There are weddings and then there are Indian weddings. It’s been on my bucket list for years to attend an Indian wedding. In India. When we received an invitation to celebrate the marriage of two beautiful Indian friends in Delhi, we jumped at the chance. An Indian wedding reflects the cultures of the bride and groom, and very special rituals. We attended a Sikh and Hindu wedding, and had the good fortune to experience the connection of two families and two religions during this three day celebration of love.
This wedding was incredible and I felt as though I was in a Bollywood music video. The culture, food, vibrant colors, special ceremonies, and traditions that seemed to go on and on forever, were simply magical. And NOTHING beats the incredibly warm Indian hospitality.
Here are 10 outstanding memories from the big fat Indian wedding.
Indian weddings have beautiful decorations and not a detail is overlooked. It’s a Pinterest boards wildest fantasy. For each event the room was filled with colorful, elaborate decorations. Many events had their own unique themed decorations and there is no expense spared.
Food is an essential part of any Indian wedding. We were served so many different options of vegetarian and meat, Western and Indian food.
I am not exaggerating when I say there were almost 60 different dishes (not including dessert!). Dinner is typically served buffet style and open for a few hours, so there is plenty of time to make a plate of delicious foods.
Indians love bright and vibrant colors, and they seem even more festive for weddings. Coming from the US where it’s traditional for the bride to wear white, it was lovely to see the beautiful bride and guests glow and shine in outfits of every color.
I learned the bride chooses a color for most events and shares that with the wedding party, and guests often try to match the brides preference. It was a visual treat and as we walked into the room for each event, I had to stop myself from gasping at the sheer beauty. And don’t get me started on the jewelry and henna tattoos. There is a decorative piece for almost all body parts i.e head, forehead, ears, neck, waist, feet, and arms. The elegance is simply out of this world.
Hands down, Indian weddings have the best parties once the dance floor opens! The DJ played a mixture of old school, Indian, and American music, and at some events we had private drummers and featured singers. It was a PARTY every night!
We were on the dance floor breaking it down with cousins, brothers, uncles and aunties…. and it was lovely to see guests of all ages (yes, even 98 year old Great Grandpa) busting a move!
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. Mehndi (henna) is a paste associated with positive spirits and good luck.
Indian wedding tradition calls for a Mehndi ceremony to be held the night before the wedding as a way of wishing the bride good health and prosperity. In the Indian culture, it is said that the deeper the color, the stronger the love the groom has for the bride.
The Haldi ceremony is performed the morning of the Hindu wedding ceremony. During this ceremony, turmeric, oil and water are applied to the bride and groom.
The Haldi is considered auspicious and signifies protection. The mixture is believed to bless the couple before the wedding and ward off evil. It’s an intimate ceremony where close friends and family of the couple were invited to celebrate and bless our beautiful bride. The bride and groom host separate Haldi ceremonies. The Haldi paste is made from turmeric by elders of the couple.
The premise of this Indian wedding ritual is solemn, however there’s colorful paste involved and as we approached the bride to bless her, we had to smear the mixture on her face at the end. She may have ended up with a yellow turmeric moustache!
The Baraat is also known as the Groom’s procession. It’s a tradition where the groom arrives at his wedding. It typically begins down the street from the wedding venue.
Over the course of about 30 minutes the groom, family and friends, accompanied by lots of singing, dancing, drummers etc., make their way slowly towards the bride. The groom traditionally carries a ceremonial sword by his side.
Celebrations for Indian weddings go on for months leading up to the actual wedding celebration. Weddings in India are a reflection of the Indian culture and religion. The religion, and even the location in India where the families are from, can dictate what is eaten, how a particular ceremony is performed, to the fantastic Bollywood dancing!
We were thrilled to learn tiny details of the Hindu and Sikh religions, and what is involved to bring these religions together. Regardless of the religion, you need to remove your shoes if the ceremony takes place inside a place of worship.
Traditionally, the groom’s family tries to protect the groom’s shoes (which he removes during the Hindu ceremony) while the bride’s side tries to steal them. If they are successfully stolen, the bridesmaids can demand gifts or HUGE amounts of money from the groom to retrieve them. We saw many unique rituals and traditions that were simply beautiful and fascinating.
At most Indian weddings, western guests are encouraged to wear traditional Indian clothes. Women can wear a saree, Anarkali suit or a lengha. Men typically wear a kurta pyjama, a sherwani or a jodhpuri. I sought the help of my dear Indian friend to help style me for this wedding and all of the related events.
I wore six traditional outfits over three days of celebrations. I also needed different accessories to match the different outfits. Indian clothes are famously bright, colorful and fun. At the end of our trip, my ears were hurting from heavy earrings, there were a few red scratch marks on my body from taking the outfits off, my head was hurting from the various hairstyles with many bobby pins, and my feet were hurting from three days of heels and hours of dancing.
But it’s all in the price of beauty! There is no such a thing as too many outfit changes. Trust me.
The best part of this long special celebration, is the time family and friends spend together. Often the way a bride and groom are able to meet all of the relatives, is either a festival celebration or a wedding. Therefore, long duration of celebrations give loved ones enough time to be together, and create a special lifelong bond.
I will be writing more detailed blog posts about each ceremony, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter!
I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.