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Traditional Indian Wedding Customs

The Indian Wedding is a complex schedule of many rituals that takes place days – and even weeks – before the wedding! What are these ceremonies, when should the preparations begin, and how should they be celebrated? Here’s an outline of what to expect at a traditional Indian wedding.

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too much awesomeness

Before the Wedding

Tarik Ceremony

The Tarik Ceremony is one of the most flexible rituals when it comes to Indian wedding ceremonies. Traditionally, it takes place a month before the wedding date, but modern day convenience has made it easier to schedule and perform this ritual. Today, this can be performed according to tradition or in the days before the wedding. In this Indian wedding ceremony, the groom’s offer of marriage is officially accepted by the bride’s family. Male members of the family present the groom with gifts and adorn his forehead with kum kum powder.

Barni Bandwhana

The Barni Bandwhana takes place about 15 days before the wedding. During the Barni Bandhwana, a mauli is tied around both the groom and his parents’ wrists for prayer. The Mayara is a common practice for both the bride and the groom to celebrate their arrangement and good fortune. The maternal uncle of both parties makes his way to his sister’s house and presents them with gifts – typically the garments worn on the wedding day.

The Wedding

Day One

A traditional Indian wedding celebration lasts at least three days. On the first night, both the groom and the bride’s families gather at home for the Ganesh Pooja. This is an informal and intimate get-together of close relatives where the families can get to know each other.

Day Two

Traditional Indian Wedding | Artistic Photography Inc | As seen on TodaysBride.com
Artistic Photography Inc.

The following day, the women will gather for Mehndi, or henna preparations. Henna is a very sacred part of an Indian wedding. Because it takes about 8 hours to dry, this art is painted onto the women’s skin in the morning and is allowed to set for the rest of the day. Typically, a professional is hired to paint the hands and feet of the bride and her female friends and family.

The second night is reserved for the sangeet ceremony. By this time, the henna should be dried, and the bride and groom, their families and friends, and even some of the wedding guests are invited to mingle and enjoy a meal. Typically during this party, the bride and groom’s close friends and relatives perform traditional dances for the couple.

Day Three

Traditional Indian Wedding | Orchard Photography | as seen on TodaysBride.com
Orchard Photography

The third day is the formal wedding, where the bride and groom will be declared married. The morning of the ceremony, the mandap is constructed using four pillars. These pillars each represent one of the four parents. Once construction is complete, the groom and his soon-to-be mother-in-law meet there before the ceremony where she’ll wash his feet and offer him milk and honey. While his feet are being washed, the bride’s sister tries to steal his shoes. If she succeeds, the groom must pay her to get them back! They then depart for photos and to finish getting ready.

Ceremony

The Entrance

The ceremony begins with the baraat, or the groom’s arrival. He arrives to the ceremony on a decorated white horse, circled by singing and dancing family members and friends. Once he descends, he is greeted by the bride’s parents and family and is presented with gifts. The elders then escort the groom to the mandap in a processional called var puja. There, he is expected to remove his shoes before being seated. The bride makes her entrance, escorted down the aisle by her uncle. When she reaches the mandap, the bride and groom each place a floral garland around the other’s neck to show their acceptance for one another.

The Customs

The priest – called a pandit – bride, groom, and bride’s parents are seated under the mandap with a ceremonial fire pit placed in the center. Fire is an important aspect in the Indian wedding because Agni – the god of fire – is said to give life. By lighting a fire, you are asking Agni to provide your marriage with a long life. The bride and groom then proceed with the mangalphera which is a ceremonious walk around the fire. They must circle the fire pit four times, each representing a major goal in their marriage – dharma (morality), artha (prosperity), kama (personal gratification), and moksha (spirituality). They may be joined together by string or tied scarves as they walk, though this custom is optional. The pandit chants verses as they proceed that officially tie them together in the eyes of the gods. After their fourth cycle, they are officially married and must race to their seats. It’s said that whoever sits first is the most dominant in the marriage! Next, the groom places red kum kum powder on the bride’s forehead and adorns her with a mangalsutra. a necklace made of black and gold beads. If the couple decides that they want to incorporate western traditions, this is where they would exchange wedding bands.

Check out all the pictures from Hardik & Rashmi’s GORGEOUS 3 Day Traditional Indian Wedding!

Reception

After their marriage is declared official, it’s time to celebrate! The guests and families of the bride and groom move on to the reception, where they dance the bhangra – a traditional folk dance. Other aspects of the reception are very similar to western wedding receptions with videographers, DJs, a seated dinner, desserts, and dancing.

After the Wedding

Traditional Indian Wedding | BCR Studios by Brad | as seen on TodaysBride.com
BCR Studios by Brad

The following day, both sides of the families meet for Bou Bhat. It is at this lunch where the groom’s family officially invites and accepts the bride into their family. The groom then pledges himself to his bride, and promises to support her and provide her with food and clothing. To prove this, he presents her with a new sari and a meal.

Finally, a few days or weeks after the wedding, more extended family – like aunts and uncles – give their blessing over the marriage with the Aashirwad. The bride’s family will go to the groom’s house and present them with gifts and give their blessings. Then the groom’s family will, in turn, do the same for the bride’s family.


Traditional Indian Wedding | Artistic Photography Inc. | as seen on TodaysBride.com
Artistic Photography Inc.

A traditional Indian wedding may seem complex and a bit overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the customs and timeline. However, it’s all focused on love and the tying together of two families. Many Indian rituals and customs have been adapted to incorporate western traditions, but following tradition is an important aspect to having a meaningful and symbolic Indian wedding.

Please note this article is not conclusive. Customs may change according to family traditions, beliefs, and religion.

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