Indian wedding depend of the region (state) – like most of the things in this country: food, clothes, language, even taxes. Everywhere, however, is thought as the greatest sacrifice that father can make and for the groom as an obligation to perpetuate his bloodline. It is called “Kanyadana” or “Donating a Virgin”. Many people believe that marriage is still binding after death.
In early times girls were thought to be ready for marriage after puberty and later even children could be married. By Medieval times Marriage was compulsory for girls, who very often married between the ages of eight and nine. Among those able to afford it, polygamy was common and rulers would often have one wife from their own region and other minor wives from other areas. Divorce and remarriage were not always possible. Now, divorce and remarriage is possible and non-Muslim Indian men can only have one wife.
Weddings I was attending (in Andra Pradesh) were huge! Rich people had around 400 guests and tons of food. Decorations take millions of rupees away: everything needs to shine and glitter, everything needs to be colorful. The bride wears a lot of jewelry, as this symbolizes the prosperity she will bring to her new family. In the South wearing flowers is common. The groom wears traditional costume or a suit. Turbans are also popular headgear. Bride’s dress (saree) can be unbelievably costly and even include some precious stones.
In general Indian weddings are very complicated and involve long negotiations about dowry payments prior to the event. After this has been decided, astrologer chooses a lucky day. Preparations begin early because marriage is not only one of the highlights a person’s life, but also large and complex social gathering to organize.
Night before the wedding
The night before, bride, her friends and female relatives gather together for a party called “mehendi”, where they paint each other’s hands and feet with Henna, dance and listen to music. Her guests often give the bride advice about married life as well as tease her about her future husband.
Weddings were traditionally held at the bride’s home or in a temple, but parks, hotels and marriage halls are becoming increasingly popular. On the day a wedding altar or “mandapa” is built and covered in flowers. All the wedding ceremony takes place in the altar.
Indian wedding ceremony begins with a mixture of turmeric, sandalwood paste and oils being applied to the couples face and arms. In the past this was done to the whole body, but now it is only symbolic, with only a little being rubbed on. Then they are showered in flowers. After this they perform the rituals that will make them husband and wife. First they garland each other and next take seven symbolic steps together representing seven gifts and seven promises. Finally, they say the vows and they are legally married. The bride’s father or guardian takes her hands and puts them in her husband’s giving her to him. Now she is no longer a member of her father’s family, but a member of her husband’s. After they touch the feet of their elders for luck.
Marriage ceremony is a long ritual when bride and groom pour on each other enormous quantities of rice for wealth. Kilograms, really! After everyone have to pour some rice on the couple for blessing and every guest wants to have a photo with them. Imagine how the couple looks like after 4 hours of standing on the stage and taking photos… Good make-up needed for holding smile on the face.
After the wedding ceremony, the couple go to the groom’s house. The bride should be careful to enter the house right foot first for good luck. In the evening and late into the night the families and their guests celebrate with dancing, music and food.
I have been on few weddings as a guest and on several as a worker. You might hear about agencies which “sell white people“. More about my adventure which those agencies in another post.