The Wedding in India

6 Feb

The primary reason that brought us to India in the first place was a wedding. Most of you have probably heard that Indian weddings are huge affairs which often span at least a few days. They are lavish occasions which usually host hundreds of guests there to participate in, witness and celebrate the tradition, ceremonies, rituals and of course, the festivities.

There were six big events/rituals which we were attending. The bride was the first cousin of The BF, and traditionally in Indian families, cousins are regarded and treated as siblings, so this was a very important wedding for us to be a part of. That I was immersed in the culture through his family this way was an incredibly valuable and life-changing experience for me.

Mehndi Party

Mehndi is the application of henna in intricate patterns on the bride’s hands and feet, and is done at a celebration mostly attended by the bride’s family and close friends. In addition to the bride, her female relatives and friends also get painted on their hands by henna. It’s said that this ritual of mehndi signifies the strength and power of love in a marriage, and is therefore regarded as a good omen for the bride-to-be. For us, this ritual happened a few nights before the ceremony, and I was invited to also have henna applied to my hands.

The henna comes in tiny cones, which resembled teensy little piping bags, and were applied by two professional mehndi artists. All the designs applied were unbelievably detailed and intricate, were done swiftly and most incredibly, freehand. After they were done decorating my hands, I was told that the swirling, patterned paste was to remain for a few hours and I wasn’t to wash my hands so that the henna to set and stain my skin. Once the dried paste was removed, the designs were dark orange in colour, which gradually darkened over the following couple of days to a dark reddish brown. The designs remained beautifully distinct and visible on my palms for the following three weeks.

Allowing the paste to dry.

That night, after removing the paste, the designs on my hands are a dark orange. I was constantly amazed by the detail and found myself examining my hands every few minutes. Do you see the peacock?

Engagement Ritual and Sangeet

The engagement ritual was held the night between mehndi and the ceremony. This is the first formal affair for which both sides gather to celebrate the forthcoming wedding ceremony. Both families exchange multiple gifts, baskets of fruit, sweets and good wishes. A ring ceremony takes place, and the bride and groom are both formally introduced to the other’s family.

The traditional gift exchange that takes place during the engagement ritual.

The sangeet festivities followed, which is a very elaborate affair with food, dancing and songs performed by relatives to gently poke fun at the prospective bride and groom. This is a big celebration and is meant to be a fun and joyous affair. The groom’s extended family put on little dances, little skits and performances set to music.

Choora Ceremony

This was held at the home we were staying with the bride’s family, and it began with a religious prayer ritual, called havan, performed by a priest. We all sat around a small fire, while mantras were recited and various items like rice, herbs and other foodstuffs were placed in the fire. Once the prayers were completed, the bride’s family members adorned the bride’s wrist with white and red bangles (the choora). After this, ornaments made of silver and gold, known as kalira, were tied to the bangles by female relatives and close friends.

For the havan ritual, the offerings, the fire container and the prayer book.

Tying the kalira onto the bride

The wedding

The bride and groom on wedding day.

The night revolved around an elaborate ceremony that took place under a canopy, in which a number of rituals were performed by the bride, the groom, their parents and close relatives. The venue at which it was taking place was outside at night, and the entire area was decorated with garlands of marigolds and was lit with twinkling white lights. While the ceremony was being performed, which lasted a couple of hours, guests watched, or milled about to socialize. No Indian affair is complete without food, and there was plenty here served buffet style.


The reception was held the night after the ceremony, and this too was held outdoors in a big sprawling tent. This event was not marked by any customs or ritual, as it was strictly to celebrate the newly married couple. Everyone celebrated with lots of food and drink, music by a live band and dancing.

For us, there were two formal receptions to attend. All the wedding ceremonies and festivities were held in the groom’s hometown of Secunderabad, and the bride’s family hosted a second reception near their home just outside of Mumbai a week later. The second reception was slightly smaller and more understated, as it was where the bride’s family presented the new couple to their friends and family who could not attend the event in Secunderabad.


7 Responses to “The Wedding in India”

  1. Rina R. February 6, 2011 at 11:07 am #’s beautiful…. another authentic culture! Love it… please visit to my blog for culture’s info

  2. reni February 6, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    i love the mehndi party. i’d love to go to a traditional indian wedding. i have quite a few indian friends, but most of them were born and raised here and are not in touch with families back home. thanks for sharing. i love seeing weddings/traditions from other cultures.

  3. Elisse February 6, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    I have often been fascinated with the elaborate customs around Indian weddings. And you got to experience it IN India!

    I was most curious about the Choora ceremony – it sounds so neat tying the kalira! Wish they had Filipino customs like that!

  4. Leesh February 8, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    That’s some crazy Mehndi. It’s so detailed.

    I have never been to an Indian wedding. It’s so colourful. I think I would be fascinated by the whole ceremony and tradition.

  5. Chelsea February 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    wow these pictures are amazing..!

  6. Meghan February 10, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    My friend just returned from a wedding in India as well – and after seeing your pics, too, well, I hope I get the chance to do the same! What an incredible experience!

  7. Maureen March 5, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    oh wow. simply beautiful. i have never been to an Indian wedding before. thanks so much for sharing!

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