What is an Indian wedding like?
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
American Indian Wedding Traditions
So you were invited to an Indian wedding, how exciting! However, you're not sure what an Indian wedding is like or what all it entails. What do you wear? What are the traditions? Is it an all-day or multi-day affair? The beauty of different cultures is they all have different wedding traditions, so it's okay not to know what to expect! In the last four years, I've had the opportunity as a wedding photographer to join in a variety of diverse wedding traditions. I've learned about Mormon weddings, African American wedding traditions, Vietnamese American, Jewish, Native American, and how many other religions and cultures celebrate. To share what I've learned and celebrate diversity, I've invited several guest bloggers to write about their specific traditions. Today I have asked my friend, colleague, Shanaj Grewal, to share her family's Indian wedding traditions :
*Note: I asked Shanaj a few questions I was curious about myself, but I let her guide the way since these Indian wedding traditions were entirely new for me as well!
Why is an Indian Wedding dress red?
An Indian Wedding is red because the color red symbolizes love and commitment. The color red is also considered auspicious to get married in because it also represents purity. For as long as I can remember, all women in Indian culture have always worn a red wedding dress. However, as time has passed, brides have gotten creative when it comes to choosing the color they want to wear on their big day.
What are Indian wedding traditions?
For a Punjabi wedding, the first tradition to take place is usually the Roka/Takha, in which the main household family members from both sides are introduced to each other. This usually means serious business as the parents are involved. It is also considered the official engagement. From that period, about a year later, the wedding date is set. Within that time, the couple books decorators, banquets, and temple reservations for the wedding and the events that lead up to it.
A few months before the wedding, both families host a small celebration called the "chunni ceremony". During the Chunni ceremony, the couple is gifted with money as a blessing, and gold as a welcoming gift. When the wedding week officially begins, there is always a Maiyan or even dholki/sangeet event for both the groom and the bride's side. In this event, all the ladies of the house gather and sing folk songs together while playing the dholki. This event is also where relatives from near and far get acquainted with each other.
How long are Indian weddings?
The events usually vary by groom and bride side. For the groom it maybe 3-4 days, including the wedding and reception whereas. For the bride's side, it maybe 4-5 days, including the wedding and reception. Each day consists of a different ceremony. Most of these days consist of spending time and having a good time as a family, especially for the bride's side of the family because the bride is finally departing from her family to be part of the groom's side of the family. In the Indian culture, once the bride is married, she is wholly devoted to her husband's side of the family. Indian Weddings are lengthy because, in Indian culture, it is believed that you only get married once. A marriage represents a strong lifetime bond between the couple, as well as union between both the families.
Some of the ceremonies for the bride and the groom include:
Henna (Mehndi) Ceremony
-During this ceremony, henna (temporary decorative art) is applied on the bride's hands and feet. Many beliefs are set for this ceremony, growing up I always heard that the darker the henna, the more a mother-in-law will love her daughter-in-law, and another belief that is, darker the henna, the stronger the marriage. These all may be myths, but it is something most children grow up hearing as well. Another part of this ceremony is to hide the groom's name in the bride's henna design and have the groom find it, which is a fun part of the celebration. Usually, this ceremony is attended by the bride's closest female friends and family members.
Churra (Bangles) Ceremony
During this ceremony, the bride's red bangles are put on by the bride's uncle (Mother's Brother). Before the bangles are put on the bride, they are washed in a bowl of milk for good luck. It is a tradition for the bride to leave the bangles on for 21 days after the wedding day for good luck.
Haldi (Turmeric) Ceremony
This ceremony is held between both, the bride and the groom, of course within their own families. The bride and the groom are not allowed to see one another until the day of the wedding. The purpose of this ceremony is to bring "a glow" to the bride and groom's face. Turmeric is used because this spice is known to calm your skin and works to fade hormonal acne scars. This has been the longest tradition in Indian weddings.
Ladies Sangeet and Jago
These ceremonies are also held between both the bride and the groom, but only with the females from both sides of the two families. The purpose of these two ceremonies is just to celebrate and get together as a family. While all the ladies are a part of these ceremonies, the men are usually together at a different place, celebrating. The bride and the groom are always in the middle of the celebration between their families.
This is the day of the wedding. Anand Karaj translates to"Blissful/Joyful Union." During this ceremony, the bride and the groom finally see each other at the temple (gurudwara) where they get married. This ceremony is held in the presence of "Sri Guru Granth Sahib," the Sikh holy scripture, just as the bible, the Quran, etc. The bride and groom walk around the holy scripture four times, also known as the "lavaa," or as the vows. Lavaa is considered the formula for a successful marriage. These four rounds/vows describe the sacred journey of the soul through this world to the final destination, the merging with the infinite. If one follows this sacred path and applies it correctly to the institution of marriage, it should result in happiness and fulfillment, which is why it is the final ceremony called Anand Karaj (Blissful Union).
When is the Indian wedding season?
Indian wedding season usually falls during the spring season (March-May). Spring, because not only of the weather but during this season all the trees begin to grow and plants start to flower. This season is perfect because it's not too cold and not too warm, just the right weather to get married in!
What to wear to an Indian wedding?
There is no set dress code to wear to an Indian wedding; however, professional attire is preferred for men and traditional attire for women. Men can get away wearing a nice suit, whereas women usually wear traditional attire such as saree, lehenga, Anarkali, salwar kameez, etc. These conventional attires are very colorful. If you don't own traditional attire, women can always wear a beautiful gown or a formal dress. As long as everyone looks presentable, you are good to go!
Than you for joining us with your incredible insight Shanaj! Indian wedding traditions are wonderful! I cannot wait to experience this in person.
Do you have questions about Indian wedding traditions? Have you had an Indian wedding and have more traditions you'd like to share.
Are you planning a wedding? Check our free wedding resources! Better yet, are you looking for a Colorado Engagement Photographer or Colorado Wedding Photographer? You've come to the right place, meet Cassandra Vagher. Cassandra specializes in creating bold and vibrant photography.
Want to learn about other wedding traditions? Check out our blog on what is a Mormon wedding is like. Want to contribute? Great! Contact Cassandra here.