A Wedding in India is an event that resembles a fairy tale. Something so expressive that it falls into memory forever. After all, it’s the biggest celebration in the life of every Indian. It’s a massive, full of colors, glitter and food! I am sure you know how Bollywood movies look like, right? A Wedding in India is as colorful and incredible as the movie. The Indian wedding is a unique experience, which you should definitely get while in India. I will tell you my story, how I got into weddings in India and explain what to expect on Indian wedding.
Indian wedding tradition
The Indian wedding depends 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 “Giving a girl.” Many people believe that marriage is still binding after death.
Indian Wedding before
In early times girls were “ready” for marriage after puberty and later even children could get 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.
What to expect on Indian wedding?
You will witness a wide array of vibrant colors, ceremonies, rituals and sometimes dances blended together in a large celebration. It’s very likely that you’ll get overwhelmed by the bewildering array of Indian wedding traditions, rituals and etiquette. But it’s surely worth attending spectacle, which will leave you beautiful memories. The best way to feel confident is to learn about the custom.
Weddings I was attending (in Hyderabad) 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. I haven’t seen dances in on the wedding in this region, but I know that is different in other states. For instance, Rajasthan is famous for their huge, royal weddings, often in the venues. Clothes colors, decorations and palaces of Rajasthan are in known for being the most beautiful in whole India.
An Indian wedding is a huge social event. Therefore, people meet and talk. Be ready for a vast of food which is very well presented on the wedding.
What to wear for a wedding in India?
All guests are elegantly dressed. For men, long trousers and a shirt are enough. Even at the richest weddings it’s the women who decorate the celebration with a stunning and shiny dress.
Women wear traditional Indian sari. Sometimes they wear “western” dresses. If you don’t have a sari, don’t worry. Just wear the most beautiful clothes you have. As you are a tourist, people will pay attention to your appearance, but will accept any clothes you wear. In general, the more colors and patterns and glitters you wear, the better. Interestingly, I had the impression that this rule applies to lots of other countries I went for a wedding in. Whether in Vietnam, Turkey, Algeria or Tunisia, women were dressed in as many shiny elements as possible. What may be a sign of kitsch in some country is a sign of high status, wealth or success.
How is the married couple dressed?
The bride wears a lot of jewelry, as this symbolizes the prosperity she will bring to her new family. In the South of India wearing flowers decorations 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.
Should you buy a gift?
Generally, nobody brings gifts for the wedding, but sends them by post to the bride and groom. At the wedding itself, the guests come with empty hands or with an envelope of money.
How long does the wedding in India last?
Another thing that depends on the region. On average weddings last 3 days because every day there are different ceremonies. However, the first 2 days are usually scheduled for the closest family and the henna ceremony. The final evening is a great event, to which all guests are invited. In the region where I lived (Hyderabad) this ceremony lasted about 5 hours.
Are the weddings in India arranged?
The tradition of arranged weddings in India is very long and still current. Of course not as much as before and there are more and more changes in society. The arrangement of marriage by parents is a very long and complicated process, which consists of a whole list of factors. The choice of whether to choose must meet appropriate criteria in terms of character or origin. There was even a matchmaker’s profession, which is paid for by the parents for finding the perfect match for the other half.
Nowadays, more and more people are moving away from this tradition. Well, even the profession of matchmaker has been replaced by web portals or appropriate applications, finding the only one or the only one. More and more parents consent to unarranged marriages of their children and abandon the tradition of joined families. More couples live independently after the wedding, without parents and grandparents. However, it all depends on chance and attachment to tradition.
Story of an arranged wedding from my stay in India
While in India I worked as a music teacher. Coincidentally, there was one Indian girl who started to work next to my class the same week as me. Therefore, we quckly became friends, sharing our impressions about the new job.
One day she informed me that this year she will get married. I gave her my congratulations and asked about her fiance. She said, she does not know who it’s going to be yet, as it’s her parents who are looking for a husband. I started digging deeper, why she doesn’t search by herself? She admitted that her parents are liberal and allowed her to choose one. She did searched for her second part, she did found one candidate but he broke her heart. That’s why she decided to put her destiny in her parents hands. Which means, she tried to be in relationship just once and after failing she gave up trying again. I couldn’t believe that! A failor happens to every single one, not even once!
But it’s not the end, the best is coming. The girl said that apparently her parents found one candidate, but since they are so liberal, they will not put them together directly in front of the altar. Instead, they can meet before, have a talk and decide. If she won’t like him, they will continue searching. Because she was shy to meet him alone she asked me to with her for this weird randezvous. How could I decline?
The meeting was in a bowling club. The candidate came, tall man with front teeth growing horizontally, so that his mouth couldn’t close. He was talking about himself for about 15 min and left. The bowling atmosphere did not manage to hide the feeling of a stressful interview. All this was so ridiculous to me, so that I did not even know how to react. Finally, the girl says that the guy looks good, talks well, has a good job and asks me if she should take him? Me: No!!! Her: Why? Me: Because you don’t know him!
At this point she started to give her arguments. Parents wanting the best for her and knowing her all her life, so they surely chose a great fit. I started my arguments, that she does not know him at all to tell anything, especially to get married. We could discuss for hours, but with soooo huge culture differences it’s often impossible to come to the point of compromise and jump over practisses and traditions you grew up with.
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 taking place at the bride’s home or in a temple, but nowadays parks, hotels and marriage halls are very popular. Wedding ceremony takes place in the altar or “mandapa”, which have lots of decorations and flowers.
How does the indian wedding ceremony look like?
Indian wedding ceremony begins by applying a mixture of turmeric, sandalwood paste and oils which you can see on the couples face and arms. In the past, the paste was covering all the body, but it’s just symbolic. Then the couple have a flower shower, which is a spectacular scene. In general, throughout the wedding I saw the couple having a flowers shower several times.
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 the marriage is finally legal! 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 the bride and groom pour on each other enormous quantities of rice for wealth. Kilograms, really! After every guest has to pour some rice on the couple for blessing and everyone 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 a 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.
In general Indian weddings are very complicated and involve long negotiations about dowry payments prior to the event. After this has been decided, an 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.
How to get invited for an Indian wedding?
It’s not difficult to get an invitation to the wedding in India as they are massive celebrations where foreigners are more than welcome. Of course, nobody will come to your hotel room and grab you for the wedding. You need to get to know some locals first. Couch surfing may come up handy. You can meet some locals and ask for recommendations. I have been at few Indian weddings as a guest and on several as a worker. What was I doing? Looking good! You might hear about agencies which “sell white people.” More about my adventure which those agencies in another post, since this is a long story.
I had the opportunity to participate in many weddings in India and these were unforgettable moments. India is a country of bizarre traditions, and a wedding is something I can recommend to everyone as part of an Indian adventure.
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