I Was Invited To My First Indian Wedding & Here's What I Learned

If you're lucky enough to be invited to a wedding with a culture different than yours, always check "yes" on that RSVP. Indian weddings are known to last at least a few days. If you've been asked to be part of the wedding party, you'll be a part of all the festivities! 

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A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE WEDDING

MEHNDI 

Also known as a henna party. The Bride is covered fingers to elbows, toes to knees with henna. Hidden in the henna design is her Groom's name. Since this can be quite a long process, she is required to sit for hours on end without touching anything. This is the perfect time for family to dance around, sing songs and even hand feed her treats. The Bride is not the only one who enjoys henna. Aunties and friends draw henna on anyone willing.

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PITHI

Pithi ceremonies involve smearing haldi, a yellow turmeric paste, onto the Bride and Groom by their family members. Haldi is believed to be good luck and wards off evil spirits. Often times, there is a priest present to perform a prayer and an offering. The Bride and Groom have separate Pithi ceremonies.

 Pithi ceremony where one of the Aunties is applying Haldi on the bride.

Pithi ceremony where one of the Aunties is applying Haldi on the bride.

 The bride's family offering fruits and flowers.

The bride's family offering fruits and flowers.

DAY OF THE CEREMONY

BARAAT

The Groom’s procession often involves the him arriving to the wedding on top of some sort of animal. The wedding guests meet the Groom at the wedding entrance to dance, sing to a drum circle. The party has officially begun.

 The groom arriving to the wedding.

The groom arriving to the wedding.

THE CEREMONY

THE MANDAP

The Bride is carried down the aisle by Uncles and Brothers. Waiting for her underneath a pavilion decorated in flowers is her Groom along with both sets of parents. The pavilion, known as a mandap, symbolizes well-being and are often at many Hindu ceremonies. Unlike western style weddings, the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen take a seat behind family members. 

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Physical acts of VOWS

Instead of stating vows they promise to take, the Bride and Groom take seven steps around a fire while reciting this sacred Hindu pledge of marriage. The “tying the knot” takes on a literal meaning in Hindu weddings. The Groom ties a holy thread around the Bride’s neck, before finally apply a red powder to the center of the Bride's forehead to signify she is a married woman.

Before the ceremony is over, every married woman in attendance has a chance to whisper a tip or trick to happy marriage in the couple's ear. 

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 Stealing of the Groom's shoes.

Stealing of the Groom's shoes.

JUTTI CHUPAI

Sometime before or during the ceremony, it's the job of the Bridesmaids to steal the Groom's shoes. This Indian wedding prank comes at a price to the Groom. Before the happy couple are allowed to leave, the Groom must pay for his shoes.  Family members are quick to pull out their wallet and pay the Bridesmaids their fee, amounting to 50, 100 or even a few hundred dollars. 

 

THE RECEPTION

THE GARBA

It's time for the reception. The Bride and Groom usually change into something more comfortable because there will be a lot of dancing. Garba, is a traditional Indian dance used with sticks. It's similar to line dancing, once you've got the pattern, it's pretty easy to get in on the fun. 

THE FOOD

There's a misconception that all food at an Indian wedding with be spicy or vegetarian. It really depends on the Bride and Groom. There might be multiple buffet spreads, so don't be afraid to get a little of everything. Many of the guests are more than happy to explain exactly what each sauce or dish might be filled with. 

WHAT TO WEAR

Attending the wedding as a guest? Don't be afraid to wear your brightest, most bejeweled outfit. Feel like really getting in the spirit? Find a local shop that carries Saris or order one online. 

 The Garba.

The Garba.

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Every wedding is different, but this was my experience as a Bridesmaid to one of my longest friends. Ever been part of a wedding that was culturally different than your own? What were you most surprised by?

Much credit to these beautiful photographs by JoeyTPhoto from Houston, Texas.


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