What makes an Indian Wedding different?
Indian weddings have gained a reputation for being lavish affairs that cost the father of the bride a small fortune. This perception has arisen because in India a wedding celebration involves a large number of people from the community in which the bride and groom live and people traditionally celebrated for a whole week.
These days Indian weddings outside of India are cut down to around three days but the pomp and ceremony remains. When you are invited to an Indian wedding the invitation for non-Indians usually covers the final day of the ceremony only, but you may be invited to other ceremonies. Just check your invitation carefully to see which part you have been invited to attend. Before the grand finale, close friends and family of the bride and the groom have separate ceremonies, much like westerners have stag parties and bachelorettes but there the resemblance ends as there is so much more tradition involved. The festivities may be slightly different depending on the origins of the bride and groom but generally they take the following format.
Day 1: Ganesh Pooja
This ceremony is performed by the priest with the couple and bridal party as well as close relatives and is a more intimate event usually held at the home of the bride.
Day 2: The Mendhi and Sangeet ceremonies
The mendhi ceremony is for females only where they get together to create intricate patterns using henna on the hands and feet of the bride, her attendants, and family members. During these hours with friends and family the bride will be given advice, and girls will plot and plan to meet the guys they fancy on both sides of the family.
After the mendhi ceremony the sangeet takes place where everyone comes together to celebrate the union with a mingling of friends and family of the bride and groom to give them a chance to get to know the ‘other half’ of the families to be united. A special meal is served and there will be musical performances and dancing.
Day 3: The Main Ceremony
The main ceremony, which lasts around an hour occurs on this day and is followed by a cocktail hour, during which wedding photos will be taken, and is then followed by the elaborate reception. Wedding photos will have been taken throughout the ceremonies that span the previous two days as well.
On this day the groom arrives, traditionally seated on a white mare. The reason for using a female horse rather than a stallion is a purely practical one – the mare is chosen as she is more docile than a stallion, for the family doesn’t want to risk the groom being thrown by his horse on his wedding day wearing all his finery!
In certain areas of India an elephant would be beautifully decorated with colorful painted designs and wear an elaborate harness so the groom could make a dramatic entrance on the elephant. This tradition is carried out in various parts of the world where suitable elephants can be hired for the occasion.
Of course, more and more often cars are used for the pre-wedding procession.
Were are weddings where the Indian bride and groom uses an airplane or helicopter to leave the wedding venue right after the ceremony.
The bangeet or baraat is the part of the celebration where the groom and his male friends and relatives will have celebrated for around 5-6 hours prior to the main ceremony.
He is then led, seated on the white mare or the elephant, to the main event where the guests will dance in welcome to the beat of an Indian drum called a dhol. This is a very important part of an Indian wedding. I have written a article about it: Indian Wedding Baraat Photos
He will join his bride beneath an elaborate canopy called a mandap, which can be compared to the Jewish chuppa, where the priest will perform the ceremony and the couple will exchange garlands signifying their acceptance of one another as man and wife.
What does an Indian wedding ceremony cost?
We all know that the costs of a western wedding can run over budget, but for an Indian wedding where the number of guests runs to between 1000 to 3000 people the costs escalate.
Over the three days meals are served, and the bill for thousands of wedding invitations can be quite substantial! Decorations and floral arrangements for the hall/reception area need to be impressive and fill the space.
Unlike western weddings there is also large amount of jewelry to be bought for the bride – not just a ring and necklace but earrings, toe rings, bracelets, hair ornaments and more – and they must be gold!
It is a point of honor to provide as lavish a ceremony as possible with a gift for the groom from his new father-in-law which could even be a sports car as well as other gifts for various family members.
Often people do not want to disclose how much they spent in case it is not seen by the community as enough…even although the amount is substantial. Also families do not want people to say they have been ripped off by the various providers if they disclose the amounts they have paid.
What do I wear to an Indian wedding?
For women the clothing worn is colorful and bright, embellished with sequins, beading and gold or silver embroidery.
So if you have bright clothing that has a bit of glitz on it and is in jewel tones like emerald, sapphire, ruby, saffron, or purple, then you will fit right in. Men can wear a traditional western suit or a kurta.
What do the Indian bride and groom wear?
The bride will wear a lehenga – an elaborately bead encrusted bridal outfit in jewel tones with red being the most popular color.
All the beadwork makes the garment quite heavy and at the end of a long day the bride will be relieved to remove the outfit once she is along with her husband.
The groom may wear a sherwani which is similar to a frock coat but it too will be elaborately decorated, and he will probably wear a turban.
As a Miami wedding photographer, I always here for you to help if you have nay specific questions or concerns. Please, leave a comment or send me a message if you want to add more information.