Traditional Indian weddings comprise of many rituals and ceremonies and can last for many days. Indian weddings are bright affairs and up to 1000 guests can be invited to the wedding. Most Indian families like their children to marry in their caste and religion. Traditional Indian weddings are arranged between the parents of the bride and groom. Some parents decide whom their children should marry.
The rituals and ceremonies of Indian weddings vary across different ethnic groups. The parents of the groom approach the parents of the bride and formally ask them for the hand of their daughter in marriage for their son. If the parents of the bride accept the proposal, the parents invite a Hindu pundit to make the horoscopes of the bride and groom and see if the match is compatible. The Hindu pundit tells the parents a suitable date for the wedding.
The parents of the bride have to conduct most of the ceremonies and bear the expenses. The three rituals that are performed are the engagement, “mehndi” and the wedding ceremony.
A traditional Indian wedding starts with the parents of the bride traveling to the house of the groom and formalizing the wedding. The family of the groom arranges a large feast for the family of the bride. Gifts are exchanged during this meeting. The gifts that are exchanged depend on the ethnic and religious backgrounds of the families. This ceremony is called “Tilak”.
The next ceremony that takes place is called “Byaha Hatth” and takes place during the day. Unmarried girls of the bride and family of the groom gather at the place where the ceremony is to be conducted. A paste of turmeric, sandalwood and rose water is made and applied on the face, hands and feet of the bride and the groom. After this, the bride and groom go to their homes and are not allowed to come out of their homes till the day of the wedding.
The traditional wedding ceremony is held outdoors under a small canopy called a “mundap”. A Hindu pundit is invited to conduct the wedding ceremony. The bride wears a red coloured sari and the groom can be dressed in a long buttoned coat called a “sherwani” with a loincloth or a long shirt with a loincloth or trousers called “shalwar” or a pyjama. The groom and his friends and male family members may wear pink turbans. The shoes worn by the bride and groom are slip on shoes, which have to be taken off before entering the mundap.
The party of the groom usually arrives at the place where the wedding is to take place in a procession and the groom may ride on a horse. The procession is received by the family of the bride and seated around the mundap. The bride is escorted to the ceremonial place by a maternal uncle. The bride carries a garland for the groom.
After the ceremony is over, the bride and groom are moved to the wedding reception hall, where the parents of the bride hold a feast for the guests. After the feast, the bride and groom, escorted by the family of the groom, depart. On the next day of the wedding, a reception is held by the family of the groom and again, a large number of guests are invited.
Rice, coconut and flowers are the essential ingredients of a traditional Indian wedding and the rituals and ceremonies can last for several days.