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Tying Of The Knot: Indian Weddings

As we move closer to wedding season many of us are attending Indian weddings, but have never had the opportunity to be a guest at an Indian wedding. Indian wedding photographer Braja Mandala discusses the ritauls, different ceremonies and all things Indian Weddings.

GOWS: There is a pre-wedding party, what should we expect?
BM: The pre-wedding party is called a “Sangeet.”  The bride and groom invite everyone who is attending their wedding. Most families take pride in throwing a lavish Sangeet where there are performances from the family and close friends as well as hired dancers. Family skits and songs are performed and many times hired mehndi artists come and apply intircate hand-drawn mehndi to the bride and guests hands.

GOWS: Indian weddings always have the groom make a grand entrance to the wedding, can you tell us a little a about that custom?  
BM: Both the entrance of the bride and the groom are important, but the groom’s entrance to the wedding is always met with pomp and circumstance. The groom’s entrance to a wedding is called the “Baraat.”  The groom is led to the ceremony accompanied by his family and friends. A typical Baraat last between 30 minutes to 1 hour where the groom rides on a horse or elephant. A band, dhol player, and hired dancers lead the Baraat along with the guests dancing all the way up to the wedding ceremony.

GOWS: Can you tell us what happens during an Indian wedding ceremony?
BM: All wedding ceremonies are personalizied to each couples tastes and Indian weddings are no different, expect most Indian weddings have the same aspects to them.

  • The groom enters the wedding and the priest performs rituals to invoke prosperity and blessings to the marriage.
  • When the bride enters the wedding ceremony the couple exchanges garlands
  • Tying of the knot - where a female relative ties a cloth of fabric around the bride and groom symbolizing they are now one.
  • Mangala Sutra - the groom adorns a Mangala Sutra or a black and gold necklace around the neck of the bride which is a symbol of marriage, similar to the symbol of a wedding ring, which is worn every day by the bride
  • The groom applies kumkum powder that is red in color onto the brides forehead which is another symbol of marriage
  • Exchanging of the rings - similar to a Western wedding the couple exchanges rings
  • Sacred fire worship - the couple lights the sacred fire that is considered a witness for their wedding ceremony and offers grains into the fire
  • The Seven Steps - the couple circles the fire seven times as a symbol of starting their life together.  Each time they circle the fire they make a vow to one another promising faith, love, wealth, and happiness
  • After hearing advice from their elders and offering respects to their family the bride and groom are officially married and take their first walk down the aisle as husband and wife.

GOWS: Are there any other rituals in an Indian wedding after the ceremony is completed?
BM: Yes, there are usually a few more rituals that are performed in an Indian wedding but one of the most important rituals following the ceremony is the Vidai.  The Vidai is the saying of “goodbye.”  Where the bride says goodbye to her family and close friends before leaving the ceremony with her husband. This final ritual is one of the most emotional moments of the marriage ceremony as the bride’s family and friends bid her a teary goodbye.

GOWS: Are there any differences between a Western reception and an Indian reception?
BM: These days there is not much difference between a Western reception and an Indian reception.  All the traditions and elements that are in an Indian wedding reception are adopted from the West such as the grand entrance, first dance and cake cutting. I hope that you have gained some insight into an Indian wedding. They are fun and full of life and color so if you have not been to an Indian wedding before, you are in for a special treat!