Insight to an Indian Wedding!

An Astrology-Approved Date and Time

Close up of Indian newlyweds in traditional clothing holding hands

pandit (also spelled pundit), is a Hindu priest who presides over the ceremony and consults astrology to determine the most auspicious date and time for that ceremony to take place. This becomes especially taxing if a South Asian couple chooses to marry stateside. “In America, you only try for weekend weddings, but it’s not like you just pick a Saturday and make sure the Plaza is available,” says Shah. “Now the Plaza has to be available and the date has to be auspicious and then the time. It’s so hard to get dates from your priests that are just for Saturdays. That’s why so many Indian people are getting married on the same exact date.”

Multiple Days of Events

Groom putting floral garland on bride during traditional Indian wedding ceremony

The actual nuptial ceremony and reception, similar to what a Western wedding encompasses, take place on the third day after two days of more intimate events (such as the tilak ceremony, the haldi (or pithi) ceremony, the mehndi party, and the sangeet) and are only attended by close friends and family members. Most people prefer to incorporate natural light and will opt for an outdoor ceremony, but ballrooms that support open flame (more on that later) are also an option.

Lots of Red

Indian bride and groom in red

Red is considered auspicious and, not surprisingly, it is the most prominent color at Indian weddings—usually with gold accents. “Saris, flowers, decorations, invitations—everything will be red,” says Shah. “Sometimes we even put a little bit of red dye in the bride’s hair two or three days before the wedding.”

A Huge Guest List


“Oh, we’ve only talked once? Great! You’re invited to my wedding,” jokes Shah. “That’s just how it is. We invite everyone. That’s why these weddings turn out so huge!” Shah explains there’s additional pressure in the South Asian community to avoid offending anyone by not offering them an invitation, and on the flip side, most of those invited feel obligated to attend out of respect

Outfit Changes

Newlyweds in traditional Indian clothing

“Honestly, for Indians, weddings are like a huge fashion show,” says Shah. “You have a different outfit for every single event.” The bride and bridesmaids wear saris or lengha; the groom and groomsmen wear a sherwani, which is a long top and pants, and the groom usually dons a turban. “The groom gets to do as many outfit changes as the bride, which is pretty cool,” Shah adds, but members of the bridal party are allotted fewer looks. Each attendee’s sari or lengha (the skirt version) feels as radiantly splendid as the last with bright colors and gorgeous embellishments.

A Grand Entrance for the Groom

Indian groom on horseback

The groom gets his own processional, or baraat,and talk about an entrance. He usually rides up with a fancy car, a horse, or an elephant. He then makes his way to the mandap, a dome-like covering that resembles a Jewish chuppa, to greet the families. The parents and the groom remove their shoes and enter the sacred space where a fire (agni) is burning to symbolize the highest degree of a witness. The prayer to Ganesh under the mandap asks for the Hindu deity to bestow good luck and remove obstacles for the couple and their families.

The Bride’s Big Reveal

Indian bride processional with father

The bridesmaids, flower girl, and ring bearer (if the couple has decided to exchange rings) all journey down the aisle while the bride prepares for her grand reveal or kanya aagaman. During the processional, she will often be escorted by her uncle(s) or oldest male relative and sometimes is literally carried before being given away, during the kanya daan.

Unity Ceremonies

Newlyweds in traditional Indian attire and floral garlands

The particulars vary per culture, but the jai mala is the bride and groom’s exchanging of flower garlands. Many times the groom also gifts the bride a mangal sutra necklace, translated as “an auspicious thread.” For the hasta melap, a knot is tied between the groom’s scarf and the bride’s sari by a female relative of the groom. The couple joins hands, and their physical binding represents “a love that binds two souls for a lifetime.” During the mangal phera, the couple clasps hands again and takes four steps around the fire, each step representing a stage of life: To pursue life’s religious and moral duty (dharma); to pursue prosperity (artha); to pursue earthly pleasures (kama); to pursue spiritual salvation (moksha).

Saptapadi (Seven Steps)

Newlyweds in traditional Indian clothing during saptapadi ceremony

The couple will take seven more steps for the saptapadi. “These represent the first seven steps you take together as husband and wife,” explains Shah. Someone from the wedding party, typically the groom’s brother, will spread out seven stones in a straight line, and the couple will move from stone to stone, touching each with their toes, as the pandit reads the seven verses. They roughly translate to: “Together we will live with respect for one another. Together we will develop mental, physical, and spiritual balance. Together we will prosper, acquire wealth, and share our accomplishments. Together we will acquire happiness, harmony, and knowledge through mutual love. Together we will raise strong, virtuous children. Together we will be faithful to one another and exercise self-restraint and longevity. Together we will remain lifelong partners and achieve salvation.”

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