India is a culturally rich and diverse country which consists of many regions, languages and traditions. Wherever one hails from dictates the wedding rituals and traditions which will take place for the next couple of weeks.
India is one of the world’s most religiously and ethnically diverse countries.
Indian weddings are admired by everyone from around the world. When an Indian friend invites you to a wedding, you instantly know it’s going to be a one week party! Indian wedding ceremonies range from grand, elaborate affairs to simple, beautiful and intricate ones. Family is a major aspect of any Indian wedding, and the reason for that is when an Indian couple gets married, the marriage of two families also happens. The marriage can range from 3 days to one week, depending on the families and their specific needs.
The Engagement Ceremony
This is considered one of the most important pre-wedding ceremonies, not only for Hindus, but in other religions as well. This is usually an intimate event, where the groom performs a grand gesture and proposes to his bride with the permission of her family. The engagement ceremony usually precedes a close family and friend gathering celebrating the couple. The engagement is a lengthy but important process within the wedding time frame because it allows the couple to plan the wedding of their dreams and the families to get to know each other properly.
Grah Shanti Pooja
This is a pre-wedding ritual performed to remove all obstacles and bring prosperity and happiness into the life of the couple to be married. It is believed that the stars and planets have a great influence on one’s life, this pooja is performed to ensure the Navagrah or Nine Planets are aligned for both the bride and groom, in order to live a happy life of togetherness. As the name suggests, Grah means the house and Shanti means peace, therefore, it means peace of the house. The pooja is the final step taken by the couple before they officially enter marriage, which is why it is performed a couple of days before the wedding festivities begin. In Hinduism, it is vital to take the blessings of the Almighty, and considered important for all of the Gods and Goddesses to attend the marriage ceremony and bless the couple. This pooja gives the impending celebration an auspicious start.
During the Mehndi ceremony, henna is applied to the bride’s hands and feet in beautiful and intricate patterns. The ceremony takes place a day before the wedding and application can take many hours. The henna is believed to ward off evil, promote fertility and attract good energy for the soon to be husband and wife. Myths also say, the deeper the color of your mehndi, the more your mother-in-law will love you! This event is traditionally attended by the bride’s close family and girlfriends.
The Sangeet party is the most fun pre-wedding event. Special themes are chosen for this occasion such as; Morrocan theme, Winter Wonderland, Arabian nights, etc. It is an opportunity for the friends and family of both the bride and groom to get together and sing & dance. They play instruments, dance, sing and interact with each other. This is where the bride, groom, and their friends perform choreographed dances.
One of the most fun events during an Indian wedding is the Haldi Ceremony. There are varieties of this event all around India. During the ceremony, a paste of turmeric is individually applied by respective family members on the bride and groom’s face and body before or the morning of the wedding. The Haldi is usually applied after the Mehndi ceremony and goes by many different names like; ubtan, mandha, tel baan, etc. This ceremony is supposed to add a ‘glow’ to the bride and groom, beautifying them. The color yellow is also considered as auspicious and thus wards off evil.
During a Hindu wedding ceremony, the bride and groom are seated in front of a holy fire, or ‘agni’ as the priest, or pandit recites various mantras from the Holy Scriptures. The bride and groom’s parents are seated on either side of them. The bride’s parents have an important role during the ceremony, which is to do her Kanyadaan—this is when the bride’s parents officially give her away to the husband, while wishing the married couple the best in life. In Hinduism, fire is seen as a purifier and sustainer of life. The couple walk around the fire four times exchanging vows of duty, love, fidelity and respect. All the while, the Pandit is making offerings into the fire. At the end of the fourth phera, or rounds, the marriage is sealed forever. These mantras are traditionally recited in Sanskrit, and they validate the marriage.
After a week-long of traditions and ceremonies, the wedding reception is the ultimate event that brings all of the celebrations to a close. If your wedding ceremony is on the same day, this is the break where all the guests go back to quickly change and freshen up. Starting with the cocktail hour, all your friends and family begin to arrive while you are getting your immediate family photos out of the way. Once cocktail hour comes to an end, doors open and everyone is asked to take their seats. All of the months of planning, meetings, and decision making come to an end for one last epic night. From your main introductions, to the very last song of the night, your reception is a night you will forever cherish as both sets of families and friends get together to eat, drink, and dance the night away!
The Ride of a Lifetime
As depicted in every major Bollywood movie, the Baraat is an exciting start to the wedding day. Accompanied with music and dancing, the Baraat is the traditional procession of the groom. Typically, he arrives with his family and friends, seated on a white horse. While there is no religious significance to the Baraat, it is seen as the acceptance of the bride into her new family with happiness and excitement.
The ceremony starts with the custom of tying the Sehra Bhandhi (i.e. veil for the groom’s face made from beads, flowers, and cloth) to the groom’s Pagdhi (i.e. turban). The Sehra is tied by a female relative, most often times the groom’s sister-in-law. At this time the groom’s male relatives also tie Pagdhis, usually of pink cotton cloth. Next the groom will take Swaari – climb the horse that will be ridden to the wedding venue. At this time the groom’s sisters and aunts will line his eye with Kohl to avoid catching Nazaar (i.e. evil eye) and have a safe journey. Once the journey is blessed by the priest the procession starts with music from the DJ & Dhol (i.e. traditional large drum). The Baraat is met at the wedding venue by Shehnais (i.e. traditional reed instruments) and greeted by the bride’s side of the family, where the bride’s brother’s or other male relatives assist the groom from dismounting the mare. At this point the milni ceremony will begin where members of each side of the family greet one another and the Bride’s mother blesses the Groom before entering the venue.
This custom plays a significant role in North Indian and Pakistani ceremonies, but has been adopted by neighboring regions with individual families adopting their own traditions into the ceremony.
Tips for the Morning Of the Baraat
· Iron all turban cloths the night before or have a mini portable hand steamer handy
· Hire a professional to assist in tying the Pagdhis as getting the fold right can be tricky. Reduce the stress of having to retie to get it just right!
· Have the Milni envelopes ready