sparkling red, yellow, green, orange and gold are Indian wedding colors by excellence. Indian brides, for example, are often decked up in a bright red sari with heavy gold jewelry. However, in more contemporary times, some brides are substituting the red sari for white, cream, beige, pink, turquoise or even pale lavender.
As far as the accessories go, don’t forget that Indian brides usually favor heavy, ornate bangles that go all the way up to the elbows. These bangles are readily available online and come in a variety of colors but it’s always best to go for a completely contrasting shade. This way, if you’re wearing a red and gold Indian bridal attire, try to go for gold and black bangles. A large nose loop with a chain that links the loop to your earring is another common accessory for Indian brides.
Some ladies also choose to wear a “Mang-Tika”, which is basically a chain that the bride wears on her hairline parting. This particular piece of jewel is held in place with pearled or beaded beads.
Henna application also forms a vital part of Indian weddings, with a special ceremony dedicated especially to the application process. A highly trained makeup artist comes to the bride’s place and applies henna on her arms, legs and hands while other female relatives sing and dance during the application process.
Other than the clothes and accessories it’s extremely important to properly decorate your wedding altar. In comparison to the tall wedding arches that usually accompany white weddings, Indian altars are not unlike a stage set on an elevated platform, with two chairs or stools for the bride and groom to sit on. Don’t forget that Indian wedding ceremonies can last up to three hours so it’s important to have comfortable seats. Like everything else, the stage is very lavishly decorated with thick velvet rugs and curtains in order to bring a highly elegant and luxurious feel to the entire ceremony.
Forget about the typical fly-away-to-remote-beach Destination Wedding. If you want to experience the richness of another culture and incorporate it into your special day, why don’t you- along with the entire party- fly to India for a perfect Destination Wedding?
With the enticing blend of colors, exquisite food and glorious music, an Indian wedding will certainly enhance the romantic atmosphere, while providing your guests with a completely unique experience.
Indeed, Destination events are growing increasingly popular in the wedding industry because they provide you with a peaceful, stress free vacation, hence allowing you to make the most out of your special day.
Best of all, India has a wide array of venues to choose from, which will certainly enable you to plan your Destination Wedding according to your personal preference and budget.
The most romantic wedding locations in India
Kerala: With its picturesque and serene landscapes, Kerala is one of the most reputed venues for Destination Weddings. You will be able to choose between the long stretches of white, sandy beaches or the large, ethical temples which will bring calm and sanctity to your big day.
Jaipur: Also known as the Pink City, Jaipur is oozing of exotic venues such as the Rambagh Palace, Jai Maal Palace, Jaipur’s Raj Mahal, theMandawa Haveli, among several others. Indeed, these majestic places allow brides from all over the world to feel like a glamorous Princess for one day. Jaipur weddings are quite folkloric because this city is brimming with Indian culture and traditions.
Goa: If you want to tie the knot on one of the most famous beaches in the world, Goa is the perfect place for you. In fact, some travel agencies in Goa do take care of all the wedding-related arrangements in order to provide you with the best possible care. You will need a special permission to get married on the beach, so, it’s always a good idea to contact an agency first.
Food, Clothes and Music
Of course, there is no reason why you can’t wear your white wedding gown on your Indian Destination Wedding. However, brides who really want to add flair and panache to their special day can even put on a classic Indian wedding outfit.
This usually consists of a vividly colored sari, with Red, Gold and Green being the most popular choices. Some Indian brides often wear a long, slinky sequined skirt with a matching crop top that bares their waist.
Of course, you wouldn’t be an Indian bride if you weren’t all decked up in heavy jewellery and makeup. Don’t be afraid to go overboard: after all, you certainly have the right to shine and sparkle on the most special day of your life!
If you want to go all the way, you can even choose an all-Indian buffet for the reception. These are traditionally served on large, green banana leaves (either natural or synthetic) and consist of various curries and flatbreads. Feel free to contact your hotel for catering services.
To end the evening with a bang and usually tape into the Indian culture, why not incorporate some Bollywood music into the reception? Indeed, your guests will love dancing to the rhythmic beats of Carnatic, Santoor, Trance or Jaltarang music.
In some Indo-Bengali cultures, the elderly women of the bride’s family usually sing at the reception, so, don’t hesitate to hand Granny a microphone and delight in her vocal power!