With more and more foreign tourists, among them celebrities too, opting to tie the knot the Indian way, there is a lot of curiosity about the grand Indian wedding, its customs and rituals. Here is an attempt to demystify it.
Indian weddings comprise within it a cornucopia of wedding styles and traditions. There is the Hindu wedding, the Sikh wedding, the Jain wedding, the Indian Muslim wedding, the Indian Christian wedding and so on – all very much Indian yet suffused with unique religious and regional traditions and norms. So, the first thing that hits you about the grand Indian wedding is this: no two weddings are alike! Even among Hindu weddings, regional differences ensure that a wedding in Rajasthan is different from a wedding in Kerala. That said, there are similarities in wedding customs and traditions as these reflect the uniqueness of India and the peculiarities of the religion and caste of the families involved in the wedding.
The Indian wedding is a grand affair. Celebrations begin well before the wedding. Since it is a time of great happiness, families believe in splurging on decorations, invitations, food, costume and so on. For instance, most Indian weddings kick off with the designing and printing of elaborate wedding invitations. Wedding invites are themselves traditional to the ‘T’. Invites are sent out far and wide, and it is common for families to receive more than a few hundred invitees – and feel really happy about the turnout!
The wedding itself is generally held indoors or within a ‘Pandal’ (a temporarily enclosed area). The venue is decorated elaborately. Loads of flowers grace the area. In fact, the venue is a riot of colors reflecting the joy of marriage, which is not just the coming together of two individuals but the union of two families.
The Indian wedding ceremony, whether it is a Hindu, Christian, Muslim or Sikh marriage, is deeply traditional with religious overtones. Age old traditions are a part of the wedding. Therefore, an outsider may find it difficult to comprehend the meaning of the various rites performed. However, for people in the know, these ceremonies are the crux of the wedding.
The Indian wedding is generally a noisy affair. In most weddings, music plays an important role. For instance, weddings in the Northern and Southern parts of India have musicians playing on various instruments at the time of the wedding. This may be accompanied by dancing too. Indian wedding music is full of cultural significance. Therefore, one can expect traditional, folk music at the wedding. Of course, receptions are a different cup of tea altogether. So, don’t be surprised if you happen to catch the latest UK and US chart busters at the reception!
Any talk of the Indian wedding is incomplete without mention of two all-important factors – the dress and the food. Rich, heavy and traditional is the dress code. Women wear their finest jewels and men are at their traditional best. The bride is generally decked in red or other deep colors. Virginal white is often only seen at Christian weddings. Food is lavishly served as the Indian culture places great significance on indulging guests. Traditional wedding spread could easily include more than two dozen food items, including sweets, snacks and the main course.