How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Know what traditions to expect and what they signify.

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How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Photo by Nicola Tonolini

Hindu weddings are vibrant, intricately planned, culture-rich festivities full of celebration and tradition. While the very essence of a Hindu wedding ceremony is the physical, spiritual, and emotional union of two people; it’s also about the coming together of two families through prayer and celebration.

“A Hindu wedding lies somewhere between the couple’s expectations while blending their family traditions,” explains South Asian wedding expert Jignasa Patel. “With many rituals and mini ceremonies leading to the main ceremony day, it binds the couple and both families for eternity.”

Meet the Expert

Jignasa Patel is an event planner with over a decade of experience in the industry. She is the CEO and creative director of K.I. Weddings, an event planning and design firm recognized for its understanding of South Asian traditions and flawless fusions with American nuptial culture.

Wondering what else you need to know before attending a Hindu wedding? Here are some frequently asked questions.

  • What should I wear to a Hindu wedding? It’s common for guests to wear traditional Indian clothes, such as like saris or lenghas for women and long-sleeved tunics and pants for men. “Build each event outfit as if you were outdoing yourself from the last event, saving your most glamorous outfit for the day of the wedding ceremony and reception,” says Patel. If you decide to go with a more Western option, remember that women should have their shoulders, legs, and occasionally arms covered. Men should wear long sleeves and long pants. Both men and women need to bring something to cover their heads during the ceremony. Bold, vibrant colors are heavily encouraged, but be sure to stay away from white (associated with funerals), black (considered unlucky), and red (the color the bride wears).
  • How long is a Hindu wedding? The events of a Hindu wedding normally take place over the span of three days with different events taking place each day. The main ceremony and reception on the third day as well as the sangeet during the second day are attended by most of the guests. The Ganesh Pooja ceremony that commences the wedding events on the first day is usually an intimate event with only close family in attendance. “Be prepared for early morning events,” advises Patel. “Hindu wedding celebrations are based on auspicious times predetermined and provided by the priest.”
  • How big is a Hindu wedding? Bigger than most Western weddings. “An intimate Hindu wedding can consist of an average of 150 to 200 guests,” says Patel. “You don’t only invite friends and family but, at times, the entire community from your hometown. This number can lead into the thousands, even in the U.S.”
  • Will the newlyweds kiss? Traditionally, there is no kiss at the end of a Hindu wedding ceremony as a result of the predominantly conservative culture. However, this varies greatly on the couples themselves as well as their families.
  • Will there be alcohol? “It’s important for attendees to know that there is no alcohol served or brought to the Hindu wedding ceremony,” says Patel. “The ceremony is impactful in many religious traditions and customs starting at one-and-a-half hours leading into a three-hour-long ceremony.” While traditionally the wedding reception is also alcohol-free, many modern-day couples and families are breaking away from this.
  • Should I bring a gift? Gifts are usually not brought to a ceremony, though this can vary. If you intend to gift something to the couple, have it shipped to their home. The only exception is if you intend to present them with a monetary gift, in which case this would be given in an envelope at the wedding reception.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Read on to discover 14 wedding rituals you will encounter at a Hindu wedding and understand the meanings behind them.

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Hindu weddings are traditionally lavish affairs, and it may be difficult for someone outside that culture to know what to buy for the bride and groom. If you will be attending a Hindu wedding, keep in mind that most gifts that would be appropriate for a Western wedding are also appropriate for a Hindu one. As long as you avoid cultural taboos, like products made with leather, your gift will be appreciated.

Money

Money is a traditional gift in Hindu culture, whereas it may be seen as tacky at many Western weddings. Choose a dollar amount that suits your budget and also ends in a 1, like $51 or $101, since numbers ending in 1 are auspicious in Hindu culture. Because money is frequently given as a wedding gift, many Indian shops and websites sell envelopes specifically designed with this gift in mind.

Silver

Silver is inherently valuable, and gifts in silver can be functional as well. Silver is also considered symbolic of future success, in Hindu culture. Silver jewelry is appropriate if you wish to give a gift to either the bride or the groom, although gifts with both partners in mind may be more significant to the union. Silver household utensils, such as cutlery or serving ware, salt and pepper grinders or barware are all suitable gifts for the Hindu couple. A set of his and hers wristwatches is a nice way to give jewelry for both parties.

Household Goods

Just as in Western weddings, newlyweds in Hindu weddings will need things to help them set up their new home together. Help the couple get their home decorated and functional, and always consider the style and taste of the couple when making your selections. If the couple loves to cook, consider helping them with a kitchen appliance such as a nice food processor, electric mixer or a set of baking dishes. If the couple is fond of hosting guests for lunch or dinner, a tea or coffee service makes a lovely gift that will be useful with company. Rugs, floor cushions, candle holders and wall hangings are also all acceptable gifts, although they may require a more intimate knowledge of the couple’s taste than a small household appliance would.

Gifts That Pamper

You might prefer to buy the couple an experience that they may use after they return from their honeymoon. Consider getting the couple a voucher for a spa day or luxury hotel for them to use after the wedding. Vouchers for a favorite restaurant are nice, as well. The couple will appreciate being able to pamper or splurge on themselves without doing so out-of-pocket when first starting out their life together.

These celebrations are just as important as the wedding itself.

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How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Photo by Flora & Fauna

From food and entertainment to flowers and decorations, there’s much preparation and anticipation that revolves around a couple’s wedding day. In Hindu culture, however, some couples put just as much effort into their engagement and pre-wedding ceremonies as they do the wedding itself—some may even hire planners!

“When describing Hindu weddings, I like to describe them as more of a festival because they consist of quite a few celebratory events leading up to the wedding,” explains event planner Jignasa Patel. “These gatherings and events start off small and intimate, usually involving the families and relatives. Events close to the wedding day are larger and include family, relatives, as well as friends.”

Meet the Expert

Jignasa Patel is a South Asian wedding expert and event planner with over a decade of experience. She is the CEO and creative director of K.I. Weddings, an event planning and design firm recognized for its understanding of South Asian traditions and ability to fuse them with American nuptial culture.

Note that not all Hindu couples participate in the same traditions—many of them vary from region to region in both name and practice, and it’s a matter of the couple’s personal beliefs and preferences. It’s customary, however, for the engagement and days leading up to the wedding to be full of elaborate, ritual-rich celebrations.

Wondering what else you need to know before attending a Hindu engagement party or pre-wedding event? Here are some frequently asked questions.

  • How long is the traditional Hindu engagement period? “We don’t have a traditional engagement period length in the Hindu culture, and this length of time varies between families,” says Patel. “However, because Hindus get married based on auspicious times selected by priests based on the birth dates of each partner, there are specific dates within the year that are suitable, and this often guides when the couple gets married. In modern times, couples have to work their wedding date around their personal life and must especially consider the completion of their education prior to marriage.”
  • What should I wear to a Hindu engagement party? Similar to Hindu weddings, guests can wear traditional Indian clothes like saris or lehengas for women and long-sleeved tunics and pants for men. “Consider wearing traditional Indian attire with beadwork and embroidery to as many events as possible,” says Patel. If you love color, don’t be afraid to go bold! Reds, purples, oranges, and other bright colors are customary. Otherwise, choose a respectful outfit that you would feel comfortable wearing to a religious ceremony as there are many religious undertones to these pre-wedding events.
  • Should I bring a gift? Gifts are not typically exchanged at Hindu engagement or pre-wedding events unless you are a member of the immediate family. You can, however, bring flowers or edible items like sweets, but all you really need to bring are your blessings to the couple and their families.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Read on for eight Hindu engagement and pre-wedding traditions and explanations of what they represent.

Make sure you’ll know what to expect when attending an Indian wedding. Learn about the various religions that may be observed and the customs associated with each.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

How to celebrate a traditional hindu weddingBlack & Hue Photography

First off, good job on scoring an invite! Attending an Indian wedding, especially for the first time, is exciting and full of joyful emotions. Whether your friends are Sikh, Muslim or will be having a Hindu wedding, there are lots of commonalities that will thread through your first Indian wedding. We asked wedding planners who specialize in South Asian weddings to share their top tips for guests attending an Indian wedding for the first time, so you can understand some of the Indian wedding customs and traditions.

Attending an Indian wedding often means multi-day celebrations full of colorful decor, dancing and delicious food.

Indian wedding ceremony: Sikh ceremony, Muslim tradition or Hindu wedding?

Your first Indian wedding ceremony will likely either be a traditional Sikh ceremony, a Hindu wedding, or a Muslim celebration.

Hinduism is the most popular religion of India and Nepal, observed by almost 900 million people. For Hindu weddings, you’ll want to be prepared when you see flower petals being passed around during the ceremony. Riri Patel of tanaRi events in New York explained that, “Traditionally, when the couple are doing their pheras, (circling around the fire), close family members and guests sitting in the front can stand up and sprinkle the petals on the couple. It is regarded as blessings and love for the couple.”

Islam is the second largest religion in the world with adherents occupying every corner of the globe, including the Indian subcontinent. Couples with Indian Muslim roots will be married via a Nikah, which is a three-part religious ceremony that takes place in a mosque.

Sikhism is a 500-year-old religious tradition mainly practiced by devotees in the Indian subcontinent and throughout the Indian diaspora.

“At a Sikh ceremony, when eating the lungar (communal food), accept the roti (bread) as a blessing by placing your hands together, then opening them palms up,” advised Preeti Vasudeva of Preeti Exclusive Creations in Washington, DC.

What to Wear to an Indian Wedding

If you’re attending an Indian wedding, you can rent Indian wedding attire, including saree or lehengas for women and a kurta or sherwani for men, from a variety of sources. Borrow Bollywood and Saris & Things are two sites that offer Indian wedding attire rental. Black and white are not traditionally worn to Indian weddings, so pick another hue (preferably a bright one!) for your attire.

Regardless of the religion of the couple, you’ll want to be sure to remove your shoes if the ceremony takes place inside a place of worship. Women will also need to bring a scarf to cover your head (guys can use a handkerchief), unless you’re planning to wear a saree, in which case you can drape the dress fabric over your head.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu weddingDigital Spark Studios

Schedule of Events—How Long is an Indian Wedding?

If you’re a close friend of the person who’s invited you to your first Indian wedding, there’s a big chance you’ll also be invited to take part in some of the rituals that many couples plan before the big day, which is why Indian weddings are notorious for being long affairs. “It is customary for some South Asian weddings to go on for three to four days, so get plenty of sleep!” said Neeva Dhariwal of Project Bride DC in Rockville, Maryland.

Haldi ceremonies: If you’ve ever seen a Color Run or Holi festival, then you’re already familiar with the basics of a Haldi before attending an Indian wedding. It’s an intimate ceremony that close friends and family of the couple will be invited to celebrate on the first day of the festivities. The couple will host separate Haldis at their respective homes before the wedding to bless the couple and ward off evil. The Haldi paste is made from turmeric by elders of the couple and, while the premise of this Indian wedding ritual is solemn, there’s colorful paste involved, so music, dancing, food, laughs and stunning photos will likely be the result.

Mehendi parties: You’re probably familiar with Mehendi, which is also called henna. Before she’s married, Indian brides gather with their closest friends and family to dance, celebrate and decorate their hands and feet with intricate henna designs. Typically, this event will happen on the morning of the second day of wedding events. Historically a tradition of North India, it has exploded in popularity and lots of Indian American couples with roots all over the subcontinent and from various religions engage in the happy ritual.

Sangeet: A sangeet usually takes place the night before the wedding. It can feel very similar to a wedding reception, with food, dancing, and fun—and everyone is invited! The couple’s family members and friends perform special dances to celebrate the couple.

Baraat: The groom typically makes a grand entrance into the ceremony in a fancy car, in a boat, on a horse, or another creative method. An Indian drum, called a dhol, is played while guests dance and celebrate.

Ceremony: The groom then joins the bride’s family for the milni ceremony, where gifts, candy, and flower garlands may be exchanged. The groom removes his shoes and sits under the mandap, or canopy. The bride makes her entrance, called the kanya aagaman, and her parents “give her away,” a tradition known as kanya daan. The ceremony consists of many different traditions, including the satapadi, where the groom leads the bride around a small fire.

Reception: After the ceremony, the party begins! Food, dancing, and toasts are all major parts of an Indian wedding reception. One fun tradition is the bride’s side of the family stealing the groom’s shoes, and requesting money to give them back!

Indian Wedding Gift Etiquette

Guests traditionally do not bring boxed gifts to Indian weddings. Instead, send a gift from the couple’s wedding registry to their home in advance or bring a card with money to the event.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

By Divya Patwari

Indian weddings, also called ‘Vivaah’, are best known for the grandeur, traditions, grace, colors and almost carnival-type celebration associated with this sacred event. There has been so much already said about the rituals, layout and dynamic parts of the wedding, so I’d like to address the meaning and essence behind these fascinating rituals and the cultural significance of centuries-old traditions practiced during a Vivaah.

While there are many subcultures in India, this is the basic version of an “authentic Indian wedding”.

Pre-Wedding Rituals Pitthi and Mehendi:

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Pitthi is an auspicious ritual performed for good luck. Pitthi is a paste made mainly of turmeric, chickpea flour and rose water. Family members and well-wishers of the bride and groom apply the paste on the bride/groom’s skin. This yellow paste is thought to brighten and even the skin tone and is applied one of the days prior to the wedding ceremony.

The Mehndi event is a colorful and fun celebration held the night before the wedding, which is traditionally celebrated by the women on the bride’s side of the family. Generally, a professional mehndi artist or relative will apply henna in intricate designs to the hands and feet of the bride and other women in the family. These intricate designs symbolize joy, beauty, spiritual awakening and offering. The bride’s mehendi sometimes goes half way to her knees. There is music, dance and full “Bollywood tamasha!”

The Wedding ceremony:

Indian weddings not only unite Bride and Groom but also their families. Family plays a key role in making life decisions. India is a collectivist culture to the core. The ceremony begins with arrival of Groom.

Baraat (The groom’s procession): Accompanied by his family and friends in a festive procession known as the baraat, the groom arrives at the entrance of the wedding venue on a horse. The procession consists of his family and friends singing and dancing around him to music generally played by a professional dhol (large bass drum) player. The baraat is met by the bride’s family at the entrance to the wedding venue. It symbolizes the pleasure and happiness of the Groom’s family in accepting the bride as a part of their family; as their very own.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Milni (Meeting of the two families): The bride’s mother greets the groom with a welcoming ritual. Relatives of the bride and groom embrace and greet each other with garlands. The bride’s family then escorts the groom to the mandap, a canopied altar where the ceremony is performed. The mandap represents the home that the bride and groom will make together.

Ganesh Puja (Prayer to Lord Ganesh): The ceremony begins with a worship of Lord Ganesh, the destroyer of all obstacles. The priest guides the groom and bride’s parents in offering flowers, sweets and prayer to Lord Ganesh.

Kanya Aagaman (Arrival of the Bride): The bride enters the hall and is escorted to the mandap by her maternal uncle and aunt, signifying that the bride’s maternal side approves of the union. In other parts of India, the bride is escorted by her sisters, cousins and close female friends.

Jai Mala (Exchange of Garlands): Once the bride approaches the mandap, the bride and groom exchange floral garlands, signifying their acceptance of one another.

Kanyadaan and Hasta Melap (Giving Away of the Bride): At this point, the bride’s father pours sacred water in his daughter’s hand and places her hand in the groom’s hand, officially giving away his most precious gift to the groom. The groom’s sister or cousin then ties the end of the groom’s scarf to the bride’s sari with betelnuts, copper coins and rice, symbolizing unity, prosperity and happiness. The knot represents the eternal bond of marriage.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Vivah Havan (Lighting of the Sacred Fire): The priest then lights the sacred fire or Agni. Agni symbolizes the divine presence as a witness of the ceremony. Commitments made in the presence of agni are made in the presence of God.

Mangal Phere (Circling the Sacred Fire): The bride and groom walk around the sacred fire seven times keeping in mind the four aspirations in life: Dharma (duty to each other, family and God), Artha (prosperity), Karma (energy and passion) and Moksha (salvation). The bride, representing divine energy, leads the groom in the first three rounds, while the groom leads in the last four rounds, signifying balance and completeness. In some cultures, the bride and groom walk around the fire four times, with the bride leading in the first three rounds, and the groom leading in the final round. The bride’s brother places rice grains in her hands after she completes each round to signify his pledge to always support and protect her in times of need. Once the couple has completed the four rounds, there’s a race to see who will sit down first. It is said that whoever sits down first will rule the house.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding Photo by dahon

Make sure you’ll know what to expect when attending an Indian wedding. Learn about the various religions that may be observed and the customs associated with each.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

How to celebrate a traditional hindu weddingBlack & Hue Photography

First off, good job on scoring an invite! Attending an Indian wedding, especially for the first time, is exciting and full of joyful emotions. Whether your friends are Sikh, Muslim or will be having a Hindu wedding, there are lots of commonalities that will thread through your first Indian wedding. We asked wedding planners who specialize in South Asian weddings to share their top tips for guests attending an Indian wedding for the first time, so you can understand some of the Indian wedding customs and traditions.

Attending an Indian wedding often means multi-day celebrations full of colorful decor, dancing and delicious food.

Indian wedding ceremony: Sikh ceremony, Muslim tradition or Hindu wedding?

Your first Indian wedding ceremony will likely either be a traditional Sikh ceremony, a Hindu wedding, or a Muslim celebration.

Hinduism is the most popular religion of India and Nepal, observed by almost 900 million people. For Hindu weddings, you’ll want to be prepared when you see flower petals being passed around during the ceremony. Riri Patel of tanaRi events in New York explained that, “Traditionally, when the couple are doing their pheras, (circling around the fire), close family members and guests sitting in the front can stand up and sprinkle the petals on the couple. It is regarded as blessings and love for the couple.”

Islam is the second largest religion in the world with adherents occupying every corner of the globe, including the Indian subcontinent. Couples with Indian Muslim roots will be married via a Nikah, which is a three-part religious ceremony that takes place in a mosque.

Sikhism is a 500-year-old religious tradition mainly practiced by devotees in the Indian subcontinent and throughout the Indian diaspora.

“At a Sikh ceremony, when eating the lungar (communal food), accept the roti (bread) as a blessing by placing your hands together, then opening them palms up,” advised Preeti Vasudeva of Preeti Exclusive Creations in Washington, DC.

What to Wear to an Indian Wedding

If you’re attending an Indian wedding, you can rent Indian wedding attire, including saree or lehengas for women and a kurta or sherwani for men, from a variety of sources. Borrow Bollywood and Saris & Things are two sites that offer Indian wedding attire rental. Black and white are not traditionally worn to Indian weddings, so pick another hue (preferably a bright one!) for your attire.

Regardless of the religion of the couple, you’ll want to be sure to remove your shoes if the ceremony takes place inside a place of worship. Women will also need to bring a scarf to cover your head (guys can use a handkerchief), unless you’re planning to wear a saree, in which case you can drape the dress fabric over your head.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu weddingDigital Spark Studios

Schedule of Events—How Long is an Indian Wedding?

If you’re a close friend of the person who’s invited you to your first Indian wedding, there’s a big chance you’ll also be invited to take part in some of the rituals that many couples plan before the big day, which is why Indian weddings are notorious for being long affairs. “It is customary for some South Asian weddings to go on for three to four days, so get plenty of sleep!” said Neeva Dhariwal of Project Bride DC in Rockville, Maryland.

Haldi ceremonies: If you’ve ever seen a Color Run or Holi festival, then you’re already familiar with the basics of a Haldi before attending an Indian wedding. It’s an intimate ceremony that close friends and family of the couple will be invited to celebrate on the first day of the festivities. The couple will host separate Haldis at their respective homes before the wedding to bless the couple and ward off evil. The Haldi paste is made from turmeric by elders of the couple and, while the premise of this Indian wedding ritual is solemn, there’s colorful paste involved, so music, dancing, food, laughs and stunning photos will likely be the result.

Mehendi parties: You’re probably familiar with Mehendi, which is also called henna. Before she’s married, Indian brides gather with their closest friends and family to dance, celebrate and decorate their hands and feet with intricate henna designs. Typically, this event will happen on the morning of the second day of wedding events. Historically a tradition of North India, it has exploded in popularity and lots of Indian American couples with roots all over the subcontinent and from various religions engage in the happy ritual.

Sangeet: A sangeet usually takes place the night before the wedding. It can feel very similar to a wedding reception, with food, dancing, and fun—and everyone is invited! The couple’s family members and friends perform special dances to celebrate the couple.

Baraat: The groom typically makes a grand entrance into the ceremony in a fancy car, in a boat, on a horse, or another creative method. An Indian drum, called a dhol, is played while guests dance and celebrate.

Ceremony: The groom then joins the bride’s family for the milni ceremony, where gifts, candy, and flower garlands may be exchanged. The groom removes his shoes and sits under the mandap, or canopy. The bride makes her entrance, called the kanya aagaman, and her parents “give her away,” a tradition known as kanya daan. The ceremony consists of many different traditions, including the satapadi, where the groom leads the bride around a small fire.

Reception: After the ceremony, the party begins! Food, dancing, and toasts are all major parts of an Indian wedding reception. One fun tradition is the bride’s side of the family stealing the groom’s shoes, and requesting money to give them back!

Indian Wedding Gift Etiquette

Guests traditionally do not bring boxed gifts to Indian weddings. Instead, send a gift from the couple’s wedding registry to their home in advance or bring a card with money to the event.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

By Divya Patwari

Indian weddings, also called ‘Vivaah’, are best known for the grandeur, traditions, grace, colors and almost carnival-type celebration associated with this sacred event. There has been so much already said about the rituals, layout and dynamic parts of the wedding, so I’d like to address the meaning and essence behind these fascinating rituals and the cultural significance of centuries-old traditions practiced during a Vivaah.

While there are many subcultures in India, this is the basic version of an “authentic Indian wedding”.

Pre-Wedding Rituals Pitthi and Mehendi:

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Pitthi is an auspicious ritual performed for good luck. Pitthi is a paste made mainly of turmeric, chickpea flour and rose water. Family members and well-wishers of the bride and groom apply the paste on the bride/groom’s skin. This yellow paste is thought to brighten and even the skin tone and is applied one of the days prior to the wedding ceremony.

The Mehndi event is a colorful and fun celebration held the night before the wedding, which is traditionally celebrated by the women on the bride’s side of the family. Generally, a professional mehndi artist or relative will apply henna in intricate designs to the hands and feet of the bride and other women in the family. These intricate designs symbolize joy, beauty, spiritual awakening and offering. The bride’s mehendi sometimes goes half way to her knees. There is music, dance and full “Bollywood tamasha!”

The Wedding ceremony:

Indian weddings not only unite Bride and Groom but also their families. Family plays a key role in making life decisions. India is a collectivist culture to the core. The ceremony begins with arrival of Groom.

Baraat (The groom’s procession): Accompanied by his family and friends in a festive procession known as the baraat, the groom arrives at the entrance of the wedding venue on a horse. The procession consists of his family and friends singing and dancing around him to music generally played by a professional dhol (large bass drum) player. The baraat is met by the bride’s family at the entrance to the wedding venue. It symbolizes the pleasure and happiness of the Groom’s family in accepting the bride as a part of their family; as their very own.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Milni (Meeting of the two families): The bride’s mother greets the groom with a welcoming ritual. Relatives of the bride and groom embrace and greet each other with garlands. The bride’s family then escorts the groom to the mandap, a canopied altar where the ceremony is performed. The mandap represents the home that the bride and groom will make together.

Ganesh Puja (Prayer to Lord Ganesh): The ceremony begins with a worship of Lord Ganesh, the destroyer of all obstacles. The priest guides the groom and bride’s parents in offering flowers, sweets and prayer to Lord Ganesh.

Kanya Aagaman (Arrival of the Bride): The bride enters the hall and is escorted to the mandap by her maternal uncle and aunt, signifying that the bride’s maternal side approves of the union. In other parts of India, the bride is escorted by her sisters, cousins and close female friends.

Jai Mala (Exchange of Garlands): Once the bride approaches the mandap, the bride and groom exchange floral garlands, signifying their acceptance of one another.

Kanyadaan and Hasta Melap (Giving Away of the Bride): At this point, the bride’s father pours sacred water in his daughter’s hand and places her hand in the groom’s hand, officially giving away his most precious gift to the groom. The groom’s sister or cousin then ties the end of the groom’s scarf to the bride’s sari with betelnuts, copper coins and rice, symbolizing unity, prosperity and happiness. The knot represents the eternal bond of marriage.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Vivah Havan (Lighting of the Sacred Fire): The priest then lights the sacred fire or Agni. Agni symbolizes the divine presence as a witness of the ceremony. Commitments made in the presence of agni are made in the presence of God.

Mangal Phere (Circling the Sacred Fire): The bride and groom walk around the sacred fire seven times keeping in mind the four aspirations in life: Dharma (duty to each other, family and God), Artha (prosperity), Karma (energy and passion) and Moksha (salvation). The bride, representing divine energy, leads the groom in the first three rounds, while the groom leads in the last four rounds, signifying balance and completeness. In some cultures, the bride and groom walk around the fire four times, with the bride leading in the first three rounds, and the groom leading in the final round. The bride’s brother places rice grains in her hands after she completes each round to signify his pledge to always support and protect her in times of need. Once the couple has completed the four rounds, there’s a race to see who will sit down first. It is said that whoever sits down first will rule the house.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding Photo by dahon

Hindu Pre-Wedding Traditions – You’re here!

First there’s the Haldi Ceremony. Here the married women of both the bride and the groom’s sides of the family take turns rubbing a mixture of turmeric, oil, and water into the skin and clothes of the bride and groom. This usually devolves into a bit of a food fight as others are allowed to take part – the kids, if they’re allowed to participate, seem to really like squishing it all over the bride and groom’s faces.

It used to be that only the bride underwent the Haldi Ceremony and it acted as a sort of spa day before she got ready for the wedding ceremony. Nowadays, grooms are also invited to take part.

The special concoction that is used in the Haldi Ceremony is supposed to simultaneously bless the couple and moisturize their skin. I’m not sure exactly how this works, but my mother swears by it.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

After the Haldi Ceremony, the women gather together for the Mehndi Night which is sometimes combined with the ladies’ Sangeet. During the Mehndi Night the bride has to sit still for hours while she gets her bridal mehndi (also known as henna) applied to her arms and feet. It’s very easy to smudge so she has to stay in her seat for ages while it dries.

It is said that the darker the color of the dried mehndi, the deeper the groom’s love for his bride.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

Meanwhile the women of the bride’s family form the entertainment as they sing traditional (and Bollywood) wedding songs, accompanied by tablas and makeshift instruments. The men often join in and dance. It’s like a Bachelorette Party the whole family is invited to. The groom will often have his own set of celebrations happening at his own house with his family.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

In addition to these events, families may also conduct their own poojas. Ganesh Poojas are especially popular amongst many Hindu families and are held a few days or a day before the wedding to bless the proceedings. Other poojas include the Kalash Pooja, the Navagraha Pooja, and Mandap Devata Pooja. Each invokes different deities that may preside over the marriage.

The bride and her family will also do the Gouri Har Pooja in which the bride prays to Gouri and Shankar for a happy and strong marriage.

How to celebrate a traditional hindu wedding

The groom will go through his Samarvatan in which he is formally recognized as passing into a new phase in his life, complete with new responsibilities and duties. In some communities, primarily in South India, there is a tradition called Kashi Yatra where the groom has to pretend he doesn’t actually want to get married and must declare that he is going to become a Hindu ascetic (basically hanging himself with a celibate rope). As per the ceremony, he is brought back to the bride’s family and reminded of his responsibilities and his spiritual devotion to his betrothed.

Both ceremonies are meant to delineate the bride and the groom from their former lives and prepare them for their new one together.