Indian weddings come in myriad forms. Indian people consider marriage to be sacred; the couple becomes one spirit. The Hindu wedding ceremony is the 13th ceremony in the 16 ceremonies of a person’s life. Indian men are not considered “complete” until they have the support of a wife.
Before the happy couple can get married, they have to secure blessings from the elders in their families. The couple travels to the houses of their parents and grandparents. Refreshments are offered while parents and grandparents look on to determine whether or not the couple appears to be compatible. If the marriage is approved, the engagement is blessed and rings are exchanged. Exchanging the rings is actually a celebration dubbed Misri. The prospective bride and groom then exchange beautiful garlands and family members trade traditional Indian sweets. A dinner party celebration is the final touch to this beautiful evening.
Indian wedding are multi-day celebrations. The weddings are rich in color, tradition, and culture. The sweet smell of incense permeates the air during these celebrations. Prayers to chosen gods and goddesses are offered with the accompaniment of beating drums, horns, and bells. Indian cuisine is served throughout the celebration.
The bride and groom are separated during the showers or celebrations, each performing specific wedding-related rituals. The groom attends a special ceremony with his male relatives where a priest puts a mark called a teeka in his forehead. This is meant to symbolize the rising sun. Once this ceremony is completed, the groom’s male family members enjoy a dinner reception and a special drink called “grog” (a word that is actually of English origin). Grog is made with sun-dried kava root and cold water.
Day two of the wedding festivities is marked by several religious services. The first is called the Mandap Mahurat. This is performed by a priest who implores the Lord Ganesh to bless the nuptials and expel any evils from the couple’s life. This is done to encourage the peaceful completion of the wedding ceremony. Once this is completed, a second priest performs the Gah Shanti. This means the worship of the nine planets. Ancient Indians believed that the celestial bodies influence the destinies of all people. During this ceremony, the gods are implored to impute courage and peace to the bride and groom to endure life’s hardships with grace. After this ceremony, the Ghari Puja is performed. This ceremony involves giving offerings of coconut, grains, oils, nuts, and turmeric. The mother of the bride and female relatives then plant a small stalk in the garden to celebrate the upcoming nuptials. Finally, the Shagun Ki Mehndi celebration is performed in the eveing. This is where the groom’s family sends henna to the bride that is applied to her hands and feet in intricate patterns. The Henna signifies love and strength in the marriage, and is left on as long as possible. The groom is pasted with turmeric powder. While this is going on guests arrive and the bride and groom celebrate with food, song, and dance. The entire day is filled with festivities.
The third day is the eve of the wedding. Family and friends gather to celebrate the wedding at separate parties for the bride and groom. Advice is given to the bride and groom while guests eat and make toasts. This celebration lasts until the wee hours of the morning.
Once the wedding is completed, a joint reception is held for both bride and groom. This event joins both parties of guests. Curry dishes, tropical fruits, and vegetables are served to the guests. Local entertainment is provided with Indian instruments. Traditional songs of celebration are often selected.
One very intriguing tradition that occurs is called the Baasi-Jawari. This essentially means the taking of the shoes. The bride’s sisters steal the groom’s shoes. Demands for money are made before the shoes are returned. It is the best man’s job to negotiate the ransom. The negotiation is intense, and performed with good humor. Once the ransom is paid, the shoes are returned. Guests look on with great amusement.
Indian wedding receptions go on for hours and may continue long after the bride and groom have left for the honeymoon. Guests linger to enjoy additional entertainment and Indian cuisine. The festivities are essential in the bonding process of both families.
The day after the wedding, all the flowers that were used as part of the ceremony are taken down and placed in the ocean as a gift to Ganga Ma. Ganga Ma is the goddess of water. This is done because this goddess is believed to be the only physically accessible entity that flows between the heavens and the earth. This offering is done in hope of encouraging fertility for the couple.
Indian tradition dictates that decorations for the wedding are made by family members of the bride and groom. Priests that oversee the wedding are often hand-picked for their familiarity with the family. Traditionally, Indian receptions were held in the home, but with increased mobility in modern times, a separate venue is chosen so that all family members are able to attend with ease.