Indian weddings They are easily among the most colorful, elaborate and lively in the world. Unlike in the West, where the bride and groom are the prominent characters, at a wedding in India, it is the immediate and extended families on both sides that are the protagonists! A wedding is a social affair and heralds the union not only of the couple, but also of their families. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that most young people comply with their family’s wishes even today and opt for arranged marriages.
A typical Indian wedding included three broad segments: the pre-wedding ceremonies (which are almost as elaborate as the royal wedding), the wedding, and some post-wedding rituals.
India is a vast and diverse country, with north, south, east, and west, each with their own distinctive languages, cuisine, customs, and wedding traditions and rituals.
North Indian Weddings
A traditional North Indian wedding takes place in the brides’ home. North Indian marriages are characterized by various pre-wedding and post-wedding ceremonies. The most important pre-wedding ritual is the Mangni or Sagai (engagement ceremony). The boy and the girl exchange rings in the presence of a religious priest, family and close friends.
On the very day of the wedding, the boy’s family heads to the girls’ home at night amid much cheering, dancing, and general joy. The groom rides a brightly decorated horse, usually with the youngest child in the family sitting in front with him. He is preceded by a crowd of his relatives, relatives and friends, dressed in all their finery and accompanied by a musical band. His face is covered with a curtain of flowers (the sehra that he ties for his sister). The noisy procession, with the band singing the tunes to the latest hits from the Bollywood charts, makes its way leisurely through residential houses, busy streets before finally arriving at the girl’s home.
The groom and his family are warmly welcomed by the girl’s family, the new members greet each other by exchanging garlands of flowers.
Finally, the bride and groom, seated on a dais, rise to exchange garlands in the Jaimala ceremony, one of the most important wedding traditions in North India, amid many kind cheers.
The next part is the most symbolic: the Saat Pheras (or the seven steps) that the bride and groom take around the ceremonial fire. So it usually takes place very late, usually after midnight, long after the guests have feasted and left and only the closest relative remains on either side. Both surround the fire in fear, vowing to love and honor each other throughout their lives. The groom then applies a streak of vermilion to the bride’s head, after which they become legally married husband and wife.
Then his family gives the bride a tearful goodbye as she leaves with her new husband to start a new life.
South Indian Weddings
The biggest difference between North Indian and South Indian weddings is that the latter takes place during the day rather than at night. The basis of the rituals is the same, except that they are carried out differently.
The wedding venue is usually a hall where the wedding mandap (a small covered enclosure) has banana trees tied to the two door posts, raised festoons made of strung mango leaves, and Rangoli designs (intricate designs made with colored powder) at the entrance.
The night before the wedding day, the groom is led in a flower-adorned procession from a temple by the bride’s parents to the marriage’s Mandapam (hall). Once there, the formal marriage ceremony takes place. The elephant-headed god Ganapati, the God of Initiation, is invoked and asked to keep the couple away from all obstacles.
The ritual is followed by the delivery of clothes to the couple. Interestingly, the bride and groom perform the wedding ceremonies separately.
The marriage ceremony is formalized in the hall by a Vedic priest who chants hymns and ancient verses, recalling the names of three generations of ancestors of both the bride and groom before all who have gathered to witness the wedding. The bride and groom exchange garlands when they are carried on the shoulders of their respective uncles.
The bride then sits on her father’s lap for the ‘Kanyadan’ (gift to daughter) ceremony to the groom. The bride receives a Mangalsutra (the scared necklace signifying her married status), as well as a new sari that the groom’s sister wraps.
After this, the groom walks seven steps with his bride, holding her hand in his. The seven steps are the most important part of the wedding ceremony.
The wedding is followed by an elaborate and delicious wedding banquet, usually vegetarian.