Whether it’s an arranged or a love marriage, the entire process of an Indian wedding begins way before the first day of wedding festivities (and yes, there’s way more than just one or two functions). Similar to weddings in other cultures, there are always various errands to run prior to a traditional Hindu Indian wedding. The sari and the panche worn by the bride and groom respectively must be selected and coordinated, flowers and decorations must be chosen, as well as a delicious menu for all attendees to enjoy throughout the wedding week. Lighting, a venue, a priest, and a ritualistic time for the wedding to occur must also be chosen. A wedding card has to be designed and sent out to all attendees. There are many specific traditions that most Indians take very seriously, thus resulting in very intense preparation before the wedding.
The First Day
Finally, after months of ‘hustle and bustle,’ the first day of the wedding arrives. First, the bride’s family typically prepares a Ganesha pooja, and then another pooja for the bride right after. During the bride’s pooja, the bride’s family sits her down and gives her blessings with holy rice. The guests also arrive on the first day, although if they’re very close family, they arrive a little before the first day. Usually on this day, the family will also visit a goddess’ temple and perform various rituals. The bride and groom’s family also perform the Haldi or Ubtan ceremony where they hold a traditional spa day to ensure that the bridge and groom look their best for the wedding.
The bride then gets her hands and arms painted with henna. As night falls, all the guests join together to enjoy performances by the couple’s family and friends during the Sangeeth. Here, the guests participate in dances, musical performances, and fun activities to bond and, simply put, to party.
The big day of the Indian wedding is the second day- when the marriage actually happens and the bride and groom tie the knot. The bride takes a turmeric shower at the beginning of the day. Just before the groom arrives, the bride’s family performs the gowri pooja. Depending on the time of the ritual, the groom will arrive and the bride’s family is to welcome him and give respects to each other. Then, after the bride is brought in, there is generally a pooja and the mangalsutra, or necklace, is tied around the bride’s neck with three knots. After the wedding is when most of the guests usually give the couple their gifts and blessings.
More often than not, South and North Indian Hindu weddings differ greatly; they can be much longer or even shorter, and the rituals do vary from area to area. One North Indian tradition is to have the bride hide the groom’s initials in her henna – the groom will have to find it before he can marry her. Others also walk around a fire or even exchange rings in a more Western-style wedding. In some ceremonies, the bride will pour holy rice over the groom and vice versa. Not all Indians are Hindu either, so different religions will have varying wedding traditions and rituals.
Finally, the reception takes places on the last day. Guests give the married couple their blessings and flowers. Then, the married couple goes to the groom’s house for a farewell and final pooja.
Overall, the whole process of an Indian wedding is quite lengthy and tedious, but the Sangeeth and partying are too much fun to miss out on. There are so many intricate rituals and details for each ceremony, and while some wedding traditions still don’t really make any sense to me, they are still a part of my culture, and I am so proud to be part of some of the strangest and most fun weddings traditions in the world.