Get the Scoop on a Traditional Indian Wedding

Recently, our Social Media Manager participated in a traditional Indian wedding. She was so excited about the festivities leading up to the big event that we just had to get her perspective on the occasion.

We’ve heard that Indian weddings can be huge – like 1000 heads huge. What is the average number of guests?

Anywhere from 200-500.

That sounds like it could get pricey. Who pays for what?

Traditionally the wedding is paid for by the bride’s side. Sometimes the reception is paid for by both families.

With that many people in attendance, we imagine it’s impossible to get everything done in a few hours. How long does the whole thing last?

There are several ceremonies and rituals that take place over the course of 3-5 days. The actual wedding ceremony last 1-1.5 hours.

Bonding with the family sounds like a huge component in all this. What special rituals happen in the days leading up to the wedding?

Ceremonies can be drastically different in Northern India versus Southern India. My perspective is Northern Indian, and that’s what I’m describing.

In Indian weddings, all of the close blood relatives of the bride and groom have a specific role to play in the wedding and the events leading up to it.

The first ritual is Haldi – the turmeric ceremony. A paste made out of sandalwood, turmeric, milk, and other herbs. It is applied to the bride’s hands, arms, and face because it’s good for the skin and makes the skin glow. It’s basically an old-fashioned ayurvedic spa treatment!

Mehndi Ceremony – the henna ritual. The groom’s family sends henna to the bride. It is used to draw intricate designs on her hands and feet.

indian bride with henna on hands kisses friend

Sangeet – a music and dance celebration that takes place either on the evening of the henna ceremony or directly after the following ceremony. This is just a fun celebration before the wedding to help create a festive atmosphere. Often times, the bride’s and groom’s family and friends perform dances for the couple and make up skits about how they met. Traditionally the groom’s side was not a part of this ceremony, but this has changed to include both sides.

There are some other small ceremonies that happen between Sangeet and the wedding, but each family celebrates differently and not all of them are common these days.

We’ve heard about animals being part of the ceremony. What kinds of animals did you incorporate into this wedding?

On the day of the wedding, the groom rode up on a horse. His friends and family danced around the horse as it walked in, leading him to where the wedding ceremony takes place. This tradition is called the Baraat. Once the groom arrived, he was welcomed by the bride’s family members.

indian groom arrives at the ceremony on horseback

We know that during the typical American ceremony, the bride and groom say their vows at an altar, surrounded by bridesmaids and groomsmen. What is different and special about the Indian ceremony?

During the actual wedding ceremony, the bride and groom knot their veils together and walk around the fire 7 times while the priest chants the mantras.  After the ceremony is complete, the newlyweds get blessings from the elders and their family members.

indian bride and groom at the end of the wedding ceremony

This is (of course!) followed by more celebrating, dancing, and plenty of food!

After the wedding, there is a ceremony to welcome the bride to her new home the first time she visits the groom’s house.

What kinds of foods do you eat during the festivities?

There are no specified foods that have to appear at an Indian wedding. They tend to have a huge banquet with great variety.

We’ve seen some super colorful outfits in the ceremony photos. What does everyone wear, and do ALL guests have to wear the same thing?

Friends and family tend to dress in colorful, traditional attire. Indian women wear ornate saris and Indian men wear shervanis. Most non-Indian guests wear a nice, colorful dress or a suit and tie – nothing too formal, but definitely something nice that honors the special occasion.

Speaking of colors, is there any special meaning to the ones used in the ceremony?

The om symbol used. Red is the predominant color used for weddings and is the color of the bride’s dress. Often times, the colors of a wedding are red, yellow, and green. These colors are considered auspicious because they signify prosperity and growth.

With all the celebrating going on, how do you mark the end of a successful ceremony?

Dancing and eating. Lots of dancing and eating.

Do you love cultural traditions? Have you been to an elaborate wedding? Have more to add on traditional Indian wedding ceremonies and rituals? Share your thoughts in the comments!